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Sustainability and the Measurement of Wealth

Author

Listed:
  • Kenneth J. Arrow
  • Partha Dasgupta
  • Lawrence H. Goulder
  • Kevin J. Mumford
  • Kirsten Oleson

Abstract

We develop a consistent and comprehensive theoretical framework for assessing whether economic growth is compatible with sustaining well-being over time. The framework focuses on whether a comprehensive measure of wealth - one that accounts for natural capital and human capital as well as reproducible capital - is maintained through time. Our framework also integrates population growth, technological change, and changes in health. We apply the framework to five countries that differ significantly in stages of development and resource bases: the United States, China, Brazil, India, and Venezuela. With the exception of Venezuela, significant increases in human capital enable comprehensive wealth to be maintained (and sustainability to be achieved) despite significant reductions in the natural resource base. We find that the value of "health capital" is very large relative to other forms of capital. As a result, its growth rate critically influences the growth rate of per-capita comprehensive wealth.

Suggested Citation

  • Kenneth J. Arrow & Partha Dasgupta & Lawrence H. Goulder & Kevin J. Mumford & Kirsten Oleson, 2010. "Sustainability and the Measurement of Wealth," NBER Working Papers 16599, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16599
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hamilton, Kirk & Clemens, Michael, 1999. "Genuine Savings Rates in Developing Countries," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 13(2), pages 333-356, May.
    2. Kenneth J. Arrow & Partha Dasgupta & Karl-Göran Mäler, 2003. "The genuine savings criterion and the value of population," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 21(2), pages 217-225, March.
    3. 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.
    4. repec:reg:rpubli:132 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. William D. Nordhaus, 2002. "The Health of Nations: The Contribution of Improved Health to Living Standards," NBER Working Papers 8818, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Lane, Philip R. & Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria, 2007. "The external wealth of nations mark II: Revised and extended estimates of foreign assets and liabilities, 1970-2004," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 223-250, November.
    7. מחקר - ביטוח לאומי, 2006. "Annual Survey 2005," Working Papers 15, National Insurance Institute of Israel.
    8. Richard S. J. Tol, 2009. "The Economic Effects of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(2), pages 29-51, Spring.
    9. Dasgupta, Partha, 2001. "Human Well-Being and the Natural Environment," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199247882.
    10. Hamilton, Kirk, 1994. "Green adjustments to GDP," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 155-168, September.
    11. Pearce, David W. & Atkinson, Giles D., 1993. "Capital theory and the measurement of sustainable development: an indicator of "weak" sustainability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 103-108, October.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D69 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Other
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • O50 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - General
    • Q32 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Exhaustible Resources and Economic Development
    • Q39 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Other

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