OECD Economics Department Working Papers

Working papers from the Economics Department of the OECD that cover the full range of the Department’s work including the economic situation, policy analysis and projections; fiscal policy, public expenditure and taxation; and structural issues including ageing, growth and productivity, migration, environment, human capital, housing, trade and investment, labour markets, regulatory reform, competition, health, and other issues.

The views expressed in these papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the OECD or of the governments of its member countries.

English, French

Alternative Measures of Well-Being

This paper assesses if GDP per capita is an adequate proxy as a measure of wellbeing or whether other indicators are more suitable for this purpose. Within the national accounts framework, other better measures of economic resources exist, but they are closely correlated with GDP per capita and are not as readily available. Illustrative calculations to ?extend? measures of economic resources to include leisure time, the sharing of income within households and distributional concerns suggest that cross-country ranking of based on these indicators and GDP per capita are generally similar, although they have evolved differently over time. Across OECD countries, levels of most measures of specific social conditions are significantly related to GDP per capita while changes over time are not. However, survey based data on happiness and life-satisfaction across OECD countries are only weakly related to levels of GDP per capita. Overall, measures of GDP per capita and economic growth remain critical for any assessment of wellbeing but they need to be complemented with measures of other dimensions of well-being to get a comprehensive picture of well-being.


Keywords: composite indicators, GDP, social indicators, national accounts, leisure time, subjective well-being, living standards
JEL: D31: Microeconomics / Distribution / Personal Income, Wealth, and Their Distributions; J22: Labor and Demographic Economics / Demand and Supply of Labor / Time Allocation and Labor Supply; D6: Microeconomics / Welfare Economics; I31: Health, Education, and Welfare / Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty / General Welfare; Well-Being
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