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The Human Development Index (HDI) is a metric developed and used by the United Nations to take the emphasis off economic growth, and instead, focus on human physical and educational wellbeing.  Its purpose is to show that even though a country has a high per capita income, that country has to adopt policies that use that economic prosperity for the benefit of its citizens. 

The HDI is a geometric mean of three categories of human achievement:

  1. Life expectancy, using a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of 85 years
  2. Education, which has two subsets:
    1. Average years of education for the adults over 25 and
    2. Average expected education years for children entering school
    3. (Both subset categories for education are capped at 18 years)
  3. Gross national income per capita, with a range of $US 100 to a maximum of $US 75,000

The calculated amounts for these three categories are then combined into one composite HDI index for a given country.  The calculation is based on the geometric mean of the three categories.  

As of 2013, Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands, and the United States held the top 5 positions on the HDI index list of Very High Human Development.

Sierra Leone, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo and Niger were at the bottom of the HDI index as countries with Low Human Development.

The United Nations notes that the HDI does not highlight other important human issues such as inequality, poverty, human security and safety, and empowerment.

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