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.

Download full-text


Available from: Eric Guimond,
  • Source
    • "It has been proposed that genetic and genomic research could help address health inequalities (Ramos and Rotimi, 2009). This includes Indigenous health inequalities, with reduced life expectancy at birth relative to the general population in the order of 5–10 years (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare & Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008; Cooke et al., 2007). At the same time, Indigenous peoples have been identified as particularly at risk of 'group harms' from genetic research (Foster and Sharp, 2000; McGregor, 2010; Scott et al., 2005). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Indigenous people stand to benefit from advances in genomic technology, but genetic research in Indigenous communities has been controversial. This article reviews the ethical issues that Indigenous people and others have raised with reference to genetic research projects and biobanks. The ethical issues that apply to Indigenous people should be seen as additional to 'conventional' ethical issues that apply to all people, rather than replacing them. The additional ethical concerns discussed include group harm; cultural beliefs relating to biospecimens and human origins; community engagement and collective consent; benefit; ownership; and whether biospecimens can and should be 'repatriated.'
    International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, volume 9, 2 02/2015: chapter Genetics and Indigenous Communities: Ethical Issues: pages 962-968; Elsevier Ltd.
  • Source
    • "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]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We investigate whether the profile of factors protecting psychosocial functioning of high risk exposed Australian Aboriginal youth are the same as those promoting psychosocial functioning in low risk exposed youth. Data on 1,021 youth aged 12-17 years were drawn from the Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey (WAACHS 2000-2002), a population representative survey of the health and well-being of Aboriginal children, their families and community contexts. A person-centered approach was used to define four groups of youth cross-classified according to level of risk exposure (high/low) and psychosocial functioning (good/poor). Multivariate logistic regression was used to model the influence of individual, family, cultural and community factors on psychosocial outcomes separately for youth in high and low family-risk contexts. Results showed that in high family risk contexts, prosocial friendship and low area-level socioeconomic status uniquely protected psychosocial functioning. However, in low family risk contexts the perception of racism increased the likelihood of poor psychosocial functioning. For youth in both high and low risk contexts, higher self-esteem and self-regulation were associated with good psychosocial functioning although the relationship was non-linear. These findings demonstrate that an empirical resilience framework of analysis can identify potent protective processes operating uniquely in contexts of high risk and is the first to describe distinct profiles of risk, protective and promotive factors within high and low risk exposed Australian Aboriginal youth.
    PLoS ONE 07/2014; 9(7):e102820. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0102820 · 3.23 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "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”. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Australia, Canada, and New Zealand are all developed nations that are home to Indigenous populations which have historically faced poorer outcomes than their non-Indigenous counterparts on a range of health, social, and economic measures. The past several decades have seen major efforts made to close gaps in health and social determinants of health for Indigenous persons. We ask whether relative progress toward these goals has been achieved. We used census data for each country to compare outcomes for the cohort aged 25-29 years at each census year 1981-2006 in the domains of education, employment, and income. The percentage-point gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons holding a bachelor degree or higher qualification ranged from 6.6% (New Zealand) to 10.9% (Canada) in 1981, and grew wider over the period to range from 19.5% (New Zealand) to 25.2% (Australia) in 2006. The unemployment rate gap ranged from 5.4% (Canada) to 16.9% (Australia) in 1981, and fluctuated over the period to range from 6.6% (Canada) to 11.0% (Australia) in 2006. Median Indigenous income as a proportion of non-Indigenous median income (whereby parity = 100%) ranged from 77.2% (New Zealand) to 45.2% (Australia) in 1981, and improved slightly over the period to range from 80.9% (Canada) to 54.4% (Australia) in 2006. Australia, Canada, and New Zealand represent nations with some of the highest levels of human development in the world. Relative to their non-Indigenous populations, their Indigenous populations were almost as disadvantaged in 2006 as they were in 1981 in the employment and income domains, and more disadvantaged in the education domain. New approaches for closing gaps in social determinants of health are required if progress on achieving equity is to improve.
    BMC Public Health 02/2014; 14(1):201. DOI:10.1186/1471-2458-14-201 · 2.26 Impact Factor
Show more