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Does Money Buy Me Love? Testing Alternative Measures of National Wellbeing


  • Arthur Grimes

    () (Motu Economic and Public Policy Research and University of Auckland)

  • les Oxley

    () (University of Waikato)

  • Nicholas Tarrant



Many aggregate measures of wellbeing and sustainability exist to guide policy-makers. However, the power of these aggregate measures to predict objective wellbeing outcomes has received little comparative testing. We compile and compare a range of aggregate wellbeing measures including: material measures (e.g. Gross Domestic Product per capita), surveyed measures (e.g. life satisfaction) and composite measures (e.g. Human Development Index) covering a range of countries. We test the predictive power of wellbeing measures for an objective indicator of how people value countries’ relative attractiveness. The objective indicator is net migration over a fifty year timespan, indicating people’s revealed preference (re)location choices. The paper examines relationships amongst cross-country wellbeing and sustainability measures; and examines how New Zealand compares with other countries according to these measures. Based on models of spatial (dis)equilibrium and migration, we present tests of the predictive power of alternative aggregate measures for international migration outcomes. We find that both material and life satisfaction outcomes are important determinants of the choice to migrate.

Suggested Citation

  • Arthur Grimes & les Oxley & Nicholas Tarrant, 2012. "Does Money Buy Me Love? Testing Alternative Measures of National Wellbeing," Working Papers 12_09, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:mtu:wpaper:12_09

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Philip McCann & Jacques Poot & Lynda Sanderson, 2010. "Migration, relationship capital and international travel: theory and evidence," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(3), pages 361-387, May.
    2. 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 737-754, April.
    3. Abdallah, Saamah & Thompson, Sam & Marks, Nic, 2008. "Estimating worldwide life satisfaction," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 35-47, March.
    4. Susana Ferreira & Kirk Hamilton & Jeffrey R. Vincent, 2008. "Comprehensive Wealth and Future Consumption: Accounting for Population Growth," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 22(2), pages 233-248, May.
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    More about this item


    aggregate wellbeing; life satisfaction; gross domestic product; migration;

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • E01 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Measurement and Data on National Income and Product Accounts and Wealth; Environmental Accounts
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population

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