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2018 Social Progress Index: Districts of India

  • (L(L to R) Manisha Kapoor, Senior Researcher, Institute for Competitiveness, Dr. Amit Kapoor, Chair, Institute for Competitiveness, Dr. Bibek Debroy, Chairman, PMEAC



  • The study released by Institute for Competitiveness, India in collaboration with Social Progress Imperative is the first edition of a district level Social Progress Index for India.
  • It covers 637 districts from 33 states and Union Territories. The framework includes 50 distinct indicators, and it is the first ever effort to holistically and comprehensively assess the quality of life of India’s citizens on this level of granularity.  
  • The global Social Progress Index ranks India at the 93rd position. However, the country-level insights are not sufficient to devise a plan of action as the conditions vary significantly within the country. Therefore, it is important to have a sub-national index.  
  • Overall, India’s districts achieve an average score of 56.66 on the Social Progress Index. Breaking this down across dimensions and components, we find that there is considerable variation in the districts’ performance across different facets of social progress.
  • The Social Progress score of Indian districts lies between 28.67 and 76.80 on a scale of 0-100. These results highlight the immense scope for improvement for even the best performing districts. A closer analysis reveals significant challenges in the Central and Eastern region of the country comprising of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Odisha, and Jharkhand.
  • Administrative boundaries don’t define social progress. Districts within a state do not perform uniformly well or uniformly less well, and there is significant variation. This implies that there is an immense pool of knowledge and best practices to be learned and shared within states, as well as beyond their borders.

Institute for Competitiveness, India along with Professor Michael E Porter and Michael Green launched the Social Progress Index: States of India at India’s National Competitiveness Forum 2017. Since then, the Index has generated enormous interest from policy makers, businesses and civil society alike, and has already contributed to more informed, evidence-based policies, decisions, and investments. It was however clear from the very beginning of the Social Progress India initiative that to properly and accurately assess the state of social progress of India’s citizens, we must strive for a more granular assessment. Building on the above knowledge Institute is now launching Social Progress Index: Districts of India.
Bibek Debroy, Chairman, EAC-PM, released the report and said, “When we look at India we often tend to look at it in terms of whats happening in states, we tend to look at it in terms of whats happening in districts, because these are administrative boundaries. The interesting churn that is happening in India now is not just competition among states but the great disparity among states and within states. Several of the states that historically were backward, according to whatever criteria you choose are now fast catching up. The distance between them and the more advanced states historically may still be large but that is because states like Punjab, Goa started with high base levels. Even more interesting is the fact that there are increasing variations within states. What is exciting is this churn and to understand what is happening to development and deprivation in India it is no longer enough to look at states. It is more important to look at districts.”
The study analyses social progress of 637 districts from 33 states and Union Territories by applying the Social Progress Index framework. The framework outlines three broad categories of social progress, Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing and Opportunity that focuses on capturing what matters to societies and people. For instance, whether the citizens have access to safe and livable housing facilities; the water and sanitary conditions up to the standards or people are prone to diseases like typhoid; is the medical system in place benefitting all the sections of society or citizens still lack in basic nutritional values; do they feel protected in their home place, or there is a need to tackle security concerns in a better way; can they have a prolonged life or are their actions
The Index is more than just a measurement tool and is aimed towards helping the government and businesses to make strategic choices. It can help the policymakers by not only guiding the public investments but also by providing a rapid-assessment approach to help capture the spirit of the SDGs as there is a strong coherence between the SDGs and the Social Progress Index. It can thus help in supporting SDG implementation by playing a complementary role to the official monitoring systems that are being put in place. It can also facilitate CSR investments by identifying key focus areas where investments can be made.
Michael Green, CEO, Social Progress Imperative, said, “The Social Progress Index: Districts of India represents an unprecedented effort to holistically and comprehensively assess the quality of life of India’s citizens across 637 districts, independently of economic measures. It is a testament to the commitment of India’s leaders to advance social progress in all corners of the country. However, measurement is just the first step. It is important that the Index is used to inform decision making, guide investments and facilitate partnerships in order to improve the quality of life across regions and to serve as a complement to traditional economic measures.”
The consolidation of the district level results reveal that India scores 56.66 on social progress. Breaking this down across dimensions and components, we find that there is considerable variation in the districts’ performance across different facets of social progress. At the dimension level, the districts score highest at 60.51 on Basic Human Needs, followed by 55.54 on Foundations of Wellbeing, and lowest at 54.94 on Opportunity. These results are consistent with the India level scores calculated in the state level index. Districts perform well on Access to Basic Knowledge, but performance on Access to Information and Communications as well as Advanced Education is lagging relative to other aspects of social progress. Addressing these challenges at the national level is fundamental to drive further improvements in social wellbeing.
India’s districts’ scores range from a high of 76.8 to a low of 28.67. The results show that there are considerable differences between districts, and there are clearly some underperforming outliers.  Given the range of scores, there is immense scope for improvement for even the best-performing districts.

