By : Rodger Doyle
These maps show the Physical Quality of Life Index (PQLI), developed by Morris David Morris of Brown University to measure progress among the poorer countries. The PQLI is based on life expectancy at age one and rates of literacy and infant mortality. Values range from a low of 6.3 in the West African nation of the Gambia in 1960 to a high of 94 in Japan in 1990. Because the PQLI is based on end results, it has advantages over other methods. Per capita gross national product in Iran, for example, is less than one third that of Saudi Arabia, yet the 1990 PQLI scores of the two countries are identical, indicating that income and wealth are more evenly distributed in Iran.
The most important conclusion to be drawn from the maps is that despite a huge global increase in population, there was considerable improvement in the quality of life among developing nations, including those in sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest region on the earth. Preliminary data for 1993 show further progress in most areas, a major exception being 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that suffered drops in PQLI scores averaging three points, which came as a result of decreased life expectancy and increased infant mortality. Losses are caused, at least in part, by the spread of AIDS, which has affected this area more severely than any other. But the long-term prospect is not necessarily bleak, for the AIDS epidemic may subside, perhaps as early as the next decade. Furthermore, the historical record has registered a more or less steady improvement in the PQLI. Other countries that once had scores as low as those in the sub-Saharan region have shown remarkable change: Sri Lanka had a score of only 19 in 1921, but by 1993 it had reached 85. And 100 years ago the U.S. had about the same PQLI score as the sub-Saharan countries do today.