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Beyond Gdp: Conceptual Grounds of Quantification. The Case of the Index of Economic Well-Being (IEWB)

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  • Géraldine THIRY

    ()
    (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES) AND Saint Louis University)

Abstract

Today, though the need for new indicators of progress is broadly recognized, no consensus has arisen on a successor to GDP. Various – often conflicting – quantification options are observed. On one side, one finds those who want to improve current indicators, by completing or adjusting them, within the logic from which they have emerged. On the other are those for whom new indicators of progress are liable, if well-designed, to catalyze a transition toward a new model of society, less reliant on growth. Up to now, these axiological issues related to quantification choices, though crucial for "what we measure affects what we do", are scattered among the debates and do not appear clearly to the stakeholders to the debates. Our paper aims therefore to offer a more systematic understanding of the normative impacts of generic quantification choices. To that end, we analyse the Index of Economic Well-Being (IEWB). Though this index is an example of creativeness at a given time, its lack of success in the public sphere leads us to further investigate the coherence between its foundations and its purpose(s). For each dimension of this composite indicator, the analysis – which is intended to be easily transposed to other indicators – sheds light on the variety of normative implications resulting from its conceptual and methodological apparatus. This concomitantly leads us to question in depth the relevance of some theoretical hypotheses underlying the IEWB to coherently account for economic, social and ecological issues. The paper's conclusion suggests that alternative conceptual frameworks, such as ecological economics and the capability approach, are liable to carry more coherent indicators of progress.²²

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES) in its series Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) with number 2011048.

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Length: 35
Date of creation: 14 Dec 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvir:2011048

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Keywords: Economic Well-being; Indicators; Sustainability; Sociology of quantification;

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  1. Isabelle CASSIERS & Géraldine THIRY, 2009. "Au-delà du PIB : réconcilier ce qui compte et ce que l’on compte," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 75, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  2. Lars Osberg & Andrew Sharpe, 2005. "How Should We Measure The "Economic" Aspects Of Well-Being? ," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 51(2), pages 311-336, 06.
  3. Lars Osberg & Andrew Sharpe, 2002. "International Comparisons of Trends in Economic Well-being," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 58(1), pages 349-382, June.
  4. Pezzey, J., 1992. "Sustainable Development Concepts; An Economic Analysis," Papers 2, World Bank - The World Bank Environment Paper.
  5. Herman E. Daly, 1968. "On Economics as a Life Science," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 392.
  6. Lars Osberg & Andrew Sharpe, 2011. "Moving from a GDP-Based to a Well-Being Based Metric of Economic Performance and Social Progress: Results from the Index of Economic Well-Being for OECD Countries, 1980-2009," CSLS Research Reports 2011-12, Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
  7. Frances Stewart, 2001. "Women and human development: the capabilities approach, by MARTHA NUSSBAUM (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 2000, pp. xxi +312, hbk £17.95)," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(8), pages 1191-1192.
  8. Lars Osberg & Andrew Sharpe, 2010. "The Index of Economic Well-Being," Challenge, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 53(4), pages 25-42, July.
  9. van der Ploeg, Frederick, 2010. "Why do many resource-rich countries have negative genuine saving?: Anticipation of better times or rapacious rent seeking," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 28-44, January.
  10. Osberg, Lars & Sharpe, Andrew, 2002. "An Index of Economic Well-Being for Selected OECD Countries," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 48(3), pages 291-316, September.
  11. Asghar Zaidi & Tania Burchardt, 2005. "Comparing Incomes When Needs Differ: Equivalization For The Extra Costs Of Disability In The U.K," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 51(1), pages 89-114, 03.
  12. Kenneth Arrow & Partha Dasgupta & Lawrence Goulder & Gretchen Daily & Paul Ehrlich & Geoffrey Heal & Simon Levin & Karl-Göran Mäler & Stephen Schneider & David Starrett & Brian Walker, 2004. "Are We Consuming Too Much?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(3), pages 147-172, Summer.
  13. Ingrid Robeyns, 2005. "Selecting Capabilities for Quality of Life Measurement," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 74(1), pages 191-215, October.
  14. Paul Downward, 2004. "On leisure demand: a Post Keynesian critique of neoclassical theory," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 26(3), pages 371-394, April.
  15. Isabelle Cassiers & Catherine Delain, 2006. "La croissance ne fait pas le bonheur : les économistes le savent-ils ?," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 38, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  16. Ferreira, Susana & Vincent, Jeffrey R, 2005. "Genuine Savings: Leading Indicator of Sustainable Development?," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(3), pages 737-54, April.
  17. Frederik Booysen, 2002. "An Overview and Evaluation of Composite Indices of Development," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 59(2), pages 115-151, August.
  18. Osberg, L. & Sharpe, A., 1998. "An Index of Economic Well-being for Canada," Department of Economics at Dalhousie University working papers archive 98-08, Dalhousie, Department of Economics.
  19. Gérard Gaudet, 2007. "Natural resource economics under the rule of Hotelling," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1033-1059, November.
  20. Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh, 2007. "Abolishing GDP," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 07-019/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  21. Paul Anand & Graham Hunter & Ron Smith, 2005. "Capabilities and Well-Being: Evidence Based on the Sen–Nussbaum Approach to Welfare," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 74(1), pages 9-55, October.
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