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The contribution of subjective measures to the quantification of social progress: Evidence from Europe and Israel

Wolfgang Messner (MYRA School of Business, Mysore, India)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 11 April 2016

Abstract

Purpose

Statistical indicators, such as human health, are important for designing government policies, as well as for influencing the functioning of economic markets. However, there is often a discrepancy between statistical measures and the citizens’ prevalent feelings. In order to produce more relevant indicators of social progress, governments are currently shifting their measurement emphasis from objective to subjective measures. While the philosophical tradition of hedonic psychology views individuals as the best judges of their own conditions, little empirical evidence shows that individually reported health scores provide accurate information about a population’s health status. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate if subjective health questions contain genuine information about the status of human health, and are meaningful at an aggregated level.

Design/methodology/approach

Subjective health data are extracted from the 2012/2013 European Social Survey (28 European countries plus Israel, n=54,427). Objective health data are based on the 2012 World Bank statistics for life expectancy at birth. The author check if aggregated subjective health correlates with life expectancy at country level, and can reliably be compared across countries.

Findings

The findings support the idea of including subjective data into country statistics of social progress. Because of substantial between-country differences, social development programs should be devised individually for each country.

Originality/value

By showing that subjective health measures can reliably contribute to the quantification of social progress, the author offer a bridge between objective neoclassical economics and subjective hedonic psychology.

Keywords

Citation

Messner, W. (2016), "The contribution of subjective measures to the quantification of social progress: Evidence from Europe and Israel", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 36 No. 3/4, pp. 258-268. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-06-2015-0060

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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