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Measuring Well-Being

Measuring Well-Being

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Measuring Well-Being

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  1. Measuring Well-Being Roy Carr-Hill for Radical Statistics 34th February 2012


  3. “In a provocative new study, a pair of Nobel prize-winning economists, Joseph E. Stiglitz and AmartyaSen, urge the adoption of new assessment tools that incorporate a broader concern for human welfare than just economic growth. By their reckoning, much of the contemporary economic disaster owes to the misbegotten assumption that policy makers simply had to focus on nurturing growth, trusting that this would maximize prosperity for all.”file:///C:/cuql%20again/Stiglitz,%20Amartya%20Sen%20GDP%20A%20Poor%20Measure%20Of%20Growth.mht

  4. How do we measure these broader concerns? • Through happiness or satisfaction measures? • With ‘objective’ surrogate measures of deprivation / fulfilment? • Does the UNDP HDI work

  5. Seers (1975) • There are virtually no statistics anywhere on most of the aspects of life that really matter – the average distance people have to carry water and food; the number without shoes; the extent of overcrowding; the prevalence of violence; how many are unable to multiply one number by another, or summarise their own country’s history (Seers, 1983, pp.5-6)

  6. Theoretically Based Systems: Basic Needs • Maslow’s (1954) hierarchy from physiological, to safety to belongingness to esteem needs • Difficulties with hierarchical point of view (death of partners, political causes; people value sets of relationships on different levels) • 1976 ILO developed basic needs to: • Certain minimum requirements of family for private consumption and household goods • Essential services provided by and for community at large (education, health, transport, water) • Objectives defined in physical terms

  7. Theory of Need for Industrialised Societies • Doyal and Gough (1991) suggest: • Avoidance of physical harm • Importance of autonomous choices: what is crucial are real opportunities to act and change one’s life and conditions • Arguments are coherent with those of Habermas (1984) for liberal democracy, of Rawls (1971) for maximised rights and goods for all; and of Sen (1992) for capabilities and entitlements

  8. ONS – under instruction –module • On the subjective front, work started in April, with four extra questions to the 200,000 people in the Integrated Household Survey (IHS). People were answer the following questions, on a scale of 0 to 10: • • how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?• how happy did you feel yesterday?• how anxious did you feel yesterday?• to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?

  9. Empirical bases for measuring Q o L • Subjective happiness: • Systematic approach to measuring happiness developed by Andrews and Withey (1976) • Adequate income + good health + rewarding social relationships = happiness? • Subjective indicators: not robust (Goldthorpe example); ONS finds that respondents score around 7 out of 10 • Halo effect: people’s general views about an institution colour their responses to about specific interactions with the services; people tend to respond in the same kind of way to quite different questions


  11. Eclectic Approach • Several theories of what constitutes well-being and a variety of approaches to measurement, tend to converge. • Considerable degree of consensus, although variation about what exactly to include and relative importance of each element • Government social reports tend to be similar

  12. Four Distinctive Characteristics • Beyond certain minima, unclear how additional consumption adds to welfare • Important to consider everyone’s perspectives • More emphasis on monitoring collective well-being both in terms of inequality and human rights and reducing ecological damage • Recognition that there is such a thing as society; so externalities have to be considered

  13. Moving beyond Minima • Definition of universal set of basic needs probably not possible except at very abstract level (e.g. survival), but concerns with survival and health, autonomy and self-esteem, etc., generate a set of minima (ref. Poor Britain) • Social Limits to Growth (Hirsch) argument

  14. Consider Everyone’s Perspectives • Plato: Truth and Beauty • Aristotle and Marx: enobled creative activity; but long hours unnecessary in terms of utility of what is produced • Locke: a (wo)man defined by what (s)he had; or continuation of capitalism, people have to believe that they are what they own • Q o L also depends on how we relate to each other in society • Superficially similar to Allardty (1975) and Ekins and Max-Neef (1992) • Difference is we see ‘being’, ‘doing’, ‘having ‘, ‘relating’, ‘surviving’ as different perspectives

  15. Monitor Collective Well-Being • Cross-cutting or Societal Concerns: • Inequality whether defined by gender, generation, geography or s.e.s. Complete definition would require data linkage • Democracy, or extent to which people feel able to influence decisions that affect them • Societal concern with constraint on economic activity to ensure ecological damage reduced

  16. There is such a thing as Society