How do you Know if People are Happy?

How do you measure wellbeing and happiness? And why would economists be interested in the answer? Francois Bourguignon, Head of the European Development Research Network (EUDN) talked about the challenges of measuring social and welfare progress at a session entitled ‘How Do we Measure Development?’ on the second day of the GDN conference.

Current measures of assessing development, such as GDN and the Human Development Index (HDI), do not adequately reflect a person’s social and welfare progress. But finding alternatives is not easy. Bourguignon explained in his talk that the road to more nuanced measures is paved with complexity and methodological challenges.

“Journalists would love us to give them a ‘Gross National Happiness’ index, but we can’t do that. It’s complicated. What we need to do is develop a new dashboard of indicators that would reflect the different aspects of wellbeing of people as well as allow us to track progress over time.”

The 2010 Human Development Report will, for the first time, incorporate multi-dimensional measures of poverty, inequality, empowerment and sustainability.

Sabina Alkire, Director of Oxford Poverty and Human Development Report Initiative at the University of Oxford, said that methodologies are improving to help us with this task. “In the last five years there has been a 50% increase in the number of multidisciplinary measures developed to get over the complexity and intangibility of measuring wellbeing and happiness” (see video at the top of the post).

Andrew Clark, Associate Professor at the Paris School of Economics in Paris, knows more than most about assessing nuanced forms of wellbeing. He is a ‘happiness economist’ and has spent the last ten years asking tens of thousands of people what it is that makes them happy.

See more stories from the GDN 2010 Conference, watch participants’ videos interviews, download conference presentations and papers

About Gavin Embley
MMA writer and copywriter. I provide incite into the rapidly growing UK MMA industry.

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