Cato’s 2023 Human Freedom Index is out. Download the report below.

The ninth annual Human Freedom Index, now available free online, is the most comprehensive freedom index so far created for a globally meaningful set of countries and jurisdictions, representing 98.8 percent of the world’s population. The HFI covers 165 countries based on 86 distinct indicators of personal, civil, and economic freedom, using data from 2000 to 2021, the most recent year for which sufficient data are available.

The second year of the coronavirus pandemic witnessed a further decline in global freedom. From 2019 to 2021, 90 percent of the world’s population saw a fall in overall freedom, including significant declines in the rule of law and freedom of movement, expression, association and assembly, and freedom to trade. The precipitous decline in 2020 came after years of slow descent and affected every region of the world, including rich and poor countries and democracies and nondemocracies, setting global freedom to a level far below what it was in 2000, previously the lowest point in the past two decades.

Switzerland tops the rankings again this year, followed by New Zealand. The United States climbed four positions in the overall freedom rankings, moving from 21st in 2020 to 17th in 2021. Its score on a ten-point scale improved slightly from 8.32 in 2020 to 8.39. The US economic freedom rating saw an increase from 8.11 in 2020 to 8.14 in 2021, and its personal freedom score also saw an increase from 8.47 in 2020 to 8.57 in 2021.

The findings in the HFI suggest that freedom plays an important role in human well‐being, and they offer opportunities for further research into the complex ways in which freedom influences, and can be influenced by, political regimes, economic development, and the whole range of indicators of human well‐being.