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Alternative Measures of Well-Being


  • Romina Boarini


  • Åsa Johansson


  • Marco Mira d'Ercole



This paper assesses if GDP per capita is an adequate proxy as a measure of wellbeing or whether other indicators are more suitable for this purpose. Within the national accounts framework, other better measures of economic resources exist, but they are closely correlated with GDP per capita and are not as readily available. Illustrative calculations to ?extend? measures of economic resources to include leisure time, the sharing of income within households and distributional concerns suggest that cross-country ranking of based on these indicators and GDP per capita are generally similar, although they have evolved differently over time. Across OECD countries, levels of most measures of specific social conditions are significantly related to GDP per capita while changes over time are not. However, survey based data on happiness and life-satisfaction across OECD countries are only weakly related to levels of GDP per capita. Overall, measures of GDP per capita and economic growth remain critical for any assessment of wellbeing but they need to be complemented with measures of other dimensions of well-being to get a comprehensive picture of well-being. Indicateurs alternatifs du bien-être Ce document évalue si le PIB par habitant est un indicateur indirect adéquat de mesure du bien-être ou si d'autres indicateurs sont plus appropriés à cet effet. Dans le cadre des comptes nationaux, il existe d'autres mesures des ressources économiques mais elles sont étroitement corrélées avec le PIB par habitant et ne sont pas si facilement disponibles. Si, à titre illustratif on « élargit » les mesures des ressources économiques de façon à prendre en compte le temps de loisir, le partage des revenus à l'intérieur des ménages et les aspects distributifs, on constate que le classement des pays sur la base de ces indicateurs et celui sur la base du PIB par habitant sont généralement similaires, même s'ils ont évolué différemment dans le temps. Dans les pays de l'OCDE, les niveaux de la plupart des mesures de résultats sociaux spécifiques sont liés de manière significative au PIB par habitant alors que les changements dans le temps ne le sont pas. Cependant les études basées sur les indicateurs de bonheur et de satisfaction de la vie dans les pays de l'OCDE sont très faiblement liées aux niveaux du PIB par habitant. De manière générale, les mesures de PIB par habitant et de la croissance économique demeurent cruciales pour toute évaluation du bien-être, mais il faut les compléter par des mesures reflétant d'autres dimensions du bien-être pour obtenir une image complète du bien-être.

Suggested Citation

  • Romina Boarini & Åsa Johansson & Marco Mira d'Ercole, 2006. "Alternative Measures of Well-Being," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 476, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:476-en

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    Cited by:

    1. Mota, Rui Pedro & Domingos, Tiago & Martins, Victor, 2008. "Analysis of green net national product and genuine saving in Portugal, 1991 - 2005," MPRA Paper 13347, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Christos Koulovatianos & Polina Minkovski & Carsten Schröder, 2009. "Per-capita income versus household-need adjusted income: a cross-country comparison," Journal of Income Distribution, Journal of Income Distribution, vol. 18(3-4), pages 11-23, September.
    3. Olha Hlushchenko, 2016. "Well-being funding: essence and estimation method," RIVISTA DI STUDI SULLA SOSTENIBILITA', FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2016(2), pages 45-55.
    4. Bleys, Brent & Whitby, Alistair, 2015. "Barriers and opportunities for alternative measures of economic welfare," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 162-172.
    5. Jean-Philippe Cotis, 2006. "Benchmarking Canada's Economic Performance," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 13, pages 3-20, Fall.
    6. Christian Kroll, 2011. "Wie wollen wir zukünftig leben? Internationale Erfahrungen bei der Neuvermessung von Fortschritt und Wohlergehen," Working Paper Series of the German Council for Social and Economic Data 186, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).
    7. Delbosc, Alexa & Currie, Graham, 2011. "Exploring the relative influences of transport disadvantage and social exclusion on well-being," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 555-562, August.
    8. Rauf Gönenç & Oliver Röhn & Christian Beer & Andreas Wörgötter, 2013. "Responding to Key Well-being Challenges in Austria," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1080, OECD Publishing.
    9. Carla Collicelli, 2013. "Subjective Indicators in the Health Sector and Their Usefulness in Policy Making," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 114(1), pages 87-103, October.
    10. Xingqiang Du, 2016. "Does Confucianism Reduce Board Gender Diversity? Firm-Level Evidence from China," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 136(2), pages 399-436, June.
    11. Pennekamp, Johannes, 2011. "Wohlstand ohne Wachstum: Ein Literaturüberblick," MPIfG Working Paper 11/1, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
    12. Greg Coombs, 2006. "Wellbeing and happiness in OECD countries," Economic Roundup, The Treasury, Australian Government, issue 2, pages 11-21, May.
    13. Frank T. Denton & Byron G. Spencer, 2008. "What is Retirement? A Review and Assessment of Alternative Concepts and Measures," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 231, McMaster University.
    14. Van Ootegem, Luc & Spillemaeckers, Sophie, 2010. "With a focus on well-being and capabilities," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 384-390, June.
    15. Modrego, Félix & Berdegué, Julio A., 2015. "A Large-Scale Mapping of Territorial Development Dynamics in Latin America," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 11-31.

    More about this item


    bien-être subjectif; composite indicators; comptes nationaux; GDP; indicateur synthétique; indicateurs sociaux; leisure time; living standards; national accounts; niveaux de vie; PIB; social indicators; subjective well-being; temps de loisir;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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