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OAFP 4185 - Better Policies for Better Lives: Policy for Well-Being and Social Progress

Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Spring 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

Following the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission (Stiglitz et al., 2009), the quest for measures of well-being alternative to GDP has become topical in many countries and in many circles. Considerable progress has been made in assessing the pros and cons of the various approaches and in understanding what next steps are needed to overcome some of the limitations. As a starting point, the course describes how the System of National Accounts evolved and the 'tension' between a production and a welfare perspective on the accounts. It then describes different perspectives to individual well-being, from those limited to ‘opulence' to those focus on people's 'capabilities' ; how inequalities enter the construction of community-level social welfare functions; and how considerations on different capital stocks and risks affect any assessment of the sustainability of social welfare over time. On a second step, the course looks at subjective well-being (SWB) as a key dimension of individual welfare. The course takes stock of concepts, measurement practices and empirical evidence, drawing on evidence from the Gallup World Poll and other sources. It describes differences between life evaluations, experienced well-being and eudemonia, their drivers and impacts. One step further, the course will show how a composite measure of social welfare based on the 'equivalent income' approach (the Multidimensional Living Standards measure) can be developed based on 'shadow prices' of some non-material dimensions (e.g. longevity and employment) and on a choice of parameter to express the degree of inequality aversion. This measure is used as a framework for assessing the benefits of economic growth, how they are distributed among social groups, and how policies and institutions affect them; and to compare policies aimed at maximising GDP growth to those targeting a multi-dimensional, inequality-sensitive goal. Finally, the course discusses one example of a national initiative aiming to develop a set of multi-dimensional well-being measures and to use them in the policy process.


  • MIRA D'ERCOLE, Marco (Head of the Division for Household Statistics and Progress)
  • MURTIN, Fabrice (Economiste)

Course validation

Policy brief on a subject related to well-being.


Reading as indicated in the plan of the course.

Additional required reading

  • Executive summary of the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission report; OECD (2014), Understanding National Accounts, chapter 15 “GDP as a welfare metric: the ‘beyond GDP' agenda”, OECD Publishing
  • OECD (2013), How's Life? Measuring well-being, Ch. 1, OECD Publishing; M. Nussbaum (2011), Creating Capabilities, Harvard Un. Press
  • World Bank (2015), “A measured Approach to Ending Poverty and Boosting Shared Prosperity”, Chapter 3; OECD (2015), In It Together, executive summary, OECD Publishing
  • Algan, Y. and P. Cahuc (2013), Trust, Institutions and Economic Development, Handbook of Economic Growth