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Measuring Well-Being: W3 Indicators to Complement GDP


  • Marco Giesselmann
  • Richard Hilmer
  • Nico A. Siegel
  • Gert G. Wagner


Numerous people in Germany, including politicians and researchers, believe that the gross domestic product (GDP) is an outdated indicator of a society’s prosperity. Therefore, at the end of 2010, the German Bundestag, the federal parliament, established a study commission (Enquete-Kommission) tasked with developing an alternative to the GDP for measuring growth, prosperity, and quality of life. This commission has now submitted a proposal: to supplement the GDP with nine additional indicators, including a wide range of factors such as the distribution of income, biodiversity, and life expectancy. The ten indicators cover three dimensions of well-being—economy, ecology, and social wealth—and hence are called W3 Indicators. Replacing the gross domestic product by a single alternative index was rejected by the commission, however, since it is not possible to reduce citizens’ very different wishes and expectations to “a common denominator.” A representative survey of registered voters conducted by DIW Berlin and TNS Infratest shows that citizens consider the indicators proposed by the commission to be important. Respondents ranked preserving “democracy and freedom” as the most relevant indicator and “further increasing life expectancy” as the least relevant. The average per capita income – as an indicator of the gross domestic product – is the second least relevant factor as far as registered voters in Germany are concerned. However, the study also shows that opinions on the importance of different indicators vary widely. Moreover, there are systematic differences in the relevance of various policy areas for different social groups.

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  • Marco Giesselmann & Richard Hilmer & Nico A. Siegel & Gert G. Wagner, 2013. "Measuring Well-Being: W3 Indicators to Complement GDP," Working Paper Series of the German Council for Social and Economic Data 217, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).
  • Handle: RePEc:rsw:rswwps:rswwps217

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    Cited by:

    1. Julia M. Rohrer & Martin Bruemmer & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2017. "Worries across Time and Age in Germany: Bringing Together Open- and Close-Ended Questions," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1671, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    2. repec:exl:29stat:v:16:y:2015:i:3:p:461-487 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Andrzej K. Koźmiński & Katarzyna Piotrowska & Krzysztof Zagórski & Adam Noga, 2015. "Operationalization and Estimation of Balanced Development Index for Poland 1999-2016," Statistics in Transition new series, Główny Urząd Statystyczny (Polska), vol. 16(3), pages 461-478, September.
    4. Alecu Alexandra & Dusmanescu Dorel, 2016. "Approaches On Measuring Sustainable Development In Contemporary World – Beyond Classical Indicators," Annals - Economy Series, Constantin Brancusi University, Faculty of Economics, vol. 3, pages 40-48, June.

    More about this item


    ratswd; ratswd working paper; data sharing; data management; germany; data availability; open access; research infrastructure; data; replication; data privacy; research data centre; infrastructure; GDP; BIP; quality of life; TNS Infratest; SOEP; W3 indicators; GDP and beyond;

    JEL classification:

    • B59 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Other
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • Z18 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Public Policy

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