A Social Progress Index

At this year’s AEA meetings, there apparently was an interesting session on measuring well-being.

One paper, by Daniel Fehder, Scott Stern, and Michael E. Porter, says

we describe the construction of a synthetic measure of non-economic performance, the Social Progress Index (SPI). Building on a wide range of prior literature, it incorporates more than 50 indicators into 12 components that are then aggregated into three primary dimensions of non-economic societal performance: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity.


overall social progress is decomposed into three distinct dimensions, Basic Human Needs (“Does a country provide for its people’s most essential needs?), Foundations of Well-Being (“Are the building blocks in place for individuals and communities to enhance and sustain wellbeing?), and Opportunity (“Is there opportunity for all individuals to reach their full potential?”). Whereas Basic Human Needs centers on non-economic conditions that a society provides (e.g., achieving a low child mortality rate and a high level of sanitation, shelter, and personal safety), Foundations of Wellbeing focuses on whether a society offers individual an opportunity to invest in themselves and their communities to advance their wellbeing (e.g., allowing individuals to achieve a basic level of education, gain access to information, and maintain strong lifelong health and local environmental quality). Finally, Opportunity focuses on those components of social progress that concern the ability of individuals to achieve their own personal objectives, including their degree of personal rights and freedom in the context of an inclusive and educated society.

I like the idea of diversifying the portfolio of economic and social indicators. Recall my recent essay proposing to measure occupational satisfaction.

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2 Responses to A Social Progress Index

  1. edgar says:

    Hmmmm….”Does a country provide for its citizen’s most basic needs?” Lot of assumptions there. Could see this being used to extol China’s social credit program. Do they want dating services to be nationalized? Or just have the government assign marriage partners? The argument against the Human Development Index sounds pretty weak too. How exactly do they envision ratings and rankings changing under their system? Are Norway and Australia inferior to China? Nope? Nevertheless, it sounds like they just want to use the World Bank manipulation of Chile’s ratings as a how to guide to producing some authoritarian pro-government social engineering propaganda.

  2. Procrustes says:

    I can’t think of anything to say other than “No! Just No!”

    Another set of poor top-down measures for statists to imagine that think they know how others should lead their lives. Please, please stop this before anyone takes it seriously.

    Disclaimer: the author of the above rant worked for many years in central government agencies in Australia and the UK and cannot even begin to think how the great and good could even come up with meaningful measures that reflect what ordinary people value the most.

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