OECD Statistics Working Papers

The OECD Statistics Working Paper Series - managed by the OECD Statistics and Data Directorate – is designed to make available in a timely fashion and to a wider readership selected studies prepared by staff in the Secretariat or by outside consultants working on OECD projects. The papers included are of a technical, methodological or statistical policy nature and relate to statistical work relevant to the organisation. The Working Papers are generally available only in their original language - English or French - with a summary in the other.

Joint Working Papers:

Measuring Well-being and Progress in Countries at Different Stages of Development: Towards a More Universal Conceptual Framework (with OECD Development Centre)

Measuring and Assessing Job Quality: The OECD Job Quality Framework (with OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs)

Forecasting GDP during and after the Great Recession: A contest between small-scale bridge and large-scale dynamic factor models (with OECD Economics Directorate)

Decoupling of wages from productivity: Macro-level facts (with OECD Economics Directorate)

Which policies increase value for money in health care? (with OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs)

Compiling mineral and energy resource accounts according to the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) 2012 (with OECD Environment Directorate)


A Review of General Social Surveys

Societal progress is about improvements in the well-being of people and households. Assessing such progress requires looking at the diverse and multidimensional experiences and living conditions of people. Measuring well-being and progress is a key priority that the OECD is pursuing through its Better Life Initiative and the How’s Life report series that has been published bi-annually since 2011. In addition, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have created a strong need for better data on multi-dimensional outcomes. However, no statistical framework exists linking conceptual frameworks of well-being with specific measurement instruments and outputs, and a lack of harmonised data suitable for international comparisons remains a key limitation to monitoring progress across countries. This review makes a first step towards developing a system of well-being statistics. A data source that has been underutilised in assessing the multidimensionality of human well-being and the joint distribution of outcomes are General Social Surveys, which are run by the majority of national statistical agencies as part of their regular survey programme. Using the OECD well-being framework, this review systematically considers the outcome domains of How’s Life?, taking stock of how each domain is being measured through General Social Surveys conducted in OECD countries and could be drawn upon in comparative analyses of well-being such as How’s Life?. The paper highlights inconsistencies between General Social Surveys across countries, and makes recommendations towards harmonization.


Keywords: well-being, methodology for collecting and organising microeconomic data, quality of life
JEL: I31: Health, Education, and Welfare / Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty / General Welfare; Well-Being; I30: Health, Education, and Welfare / Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty / Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty: General; C81: Mathematical and Quantitative Methods / Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs / Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
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