Indigenous well-being in four countries: An application of the UNDP'S Human Development Index to Indigenous Peoples in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States

Department of Sociology, University of Waterloo, 200 University Drive W, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
BMC International Health and Human Rights (Impact Factor: 1.44). 02/2007; 7(1):9. DOI: 10.1186/1472-698X-7-9
Source: PubMed


Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand consistently place near the top of the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Index (HDI) rankings, yet all have minority Indigenous populations with much poorer health and social conditions than non-Indigenous peoples. It is unclear just how the socioeconomic and health status of Indigenous peoples in these countries has changed in recent decades, and it remains generally unknown whether the overall conditions of Indigenous peoples are improving and whether the gaps between Indigenous peoples and other citizens have indeed narrowed. There is unsettling evidence that they may not have. It was the purpose of this study to determine how these gaps have narrowed or widened during the decade 1990 to 2000.
Census data and life expectancy estimates from government sources were used to adapt the Human Development Index (HDI) to examine how the broad social, economic, and health status of Indigenous populations in these countries have changed since 1990. Three indices - life expectancy, educational attainment, and income - were combined into a single HDI measure.
Between 1990 and 2000, the HDI scores of Indigenous peoples in North America and New Zealand improved at a faster rate than the general populations, closing the gap in human development. In Australia, the HDI scores of Indigenous peoples decreased while the general populations improved, widening the gap in human development. While these countries are considered to have high human development according to the UNDP, the Indigenous populations that reside within them have only medium levels of human development.
The inconsistent progress in the health and well-being of Indigenous populations over time, and relative to non-Indigenous populations, points to the need for further efforts to improve the social, economic, and physical health of Indigenous peoples.

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    • "These include a lower rate of high school completion, higher rates of long term unemployment, higher health morbidity and mortality rates, and excessive rates of incarceration relative to the general Australian population [10]. Despite many decades of efforts to address the underlying causes of entrenched disadvantage [11] there has been relatively little substantial movement towards closing gaps between key indicators of Indigenous and non-Indigenous socioeconomic wellbeing [10], [12]. Addressing these socioeconomic and health disparities remains an urgent priority for Australian governments and communities [13]–[15]. "
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    PLoS ONE 07/2014; 9(7):e102820. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0102820 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "Australia, Canada and New Zealand regularly place among the top 10 countries in the world on this annual measure, which combines education, income and life expectancy [5]. A previous study showed that these countries’ Indigenous populations would rank far lower on the HDI league table than their total populations, revealing the relative disadvantage of Indigenous peoples [6]. Each of these countries has since demonstrated a commitment to improving outcomes for Indigenous peoples by signing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples[7], which specifically articulates Indigenous peoples’ rights to “improvement of their economic and social conditions”. "
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    • "Indigenous populations around the world have poorer health outcomes and reduced life expectancy compared with their non- Indigenous counterparts [1]. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (herein referred to as Aboriginal) in Australia have the poorest life expectancy compared with Indigenous people living in North America and New Zealand [1]. Life expectancy of Aboriginal Australians is 10–14 years less than that of non-Aboriginal people [2] [3], with 70% of the gap in health outcomes due to chronic diseases [4]. "
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