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Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question about the Social Progress Index? Consult the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below, search the site using keywords, visit Find a Resource or Contact Us. We’d love to hear from you.

  • The Social Progress Index is distinct from other wellbeing indexes in its measurement of social progress directly, independent of economic development, in a way that is both holistic and rigorous. Unlike many other quality of life measures, the Social Progress Index also captures whether societies are free, inclusive and protect the rights of individuals and minority groups

    Based on its four core principles, the Social Progress Index is designed to uniquely measure quality of life clearly and directly.

    1. Actionable: The index supports granular analysis of specific areas of strength and weakness, allowing change-makers to identify and act upon the most pressing issues in their societies.
    2. Relevant to all communities: By measuring all aspects of social progress, from basic needs like shelter and nutrition to longer-term goals like rights and freedoms, the index provides relevant insights to developing countries and advanced economies alike.
    3. Exclusive of social and environmental factors: By excluding economic measures from the index, we can, for the first time, compare a community’s social and environmental progress with its economic development and disentangle the relationship between them.
    4. Focus on outcomes not inputs: The index measures the outcomes that matter to the lives of real people. For example, we focus on the health and wellness achieved by a society, not how much is spent on healthcare.
  • The Social Progress Index captures outcomes related to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is a powerful tool for SDG monitoring and localization. You can read more about how the index can help the world deliver on the 2030 Agenda here.

  • Yes. The 2020 Social Progress Index uses the most up to date data available to give the most accurate possible picture of quality of life around the world. We have calculated historical Social Progress Index scores for all countries included in the 2018 index back to 2014, using our current indicators and methodology to ensure scores from different years are comparable. You can download and use data from the Social Progress Index for research, educational, commercial, investment, policymaking or other purposes with attribution to the Social Progress Imperative. We make this data available free of charge but encourage donations to the Social Progress Imperative to ensure we can continue to provide the most comprehensive data and analysis on social progress.

  • The Social Progress Framework is the main structure of the Social Progress Index—the three dimensions of Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity; four specific components for each dimension; multiple indicators in each component. The framework is the structure on which the global, local and thematic indexes are designed. All indexes share the same broad categories (dimensions and components), and the indicators within each component can vary, year to year and community to community, based on available data. All data are drawn from globally or locally respected sources, such as the United Nations.

  • To create the Social Progress Index, we evaluate hundreds of indicators to determine whether they fit with our core design principles and contribute to a more accurate measure of progress. The graphic below describes our basic decision-making process in determining whether an indicator can be included in the index.


    Even if an indicator meets these criteria, we still evaluate its statistical fit to ensure it is meaningfully related to other indicators in the index. For a fuller discussion of the Social Progress Index methodology, including indicator selection, please visit Find a Resource and review the methodology reports.

  • The 2020 Social Progress Index measures social progress in 149 countries home to 98% of the world’s people. While we aim to calculate full scores for every country in the world, data limitations have prevented us from doing so. To calculate a full Social Progress Index score, countries must have no more than one missing indicator per component. However, this year, we are also able to calculate partial scores for an additional 21 countries, meaning that these countries have scores for nine of the 12 components of social progress.

    A key part of our mission is to be transparent about data gaps, both across countries and across components of the Social Progress Index. We work with data every day and understand the need for it to be timelier, more reliable and standardized across geographies. Our hope is that by advocating for better data and working with local experts, we can expand the global index to cover every country on earth.

    If you have access to a new data source that can be incorporated into the Social Progress Index or an idea for where they can be found, please contact pkrylova [at]

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