Real World Development Indicators, version 2.0

Last week’s post spurred a bunch of great suggestions from commenters. The RWDI contenders, in no particular order:

  1. Number of tall buildings not occupied by the government or United Nations
  2. Probability that the President/Prime Minister seeks medical treatment in own country
  3. Proportion of political leaders younger than the average life expectancy
  4. Proportion of resort vacationers from that or neighboring countries
  5. Percent of young people that prefer to start a business rather than work for an NGO
  6. Percent of undergraduate students taking a real major, rather than development studies
  7. Number of wrecked airplanes near the runway of the main airport
  8. Proportion of NGO websites not written in English or French
  9. Number of people who take pictures of you
  10. Percent of people too busy to answer your survey
  11. Number of government officials who give foreign experts the “who the hell are you?” look

Institutions, shminstitutions.

Additions welcome.

160 thoughts on “Real World Development Indicators, version 2.0

  1. Late coming to this, but how about: Percentage of government offiicals who use gmail/yahoo/hotmail accounts rather than a government email domain name.

  2. Volume (number) and volume (loudness) of taxi drivers clustered around airport exit.

  3. Percentage of industrial roads without Chinese signposting (unless you’re in China)

  4. Proportion of public servants’ children who study in the national universities of their country

  5. % of meals that give you terrible food poisoning
    country develops own humanitarian aid agency (i.e. KazAID and RusAID)
    % of non-instant coffee
    people stop calling your place of work “a field office” and just call it an “office”

  6. % of imported Toyota/Nissan vs second hand cars
    % of newpapers with no pages dedicated to recruitment of project coordinators / call for tenders
    % of ads which are not campaigns against AIDS or corruption

  7. I’d suggest also number of beauty salons per square km:

    – No beauty salons at all -> dire crisis; everything goes towards covering basic needs

    – Cheap beauty salons at every corner -> lots of unskilled workforce & many people with time to waste hanging out at the hairdresser’s.

    – A few decent beauty salons here and there -> young people (women in particular) can choose different career paths according to skills and personal preference; some people have enough money to spend in relatively expensive and not really necessary treatment.

  8. My personal favourite: Minutes of pet food advertisement shown on television

  9. I am not the first to observe, but ugly and elderly prostitutes is a good sign. We want young women to have better job opportunities than entertaining NGO staff, IMF officials and so forth.

  10. You have “Percent of undergraduate students taking a real major, rather than development studies,” but I’d say it should be “law and administration,” which seems in many countries a proxy for government wages/rent seeking opportunity crowding out private sector opportunity.

  11. How about –

    Proportion of population who say ‘my country is not just famine/terrorism/conflict/hiv/oil/madonna

    Percentage of universally agreed upon borders

    Number of separatist movements who want to join you

    Proportion of population fined for downloading a pirated movie

  12. Proportion of foreigners self-identifying as “expats” vs. “immigrants”

    Ratio of NGO salaries to other professional salaries

    Proportion of health (or any) workforce educated abroad

    Number of children of heads of state of other countries who choose to attend university there

    Major roads named after business, social, or religious leaders not affiliated with the government

    LC:B ratio (Land Cruiser to Bajaj)

    Likelihood that you can find the address of a retailer on Google Maps

    Likelihood that a retailer has an address at all

  13. Percentage of vehicles of all kinds produced and maintained locally.
    Percentage of vehicles in daily use in various sorts of disrepair.

  14. This isn’t as fun as the ones on your list, but I’ve used the difference between actual infant mortality rates and the rates predicted by GDP per capita and some deep structural stuff (e.g., latitude as a proxy for disease burden) as a proxy measure of governance, which is an important dimension of “development”. The intuition is that governments have to deal with the endowments they’ve got, but some do so much better than others, at least insofar as providing public goods is concerned. And reducing infant mortality is a core public good. You have to normalize everything and all that, but I’ve found that the plots of the resulting residuals map well to intuitions about which governments are under- or over-performers.