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Measuring the Good Life

Published: Wednesday 19 May, 2021



Professor Henrietta L. Moore

New polling finds the vast majority of Britons want to prioritise quality of life over economic growth, but what exactly is it that constitutes a good quality of life and how do we measure this?

The online polling, conducted by YouGov on behalf of Positive Money, has found that more than 8 in 10 people think the UK should prioritise the health and wellbeing of citizens over GDP during the coronavirus crisis and more than 6 in 10 think the UK should prioritise improved social and environmental outcomes over GDP when the pandemic is over.

The idea of measuring quality of life beyond GDP is nothing new. High profile examples include the OECD’s Better Life Index, Social Progress Index and UN-Habitat’s City Prosperity Index. These are significant developments in advancing thinking and practice about what the economy should return to societies, however frameworks such as these tend to work with expert-led models that are assumed to be applicable everywhere.

At the IGP we fundamentally believe that citizens and communities should be at the centre of efforts to reimagine prosperity and to define what matters to them for a good quality of life. We do not assume what matters; we ask people to tell us what matters to them.

The London Prosperity Index is the UK’s first citizen-led dashboard of metrics which describes what prosperity means to people living and working in London. The Index reports of fifteen factors that local people say support prosperity and quality of life in their neighbourhoods. Crucially, it includes economic matters like household income, but places these in relation to the other things which people say matter to them.

When talking about what ‘living a good life’ meant to them, the majority of people in our research talked about secure livelihoods, meaning regular and good quality work and affordable and good quality housing in a safe neighbourhood. They talked of these as tightly interwoven with strong social networks and a sense of social and economic inclusion in the life of the city, of being part of change and part of the future.

The Prosperity Index methodology has since been used by teams in Kenya and Lebanon as part of a larger agenda for developing sustainable ways to improve the quality of life of people throughout the world. Whilst there are local specificities in how prosperity is thought about, material wealth has always been thought of alongside several other reoccurring factors: particularly physical and mental health, strong social networks and a thriving natural environment.

By pushing 'prosperity' beyond the definitions of material wealth and prioritising wellbeing and quality of life over the GDP, we can see what the ‘new normal’ could and should incorporate. The Prosperity Index provides a practical way to measure quality of life for policy-makers looking to design the new normal in a post-Covid world: a way that does not rely on assumptions but reflects what the good life really means to people.

I talk more about the kind of values which will guarantee quality of life for all and how they will be created and defended in our Post-Covid Live series

Read more on the London Prosperity Index in Rethinking Prosperity for London: When Citizens Lead Transformation

Image credit: Steph Riddell on Pixabay

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