Most countries measure how well they’re doing using numbers.
Numbers such as how much money people are earning, and how many products and services are being sold. The accepted thermometer for measuring a country’s well-being is gross domestic product (GDP). However, that may be changing.
According to a recent article from USA Today, several cities and states within the U.S. are looking into measuring well-being and happiness. Additionally, a federally funded panel is currently studying whether measuring happiness is a better way to gauge prosperity. The panel started work in December and is scheduled to report its findings in 2013. They will be determining whether measures of happiness should be included in how we measure prosperity and making recommendations as to how that might be accomplished.
Part of what is driving this movement is the growing research that money cannot buy happiness.
And the fact that while U.S. wealth per capita has increased in the last few decades, studies show that happiness has not.
Several states and cities that are taking a closer look at happiness measures include Vermont; Maryland; Seattle; Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Nevada City, California; and Somerville, Massachusetts.
It’s spreading beyond the U.S., too
The United Kingdom, which includes four well-being questions in its national statistics, is co-funding the U.S. panel. Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, and South Korea are interested in the subject as well.
The USA Today article credits a panel led by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz in 2009 (during the global economic meltdown) with spurring this movement. The panel concluded “the time is ripe to shift emphasis from measuring economic production to measuring people’s well-being.”