A bird’s eye view of well-being: Exploring a multidimensional measure for the UK

This paper explores a new approach to capturing wellbeing and human development in a single, joint multidimensional index that is at once intuitive, rigorous and policy salient. Based on Amartya Sen’s capability approach and the Alkire-Foster method as adapted in Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index, we build a new exploratory Multidimensional Wellbeing Index (MWI) for the United Kingdom. The index follows a subset of the domains and indicators from the official national wellbeing dashboard, and is constructed from a single wave of Understanding Society (Wave 9) data. Following a review of recent developments in wellbeing measurement, we present the methodology for the index, and findings at the national level and decomposed by population groups. The study aims to inform the debate on the measurement of wellbeing in the United Kingdom, and of human development more generally, and to illustrate the value-added of an overarching intuitive yet rigorous metric, as a complement to a rich and intricate dashboard.

Sabina Alkire directs the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), a research centre within the Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford. Her research interests and publications include multidimensional poverty measurement and analysis, welfare economics, Amartya Sen’s capability approach, Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness index, and human development. She holds a DPhil in Economics from the University of Oxford.

Fanni Kovesdi is a Research Analyst at the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. Since joining OPHI in 2018, she has worked on the global MPI and Changes over Time projects, harmonizing MPI data to analyse trends in poverty for 80 countries using the global Multidimensional Poverty Index. Prior to joining OPHI, she has completed a Masters in Sociology at the University of Oxford. Her research interests are in poverty, wellbeing, inequality, social identities and migration.

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