By Joseph E. Stiglitz, Jean-Paul Fitoussi and Martine Durand

Measuring What Counts is a re-publication of an OECD report from 2018, titled "Beyond GDP; Measuring What Counts for Economic and Social Performance".

Measuring What Counts is a bold agenda for a better way to assess societal well-being, by three of the world’s leading economists and statisticians.

If we want to put people first, we have to know what matters to them, what improves their well-being, and how we can supply more of whatever that is.” —Joseph E. Stiglitz

In 2009, a group of economists led by Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz, French economist Jean-Paul Fitoussi, and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen issued a report challenging gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of progress and well-being. Published as Mismeasuring Our Lives by The New Press, the book sparked a global conversation about GDP and a major movement among scholars, policy makers, and activists to change the way we measure our economies.

Now, in Measuring What Counts, Stiglitz, Fitoussi, and Martine Durand—summarizing the deliberations of a panel of experts on the measurement of economic performance and social progress hosted at the OECD, the international organization incorporating the most economically advanced countries—propose a new, “beyond GDP” agenda. This book provides an accessible overview of the last decade’s global movement, sparked by the original critique of GDP, and proposes a new “dashboard” of metrics to assess a society’s health, including measures of inequality and economic vulnerability, whether growth is environmentally sustainable, and how people feel about their lives. Essential reading for our time, it also serves as a guide for policy makers and others on how to use these new tools to fundamentally change the way we measure our lives—and to plot a radically new path forward.

Publisher: The New Press

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Table of Contents of Measuring What Counts

  1. The Continued Importance of the "Beyond GDP" Agenda
  2. The Measurement of Economic Downturns
  3. The Need to Follow Up on the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission
  4. Country-Experiences with Using Well-Being Indicators to Steer Policies
  5. Twelve Recommendations on the Way Ahead in Measuring Well-being

The Twelve Recommendations Made by the Authors

Copied from page 117/118 of the OECD report "Beyond GDP; Measuring What Counts for Economic and Social Performance" (the book is a republication of this report):

  1. "No single metric will ever provide a good measure of the health of a country, even when the focus is limited to the functioning of the economic system. Policies need to be guided by a dashboard of indicators informing about people’s material conditions and the quality of their lives, inequalities thereof, and sustainability. This dashboard should include indicators that allow us to assess people’s conditions over the economic cycle. Arguably, policy responses to the Great Recession might have been different had such a dashboard been used."
  2. "Developing better metrics of people’s well-being is important for all countries, whatever their level of development. National Statistical Offices should be given the resources and independence needed to pursue this task in effective ways, including through harnessing the potential of big data. The international community should invest more in upgrading the statistical capacities of poorer countries."
  3. "The quality and comparability of existing metrics of economic inequality related to income and, particularly, wealth should be further improved, including by allowing Statistical Offices to use tax records to capture developments at the top end of the distribution, and by developing measures of the joint distribution of household income, consumption and wealth."
  4. "Data should be disaggregated by age, gender, disability status, sexual orientation, education and other markers of social status in order to describe group differences in well-being outcomes; and metrics to describe within-household inequalities, such as those related to asset ownership and the sharing of resources and financial decisions within the household, should be developed."
  5. "Efforts to integrate information on economic inequalities within the System of National Accounts should be pursued, in the perspective of achieving convergence between micro-and macro-approaches, and of understanding how the benefits of GDP growth are shared in society."
  6. "Assessing equality of opportunity is important. Measures of a broad range of people’s circumstances should be developed, including by linking administrative records across generations and by including retrospective questions on parental conditions in household surveys, so as to allow comparison of measures of inequality of opportunity across countries and over time."
  7. "Regular, frequent and standardised collection of both evaluative and experiential measures of subjective well-being should be pursued, based on large representative samples with a view to shedding light on their drivers and on the directions of causality."
  8. "Policies should be routinely assessed for their effects on people’s economic insecurity, measured through a dashboard of indicators that inform about people’s experiences in the face of economic shocks, the buffers that are available to them, the adequacy of social insurance against key risks, and subjective evaluations of insecurity."
  9. "Better measures of sustainability are needed. This requires developing full balance sheets for various institutional sectors, covering all their assets and liabilities, measuring the rents implicit in asset valuations, as well as improved metrics of human and environmental capital and of the vulnerability and resilience of systems."
  10. "The measurement of trust and other social norms should be improved, through both general and specialised household surveys as well as more experimental tools administered to representative samples of respondents that rely on insights from psychology and behavioural economics"
  11. "Access to statistical data and administrative records by academics and policy analysists should be facilitated, in ways that preserve the confidentiality of the information disseminated and that ensure a level playing field across different research teams and theoretical perspectives."
  12. "To deliver “better policies for better lives”, well-being metrics should be used to inform decisions at all stages of the policy process, from identifying priorities for action and aligning programme objectives to investigating the benefits and costs of different policy options; from making budgeting and financing decisions to monitoring policies, programme implementation and evaluation."

About Joseph Stiglitz, Jean-Paul Fitoussi and Martine Durand

Joseph E. Stiglitz is University Professor at Columbia University and Co-founder and Executive Director of the Initiative for Policy Dialogue. A winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001, he was a member of the Council of Economic Advisers from 1993-95. He is the author of many books, including the international bestseller Globalization and Its Discontents, which has been translated into 28 languages.

Jean-Paul Fitoussi is professor emeritus at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (SciencesPo), Paris, and professor at LUISS Guido Carli University, Rome.

Martine Durand is the chief statistician and director of statistics of the OECD.