Measuring Development

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Development is one of the most difficult topics that you will have to tackle during your geography examination, but our helpful guide should make it much easier for you.

Measuring Development

When we are trying to measure development, we are actually trying to measure all of the different ways in which a country is progressing in several different ways at once. We do this by looking at everything from economic growth in a country to the welfare of the people who live there.

Naturally, there is a big difference in how developed some countries are when they are compared to other countries. We call this the global development gap.

Here are some of the different factors that are measured:

Life Expectancy

The life expectancy in a country shows us how healthy the people are who live there. We would expect life expectancy to get higher as a country develops.

Birth Rate

The birth rate that is present in a country shows us how many babies are born there on an annual basis. We would expect the birth rate to drop as a country becomes more developed because of women’s rights and access to contraception.

Death Rate

The death rate is calculated on an annual basis. We would expect it to drop as a country becomes more developed because it shows us that healthcare is improving.


The gross national income of a country is the total value of the goods and services that are produced there annually. We would expect this to become higher as a country becomes more developed.
Whenever we try to measure development, it is really important that we take a few different factors into consideration. One factor could be misleading and it could lead us to believe that a country is more developed than it is. We cannot expect each of these measurable variables to change at the same time.

Human Development Index

This index is used by United Nations to measure the development in a country. It is a measure of average life expectancy, level of education and income. The score between 0 to 1 is assigned to the countries. 0 for least developed and 1 is for most developed countries.

UK’s HDI score is 0.922 which means out of 189 countries UK stands at 14th position in terms of development.

Measuring Economic Development

If we are trying to classify High Income Countries (HICs) and Low Income Countries (LICs), then the amount of money that is present is the main factor that we need to take into consideration. HICs are wealthy and LICs are poor. We can also talk about Newly Emerging Economies (NEEs), which are countries that are rapidly getting richer.

Unfortunately, measuring economic development as a whole does not show us variations within the country. For example, you wouldn’t be able to see class differences and differences in different areas.

Uneven Development

For your geography examination, you will need to understand why some countries are more developed than others. There could be physical factors or historical factors that are playing an important role in how developed a country is and how it is still developing.

Physical Factors that Affect Development

There are a few different physical factors that could impact how developed a country is. They include:

  • When the climate of a country is quite poor, agricultural industries can suffer. Naturally, this affects the amount of food that an entire country, or specific regions, can produce. This can cause malnutrition and starvation. If crops are struggling to grow, then there will be less crops to sell. This has a knock on effect on the taxes that can be collected by the government.
  • Some countries have more raw materials than others. For example, in the United Kingdom, coalfields were once lucrative. If a country does not have a lot of raw materials to sell, then it will not make a lot of money.
  • If you have already read our article on natural hazards, then you will already be aware of the fact that natural disasters can cause a lot of problems. Countries that regularly suffer from natural disasters have to invest a lot of money into preventing damage and cleaning up after them.

Historical Factors that Affect Development

There are a few different historical factors that could impact how developed a country is. They include:

  • In countries where colonisation occurred, we usually see lower levels of development. In Africa, Europeans controlled the economies of their colonies. They also removed a lot of the lucrative raw materials that were present, slowing down the rate at which certain African countries could develop after they became independent.
  • Civil wars can reduce development on a massive scale, even after they have ended. During times of conflict, a lot of money is spent on arms and training soldiers.
  • When we are talking about uneven development, we also have to pay attention to a variety of different economic factors. For example, if a country has very poor trade links, then the rate at which they can exchange their goods probably isn’t as good as it could be. The same could be said about a country that has a lot of debt to pay off.

What can be done about the global development gap?

The global development gap is incredibly challenging because it means that there are people all around the world who are suffering. There are some things that can be done to try and reduce the global development gap. They include:


Tourism is incredibly important and we can already see tourism reducing the global development gap in countries like Africa and South America. Tourists bring with them an increased income, meaning that there is more money coming into the country.

Investment and Loans

It is a relatively easy process for people who are based in one country to buy properties or infrastructure in another country. We call this process foreign-direct investment, or FDI. Small loans can also be given to people who live in LICs, and these can result in more small businesses who would not have been able to borrow from traditional banks becoming financially independent.


Generally speaking, aid is something that most people will be aware of. It usually involves either financial aid or sending different resources to another country. For example, by teaching people how to farm in sustainable ways, we can improve agriculture in LICs. Unfortunately, when you take a closer look at how aid is distributed, you might also notice that some governments are corrupt.

Cite/Link to This Article

  • "Measuring Development". Geography Revision. Accessed on January 24, 2021.

  • "Measuring Development". Geography Revision, Accessed 24 January, 2021.

  • Measuring Development. Geography Revision. Retrieved from