Social development is about putting people at the centre of development. Since the 1990s there has been growing recognition that social development is critical for broader development outcomes, including sustainable economic growth. But until now, data limitations have hindered international comparative research capable of showing weaknesses and strengths across countries, as well as the links between social development and other development outcomes.

The Indices of Social Development (ISD) hosted by ISS has the potential to change this. It brings together 275 indicators, synthesising them into a usable set of measures to track how different societies perform along six dimensions of social development:

The indices are composed from 30 reputable data sources for 222 countries, for every 5 years over the period from 1990 to 2020, and are updated as new data become available. The indices are aggregated using the innovative method of ‘matching percentiles’.  

The results reveal the achievements and challenges facing societies across the world: from the richness of community life in Sub-Saharan Africa, to the high levels of personal safety and security in the Persian Gulf, to high gender equality in several developing countries. And we can monitor improvement over time: the growth of civic engagement in Eastern Europe, gender empowerment in the Middle East, or inclusion of minorities in Southern Africa. The indicators show that while economic and social development are closely correlated, many high income societies continue to face problems of discrimination and exclusion, while some developing countries have overcome these challenges.

The indices allow estimating the effects of social development for a large range of countries on indicators like economic growth, human development, and governance.

The six indices and the underlying data sources can be downloaded on the data access part of this site.

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