The application of principal component analysis on human development indicators: Temporal approach from 1999 to 2010

Wensheng Sun, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background and Objective. Ever since the human development index was published in 1990 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), many researchers started searching and corporative studying for more effective methods to measure the human development. Published in 1999, Lai’s “Temporal analysis of human development indicators: principal component approach” provided a valuable statistical way on human developmental analysis. This study presented in the thesis is the extension of Lai’s 1999 research. ^ Methods. I used the weighted principal component method on the human development indicators to measure and analyze the progress of human development in about 180 countries around the world from the year 1999 to 2010. The association of the main principal component obtained from the study and the human development index reported by the UNDP was estimated by the Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient. The main principal component was then further applied to quantify the temporal changes of the human development of selected countries by the proposed Z-test. ^ Results. The weighted means of all three human development indicators, health, knowledge, and standard of living, were increased from 1999 to 2010. The weighted standard deviation for GDP per capita was also increased across years indicated the rising inequality of standard of living among countries. The ranking of low development countries by the main principal component (MPC) is very similar to that by the human development index (HDI). Considerable discrepancy between MPC and HDI ranking was found among high development countries with high GDP per capita shifted to higher ranks. The Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient between the main principal component and the human development index were all around 0.99. All the above results were very close to outcomes in Lai’s 1999 report. The Z test result on temporal analysis of main principal components from 1999 to 2010 on Qatar was statistically significant, but not on other selected countries, such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, and U.S.A.^ Conclusion. To synthesize the multi-dimensional measurement of human development into a single index, the weighted principal component method provides a good model by using the statistical tool on a comprehensive ranking and measurement. Since the weighted main principle component index is more objective because of using population of nations as weight, more effective when the analysis is across time and space, and more flexible when the countries reported to the system has been changed year after year. Thus, in conclusion, the index generated by using weighted main principle component has some advantage over the human development index created in UNDP reports.^

Subject Area

Biology, Biostatistics|Sociology, Theory and Methods|Health Sciences, Public Health

Recommended Citation

Wensheng Sun, "The application of principal component analysis on human development indicators: Temporal approach from 1999 to 2010" (January 1, 2011). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). Paper AAI1494831.