A framework to measure the relative socio-economic performance of developing countries

Nicole Adler*, Ekaterina Yazhemsky, Ruzanana Tarverdyan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


This research develops a framework to estimate the relative efficiency of developing countries in utilizing both their domestic and external resources to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The analysis highlights distinct efficiency differences across lending groups and geographic regions e.g. between Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. The performance of regions exposed to natural disasters and political violence need to be analyzed individually and risk management ought to be an integrated part of development policy. The gap between the Millennium Development Goals and human rights approaches is then examined. Finally, we qualify a country's performance level as potentially sustainable in terms of human, social and environmental welfare, in turn searching for realistic benchmarks and intermediate targets for the relatively inefficient countries. Principal component analysis in combination with data envelopment analysis was applied to solve the problem of efficiency overestimation with multi-dimensional scaling used to present the issue graphically. In summary, the aim of this work is not to rank countries in a league table rather to provide a framework that combines economic, environmental and social issues in order to search for sustainable, pragmatic benchmarks, pushing the boundaries of the Human Development Index.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)73-88
Number of pages16
JournalSocio-Economic Planning Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal, Dr. Barnett R. Parker, and two anonymous referees for valuable criticism that made us stop and think. We would also like to thank Dr. Jeff Dayton-Johnson, Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean Desk of the OECD, for his time and helpful suggestions. Nicole Adler thanks the Recanati Foundation and Ekaterina Yazhemsky thanks the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University and the Friedlander Fellowship for partial funding of this work.


  • Data envelopment analysis
  • Human development index
  • Millennium development goals
  • Principal component analysis


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