A mega index paradigm for simplifying sustainable development assessment

Authors: Richard Shaker*, Ryerson University
Topics: Sustainability Science, Urban and Regional Planning, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: Composite index, Factor analysis, Geometric mean, Mega index, Sustainability assessment, Sustainable development planning, Sustainability indicators
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: TUE-013-8:00 a.m.
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Galerie 3, Marriott, 2nd Floor

Past reviews agree that a majority of common development indices have theoretical or quantitative shortcomings, supporting that no consensus exists regarding their theoretical basis, design, use, thresholds of effect, or validation. Responding, this study had four guiding research questions: (i) What are the underlying development themes within a collection of established sustainability indices, and what distinguishes winning locations from losing ones? (ii) Are the three major divisions of sustainability equally represented by current sustainable development measuring initiatives? (iii) Could just a few common and freely available indicators capture all present dimensions of sustainable development? (iv) Would a new sustainable development mega index research paradigm improve humanity’s ability to assess progress towards sustainability? Those questions were investigated using data from 30 mostly contiguous Western Hemisphere nations and three amassing methodological objectives. First, 31 known indices were reduced into underlying dimensions of sustainable development. Next, those factors were combined into the first mega index of sustainable development (MISD). Finally, 11 common development indicators were explored regarding collinearity and explanatory power of the sustainable development dimensions and MISD. Seven latent dimensions captured over 85% of the variation of the original 31 indices, with socioeconomic themes dwarfing environmental ones. Winning countries were characterized by low population density, increased forestland, decreased urban, and larger country area. Child mortality and population growth rate remained negative predictors of socioeconomic conditions; however per-capita CO2 sacrificed ecological integrity for improved human well-being. Mega index creation is an important scientific stepping-stone for improving accuracy and simplifying valuations of sustainable development.

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