Happiness Is an Important Indicator of Societal Progress

Opinion Piece in the New York Times, Room for Debate, by Bina Agarwal

If happiness is defined by an individual’s freedom to choose, and lead, a life he or she has reason to value, it is worth tracking it as a sign of national progress.

There was a time when most economists believed that income was a fair measure of personal well-being, and G.D.P. per capita could adequately reflect a country’s progress.

Today, few would disagree that quality-of-life assessments should be multidimensional. The United Nations Development Programme, for example, ranks countries by an annual human development index that aggregates income, life expectancy and education. But are even these factors fully adequate for measuring social well-being?

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