Argentina’s HDI: The Wikipedia’s Worst Map?

Argentina HDI Wikipedia MapAlthough the Wikipedia includes a multitude of fine maps, its cartographic archive is by no means uniformly excellent. Perhaps the worst Wikipedia map that I have encountered, posted to the left, depicts Argentinian provinces in accordance with their HDI (Human Development Index*) rankings. As can be seen, all provinces are placed in the same category, that of “very high HDI,” although the key includes unused colors indicating “high” and “medium” levels of development. As the map depicts no differences among Argentina’s provinces, it is essentially meaningless.


I suspect that the map was posted mainly to emphasize Argentina’s relatively high levels of socio-economic development and in so doing provide a little praise for the economically troubled country. A nationalistic orientation is indicated as well by the inclusion of the Falkland/Malvinas islands, which are claimed by Argentina but are not part of it. Also significant is the fact that the map uses official Argentine information rather than the more standard UN figures that give a lower HDI number for the country as a whole. As Argentina’s own economic data, especially in regard to inflation, is notoriously inaccurate, one might be inclined to favor the UN’s assessment. The Wikipedia article that accompanies the map, however, gives a straightforward explanation of the disparity:

The last report is from 2013 and covers data from 2012. It is elaborated by the United Nations in conjunction with the Argentine Senate. It is important to note that unlike the UN’s Human Development Index where Argentina has an index of 0.811 in 2012, the government of Argentina says it has an index of 0.848. This difference is caused because, on the province report, the average family income is used, while on the global report the UN uses the GDP per capita (PPP) to measure the income.

Argentina HDI by Province MapWhatever its validity may be, the Argentine data provided in the Wikipedia article does allow the mapping of HDI variation across the country. I have therefore constructed a map based on this information, which is posted to the left. As can be seen, human development figures are lowest in the north-central part of the country and highest in the south and the center, although the top-most figure is unsurprisingly that of the city of Buenos Aires. As will be seen in the next GeoCurrents post, this pattern deviates slightly from those found on maps of other economic indicators, which show a more stronger marked north/south divide (with Argentina’s south being much more prosperous than its north).

HDI World MapThe U.N.’s official Human Development Index does place Argentina in the highest basic category, that of “very high” development. But Argentina barely makes this position, as it ranks 49th out of 49 countries in the category. An alternative UN HDI ranking, moreover, places Argentina in a lower grouping. This scheme takes into account economic inequality, which is HDI Inequality-Adjusted World Maprelatively pronounced in Argentina. The United States also falls considerably in this revised HDI ranking, dropping below Greece, Estonia, and Slovakia. But as several GeoCurrents readers have pointed out, measurements of inequality are themselves highly problematic, just as inequality itself is difficult to factor into assessments of socio-economic development.

* As defined by the Wikipedia, the HDI:

is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators, which is used to rank countries into four tiers of human development. It was developed by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq, is anchored in the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s work on human capabilities, often framed in terms of whether people are able to “be” and “do” desirable things in life, and was published by the United Nations Development Programme.