Catherine Rampell posted some attractive county-level Human Development Index maps and also discussed my criticisms of the index: I wrote, “if you go by the maps that everybody’s linking to…you’re pretty much just mapping state income and giving it a fancy transformation and a fancy new name.” In its defense, she wrote:
Which is, I [Rampell] suppose, why the American Human Development Index, an adapted version of the U.N.’s original H.D.I., was created: because the U.N.’s index was not designed to capture the levels of variation that would occur within a single country. It was designed to make international comparisons.
This, to me, indicates the problem with the index. It was advertised as putting U.S. states on an international scale (Louisiana vs. Croatia and all that) but, if it needs to be redefined for the U.S., it seems to me that you’re losing the universal interpretation, which is a big justification for the index in the first place. At this point, I’d rather map each of the components of the index separately (as Rampell actually does illustrate on her blog).