The Social Progress Index builds upon an important legacy of prior efforts to go beyond GDP in measuring national performance. The Index measures social progress directly, independent of economic development. It is based on a holistic and rigorous framework for defining social progress based on 54 indicators of social and environmental outcomes. Both the framework and methodology are the result of a two-year process that has drawn upon a wide range of scholars and policy experts. The framework synthesizes the extensive body of research across numerous fields in order to identify and measure the multiple dimensions of the social and environmental performance of societies.
- The top three countries in the world in terms of social progress are New Zealand, Switzerland, and Iceland. These three countries, closely grouped in terms of score, are relatively small in terms of populations. They score strongly across all social progress dimensions.
- The remainder of the top ten includes a group of Northern European nations (Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark), Canada, and Australia. Together with the top three, these countries round out a distinct “top tier” of countries in terms of social progress scores.
- A notch lower is a second tier of countries that includes a group of 13 countries, ranging from Austria to the Czech Republic. This group includes a number of the world’s leading economies in terms of GDP and population, including five members of the G-7: Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, and France.
- The next level of social progress is a third tier of countries, ranging from Slovakia to Israel. This diverse group of nations includes countries at sharply different levels of economic development, ranging from Costa Rica (which significantly out-performs its rank in terms of GDP) to the United Arab Emirates (which has one of the highest measured GDPs per capita in the world but is ranked 37th in terms of SPI). Clearly high GDP per capita alone does not guarantee social progress.
- At the next, fourth, tier is a large group of approximately 50 countries ranging from Kuwait at 40th to Morocco at 91st. These countries are closely bunched in terms of their overall Social Progress Index score, but have widely differing strengths and weaknesses.
- A fifth tier of countries, ranging from Uzbekistan (92nd) to Pakistan (124th), registers substantially lower social progress scores than the fourth. Many of these countries also have low GDP per capita, but some are much more highly ranked on GDP per capita.
- Finally, a bottom tier of eight countries registers the world’s lowest levels of social progress, from Yemen (125th) to Chad (132nd). The Social Progress Index provides evidence that extreme poverty and poor social performance often go hand-in-hand.