Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has long been used by economists to measure wealth and progress, but is it really a measure of our well-being? The presenters on this theme will argue that other factors must be considered that account for ecological health, quality of life, and well-being. The workshops will showcase some of the popular alternative indicators, consider how these have been applied at the policy level, and give specific examples of putting these new measures into practice. Speakers from the United Kingdom’s Centre for Well-Being will present their work, which includes the innovative Happy Planet Index. Researchers at Demos in New York will share their extensive US-based work. Practitioners will describe steps they have implemented for measuring quality of life at the city and state level.
For information about the workshops, please consult our workshop page which will be updated as information becomes available.
Watch videos, read articles, and explore blogs and websites.
Our staff has compiled book lists on each conference theme on WorldCat.org, a catalog of libraries around the world. Use WorldCat to locate a book at a library near you. Explore the Measuring Well Being book list.
The Problem with GDP as a Universal Measure of Well-Being
More than 70 years after its emergence, the desirability of GDP growth is so entrenched in our national and international discourse that it's hard to imagine it any other way. The revered indicator's expansion or contraction can swing national elections. Conversely, talk of GDP declines can drive a country to war...read more
Graphic Representation of America's Wealth Distribution
In the words of Robert F. Kennedy, why does Gross National Product "measure everything [...] except that which makes life worthwhile"? Happiness and health are what we really want, but we have the perception that those things can be measured on an economic scale. If happiness is what we want most, why aren't we measuring it directly?
Good news: statistician Nic Marks does just that. Watch as Marks explains the Happy Planet Index, his alternative to GDP, and what it tells us about which countries are really the happiest.
We must develop another measure of happiness. The effort to create new, more accurate indicators of progress takes on new urgency given the cascading destruction to the environment. Our understanding (or misunderstanding) of happiness isn't only a threat to our personal well-being. It's also a threat to the very ecosystems on which we depend. Redefining how we calculate progress has become a cultural imperative as well as a personal one.
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