How to Measure Social Progress?

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A good society is the goal for social policy. Recent years have seen a growing awareness that gross domestic product (GDP) alone does not measure this. Happiness and well-being have increasingly been seen as elements that should influence welfare policies. This review article provides an overview of many of the ways to measure well-being and happiness. It attempts to cover three distinct, but interrelated subjects. First, why and what can be used to complement GDP as measures for societal development. Second, is there a relation between well-being, happiness and central social policy areas? Third, whether knowledge on what makes people happy could inform policymakers in their decisions. The article discusses the many new attempts to measure societal development, and the fact that there are so many that decision makers and citizens are drowning by numbers and thereby not able to grasp whether or not there is social progress. Lastly, by using the classical depiction of welfare states, the article analyses whether the indexes are in line herewith, and that, therefore, they might be used as an instrument for steering societies in the direction of a good society.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Policy and Administration
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)1002-1022
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2017

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