Beyond GDP: measuring true wealth
In recent years, the shortcomings of the commonly-cited GDP (gross domestic product) have become more widely recognized, spreading even to some governments and mainstream organizations such as the UN. Many alternative metrics have been proposed, each of which aims to capture aspects of societal well-being that are omitted by GDP, and/or to minimize the values-neutral elements of GDP (which considers money spent on, say, cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon spill as a positive contribution to GDP). Economist Hazel Henderson is a long-time champion of such alternative measures; Ethical Markets, where she is a principle, tracks news from around the world on such matters, and in an early-2015 essay, she highlights several current initiatives:
Genuine Progress Indicator. This website includes numerous articles and scholarly papers about GDP, several alternative measures, and the GPI, which estimates “economic welfare,” which appears to have peaked in 1978, while GDPs have generally continued rising.
Beyond GDP: The Need for New Measures of Progress (pdf). A report published by Boston University in 2009, by the team that developed the GPI.
Living Planet Index. Developed by the World Wildlife Fund, the focus here is on species and habitats.
Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators. A twelve-topic assessment of quality of life trends in the United States.
Sustainable Society Index. A recently-developed metric that tracks twenty societal measures of sustainability (including sanitation, gender equality, income distribution, governance, and ecological factors) for individual countries around the world.
Gross National Happiness. A national initiative in Bhutan that has spurred interest from countries and cities around the world.
Happy Planet Index. An initiative that builds on Bhutan’s lead.
Canadian Index of Wellbeing. Since 2011, this initiative has looked at country-wide wellbeing, and recently Ontario became the first province to use the methodology.