A Countermeasure to GDP Veneration: Social Progress Indicator

14 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2020

Date Written: February 21, 2020


A Social Progress Indicator is a survey instrument, which combined with objective data, can evaluate the impact and quality of state services. The areas of state intervention envisaged include child and long-term care services, education, environment, health, housing, public transport, state pension system and security of the citizen. The impact and quality of state services can determine national well-being. It is vitally important that the economic performance of the Irish state `trickles down' to its citizens by way of the high quality provision of state services, and a Social Progress Indicator can be tailored to achieve that outcome.

In this discussion paper, we present the main arguments that a Social Progress Indicator can provide a valuable and novel supplementary measurement of national well-being for Ireland, and that Ireland has an opportunity to act as a global leader in this context. We also provide, at an executive level, guidelines in regard to a methodology to construct a Social Progress Indicator for Ireland.

The principal arguments for a Social Progress Indicator are as follows. First, the inadequacy of conventional measurements of national performance e.g. national income, as a proxy for the state's impact on the quality of life of its citizens. Second, the scope, via a Social Progress Indicator, for the improvement of quality of life of a state's citizens, as measured by international standardized rankings e.g. European Quality of Life Survey. Third, the absence of a customer satisfaction criterion, for scientific and timely feedback, in relation to the provision and improvement of state services. Finally, the scope for applications of Social Progress Indicator, in regard to motivating state actors, across state departments, can serve to further motivate the establishment of a Social Progress Indicator.

The question of how to measure the quality of delivery of state services is complex and challenging. Relying, in part at least, on people's own judgment is a convenient shortcut and potentially provides a natural way to aggregate various, and potentially diverse, experiences. In a world of misleading anecdotal evidence (i.e. 'fake' news) and media marketed opinion pieces in regard to the quality of state services, a rigorously constructed Social Progress Indicator can play a critically important and informative role.

In this vein, we provide executive level recommendations on the data science of representative sampling, sub-index aggregation, and we include a justification for a pilot study and the management of user expectations. We also highlight how a machine learning approach, in the form of textual analytics, can play an important role in aggregating feedback from the citizens of the state.

We provide the first evaluation of arguments for a Social Progress Indicator, as a metric to capture the quality of state services in Ireland, with a view to enhancing national well-being.

Suggested Citation

Muckley, Cal B., A Countermeasure to GDP Veneration: Social Progress Indicator (February 21, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3541327 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3541327

Cal B. Muckley (Contact Author)

University College Dublin ( email )

Blackrock, Co. Dublin
+353-1-716-8091 (Phone)

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