Wellbeing is a complex, multidimensional phenomenon, encompassing factors such as income and wealth, longevity, health, and education, but also less tangible aspects. Each dimension adds a tile to the grand mosaic portraying the progress made by the Italians since the country was unified. These single stories, however, do not always concur with one another. How to join the various threads together? Is it possible to summarize the complex picture and to clearly reconstruct the dynamics of the wellbeing of the Italians? The chapter seeks the answer in the Human Development Index, a simple arithmetical mean of three elementary indicators: average income, life expectancy at birth, and average schooling. The HDI delivers a number of novel lessons, but the overall conclusion is that the use of indicators such as the HDI in economic history is a false lead that does not solve the problem of a summary measure of wellbeing.
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