Developing Attitudinal Indicators of Societal Wellbeing
Roger Jowell, Eric Harrison, Elissa Sibley
Centre for Comparative Social Surveys, City University, London, United Kingdom

This paper reports progress on a project to produce 'attitudinal indicators of societal well-being', as part of the wider methodological research agenda of the European Social Survey. This recognises the recent contribution of 'happiness economics' in moving the debate beyond GDP, but seeks to move the agenda on in two ways. Firstly it focuses more on cognitive evaluations of society's functioning than measures of affect like happiness. Secondly it is less concerned with the psychological well-being of individuals and more with the social well-being of aggregates, whether these are neighbourhoods, regions or nations.

While most countries have long produced data relating to overall measures of life satisfaction, the Stiglitz report recognized that well-being is multi-dimensional. This project has examined the current state of wellbeing measurement on the main cross-national surveys in relation to a series of domains. It finds that while comparative data exist for most of the key domains, these are often scattered across many different general social surveys. This makes it difficult to implement another of the Stiglitz recommendations, namely that surveys should 'assess the links between various quality-of-life domains for each person, and this information should be used when designing policies in various fields'. The final output from the project will be a proposal for a specialist module of questions to be fielded on new or existing surveys. Items must have strong internal validity and high cross-national reliability to be included. In addition, in order to be influential the indicator set will have to meet two requirements:

a) it must measure wellbeing across a comprehensive set of domains, in order to provide a full picture of the experiences that constitute life satisfaction

b) it must be administered to samples that are large enough to yield meaningful information about significant demographic and geographical subgroups within the population.

Keywords: Wellbeing; Indicators; Measurement; Attitudes

Biography: Eric has an MA in Social and Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge, and a D.Phil in Sociology from Nuffield College, Oxford. Since 2006 he has been working as Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Comparative Social Surveys at City University, London. His main research interests are social stratification, social inequality, wellbeing and comparative research methodology.