What happens if you combine life expectancy and GDP into a single indicator? (You spend more on health)

Duncan Green - January 28, 2014

Just been skimming the overview of last December’s report of the Lancet Global health 2035 Commission, chaired by Larry Summers. The report advocates increasing health spending to close the health gap between countries, but the thing that jumped out at me was the practical application of ‘beyond GDP’ thinking in what the report calls the ‘full income approach’: “But while GDP captures the benefits that …

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Oil spills, prisons and the madness of GDP

admin - July 3, 2013

“Average national income is a notoriously imperfect measure of the average person’s well-being. The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – with clean-up and damage costs of $90 billion – added about $300 to the average American’s “income.” But it added nothing to our well-being. The world’s most expensive prison system, costing almost $40 billion per year, adds another $125 per person. …

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Why do some (better) alternatives to GDP get picked up, while others sink without trace? Useful new study on political economy of indicators.

admin - February 5, 2013

Took me a while to overcome my reluctance to read a document subtitled ‘Deliverable 1.1’ on the front page (yuk), but I’m glad I did so. The paper ‘Review report on Beyond GDP indicators: categorisation, intentions and impacts’ (cracking title too…..) is published by BRAINPOoL – ‘Bringing Alternative Indicators into Policy’ (is that the sound of teeth grinding?).  The authors come from Eurothinktanks CUEC (Czech …

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Joe Stiglitz addresses 'the movement' on well-being v GDP

admin - October 29, 2009

I’m still surrounded by the world’s statisticians (not as bad as it sounds) at the OECD Measuring the Progress of Societies conference in South Korea, where yesterday Joe Stiglitz gave a great presentation. Rather than simply rehearse the findings of his commission’s report to President Sarkozy, he reflected on why criticisms of GDP, which have been around for almost as long as GDP itself, have …

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How could we measure well-being in a crisis? Some thoughts from Korea

admin - October 28, 2009

I am currently in Korea’s second city, Busan, attending a big OECD conference on ‘statistics, knowledge and policy’, organized by its ‘Measuring the Progress of Societies’ project. The massive conference centre looks out on a consumerist paradise, including a giant Tesco’s supermarket (everything’s big here, giving you that sense of suddenly having shrunk that you get in Tiananmen square) and what declares itself to be …

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Do we need to ration growth, and if so, who gets what's left?

admin - September 30, 2009

Spoke at a Quaker conference on the ‘zero growth economy’ at the weekend. Quaker meetings are different: when I finished speaking to an audience of 350 people, there was total hear-a-pin-drop silence. Instead of clapping, people reflect, eyes closed, on what they have just heard. And no, even though it was after lunch, they weren’t asleep (well, most of them) and it wasn’t just me – the …

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GDP v Well-being – the Stiglitz Commission and other news

admin - September 23, 2009

According to Otto von Bismarck, the father of modern Germany, ‘Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.’ Having skimmed the report of the ‘The Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress’, commissioned by President Sarkozy and released last week, I would say GDP (Gross Domestic Product, the standard measure of a country’s economic performance) is right up …

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Measuring wellbeing – the latest from UN and OECD. But can Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Jamaica really be the world's happiest countries?!

admin - August 11, 2009

The criticisms of GDP as a pretty unreliable measure of well-being have been around for decades, but policy makers persist in using it as a proxy for success, in part because of the lack of credible alternatives. Now there’s an encouraging flurry of international activity at both the UN and OECD that seeks to fill the gap. In October the OECD’s ‘Measuring the Progress of …

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