More thoughts on measuring well being

We know about the GDP of countries, but what about measuring well being? Countries like France and Bhutan have looked into measuring the well being and happiness of those countries as well as the economic impact. We asked Zintro experts about their thoughts on measuring well being.

Jose Poncela,an economist, says that economics can explain rational choices over a multiple set of variables. “It does this by ordering alternatives but we just can say that this alternative is better than this one, not how much better it is. Therefore, economics can only measure well being with a money equivalent that produces the same well being through consumer surplus,” says Poncela. “This is a problem when we want to measure things of a noneconomic nature. One way to measure well being is to survey the population and ask them what their well being depends on and see if those factors have increased or not or to ask a  population if they are better off or not that in some period. Constructing indexes based on such techniques is something arbitrary and with little scientific support but it is, with all its limitations, something that can be done.”

Vidia S. Ramdeen,a strategy and management consultant, says that a nation with a large Gini coefficient showing a large disparity in income inequality may not actually have a low measure of well-being and vice-versa. “That said, I do feel a reasonable measure of well-being may be established. A barometer inclusive of salient economic and social constructs and operational definitions subject to coding would be a methodological approach to rendering a subset of variables to track and measure with regard to measuring the well-being of the underlying population,” he says.

Peter Meyer, an economist, says that he taught economic development and would ask his students if they wanted to raise the GDP. “They always said, yes. Then I proposed to my students, which ranged from businesspeople to organized labor, that they work to raise the level of industrial accidents,” he remembers. “I wanted to show them that industrial accidents would raise GDP by increasing medical expenses, insurance rates, employee turnover, and its costs.”

Michael Agne, an expert in financial markets, says that GDP is used as a statistical indicator that links the functionality of many economic indicators in determining the health of an overall economy. “However, in this day and age of manipulation in all government statistics to skew data in whatever form possible that is to the sole benefit of those in power, a well being indicator would not be conducive or beneficial,” he says. “I am a big proponent in measuring life with well being stats, such as longevity, overall health, and so on, but I do not think that in the overall scheme of things anyone would really take it for anything more than novelty.”

By Maureen Aylward

Zintro, Inc

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