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The State of Society: Measuring Economic Success and Human Well-Being

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Document date: May 28, 2010
Released online: June 01, 2010

Abstract

This study provides an overview of a broad range of existing measures that go beyond gross domestic product (GDP) to offer a more complete and accurate picture of how a society and its economy are faring. Based on a review of the literature and an analysis of major arguments and rationales for moving beyond GDP as a measure of national well-being, this report identifies 14 categories of national well-being. It synthesizes hundreds of indicators found in 28 reports that present alternative indices and systems of well-being into 79 indicators organized under these categories.


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Summary

This report was commissioned by the Center for Partnership Studies (CPS) to explore progress toward national indicators that measure both human well-being and economic success. These two measurements are interconnected, particularly as society moves further into the postindustrial knowledge and information age where economic success heavily depends on investment in human capacity development.

In this study, we provide an overview of a broad range of existing measures that go beyond gross domestic product (GDP) to offer a more complete and accurate picture of how a society and its economy are faring. Particular attention is given to data still generally marginalized on the economic and social status of the majority of every society—women and children—and to how this correlates with both a nation's quality of life and its economic success.

Based on a review of the literature and an analysis of major arguments and rationales for moving beyond GDP as a measure of national well-being, this report identifies 14 categories of national well-being. It synthesizes hundreds of indicators found in 28 reports1 that present alternative indices and systems of well-being into 79 indicators organized under these categories.

  • Poverty
  • Health
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Income and wealth
  • Shelter
  • Natural environment
  • Political participation
  • Civil society
  • Economic participation
  • Human rights
  • National stability and sustainability
  • Family well-being
  • Personal well-being

After examining existing indicators, we propose that new measures must assess more adequately the well-being of all segments of society—women, children, the elderly, and racial and other minorities. We recommend that particular attention be paid to the economic contributions of women, especially to their caring work in both the market and nonmarket economic sectors, as the degree to which a society invests in caring work is a prime indicator of the degree to which it invests in human capacity development.

This report will be used to initiate conversations and action toward consensus around indicators that more accurately and comprehensively capture a nation's economic health and human well-being.

(End of excerpt. The full report is available in PDF format.)



Topics/Tags: | Children and Youth | Economy/Taxes | Governing | Health/Healthcare | Race/Ethnicity/Gender


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