Top 10 districts Bottom 10 districts
Mahe Shahdol
Bangalore Dumka
Chennai Simdega
Dakshina Kannada Alirajpur
Dehradun Dhubri
Coimbatore Malkangiri
Puducherry Nabarangapur
Jalandhar Jhabua
Ludhiana Pakur
Rangareddy Dindori

The districts are grouped into the following four tiers – Very High Social Progress, High Social Progress, Middle Social Progress and Low Social Progress.

Performance of Tiers
Category Social Progress Index Basic Human Needs Foundations of Wellbeing  
Very High Social Progress 65 68 63 64
High Social Progress 58 61 58 56
Middle Social Progress 50 53 50 48
Low Social Progress 41 43 41 40


The complete 2018 Social Progress Index: Districts of India findings, methodology, district profiles and other resources are available online at
The research also evaluates the social progress performance of backward districts. A significant variation is observed in the scores of these districts. They lie between 33 and 68. Out of the 111 districts analysed, the scores of 77 districts are below 50. The Social Progress Index offers a well suited rapid-assessment approach that can help to track the performance of these districts. Therefore, it can be a powerful tool for the government to manage progress.
The research, going by the same objective as of states index, unpacks the relationship between social and economic development. For any level of economic development, there are districts performing better and districts performing worse on social progress. The evidence supports the conclusion that economic measures cannot be the sole driving force of inclusive growth: it is important to focus on the social aspects as well.
Commenting on the results of Social Progress Index: Districts of India, Dr. Amit Kapoor, Honorary Chairman, Institute for Competitiveness said, “The Social Progress Index: Districts of India offers a unique and revealing picture of India’s districts’ societal performance. Districts at all levels of development can use this data to assess their performance and set priorities for improvement. Most districts will be able to identify areas of relative strength, which represent social progress foundations upon which they can build.” He added that, “While there is a relationship between economic development and social progress, the relationship is not a direct one. There are districts at the same level of economic development that have high variations in social progress performance. This implies that economic growth is not the only means to achieve improvement in living standards and the focus should be laid on addressing social challenges directly.”
Manisha Kapoor, Senior Researcher, Institute for Competitiveness, who led the project said, “In today’s world we not only gauge the economic success of regions through the GDP lens but also consider it an appropriate measure of people’s wellbeing. This obsession with GDP is evident in the policymaking procedures, political speeches, media coverage etc. Our policies are relentlessly geared towards increasing the Gross Domestic Product for providing better living standards. But this view of growth in living standard doesn’t always match the realities of people’s life. Therefore, we have developed the Social Progress Index that provides a holistic measure of wellbeing of individuals. This will a powerful tool for policymakers as well as businesses to track and advance social progress at the sub-national level in India.”
Petra Krylova, Senior Analyst, Social Progress Imperative, who co-authored the Index said, “The Social Progress Index has been a game changer in how we define and evaluate success and prosperity of our societies. It enables us to look beyond the economic and better understand and address the joys and challenges of people’s daily lives. The Social Progress Index: Districts of India shows that many answers to these might be just around the corner; each and every district has room for improvement, but also achievements to be proud of. It is my hope that India’s leaders and businesses, as well as civil society, will use the Index to break silos, cross boundaries, share and learn and strive to emulate best practices to advance social progress in India’s districts and beyond.” 

About Institute for Competitiveness

Institute for Competitiveness, India is an independent, international initiative centered in India, dedicated to enlarging and disseminating the body of research and knowledge on competition and strategy, pioneered over the last 25 years by Professor M.E. Porter of the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, Harvard Business School (ISC, HBS), USA. Institute for Competitiveness, India works in affiliation with ISC, HBS, USA to offer academic & executive courses, conduct indigenous research and provide advisory services to corporate and Government within the country. The institute studies competition and its implications for company strategy; the competitiveness of nations, regions & cities; suggests and provides solutions for social problems. Institute for Competitiveness, India brings out India City Competitiveness Report, India State Competitiveness Report, and funds academic research in the area of strategy & competitiveness.  For more information, visit
About the Social Progress India

Social Progress India is a presentation of Institute for Competitiveness and Social Progress Imperative. SPI produces the Social Progress Index that is a holistic and robust measurement framework for national, social and environmental performance that can be used by leaders in government, business and civil society at the country level as a tool to benchmark success, improve policy, and catalyse action.

Editor’s Notes: The complete 2018 Social Progress Index: Districts of India findings, methodology, district profiles and other resources are available online at