Alliance For a Caring Economy

Public Policy: Social Wealth Indicators Project

CPS's Social Wealth Indicators Project is designed to shift public funding priorities in healthier and more realistic directions. The leading indicator of a country’s standard of living, GDP, does not adequately measure social wealth: the attributes of a society that make it possible to create and support the development of every individual’s capacities throughout life as a requisite for national economic success and human well-being.

Recent years have seen the development of proposals for new indicator systems. In 2003, work on a national indicator system for the United States began. Five years later, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz created the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Development and Social Progress to identify the limitations of GDP and to consider alternative measures. Various thinkers, groups, and agencies continue the work of developing indicators that fully assess the state of societies.

These attempts however do not yet provide a framework that encompasses the wide range of interacting indicators that impact the development of human capacities throughout the life span. Most overlook the value of caregiving and hence the contributions of women in both the market and nonmarket sectors, and gloss over important factors such as time use, early childhood education, life-long education, the situation of minorities, as well as their critical links to individual, social, and economic development.

The Urban Institute in partnership with the Center for Partnership studies will convene leading experts to further the work of developing a framework for social wealth indicators that includes the value of caregiving, not only in the conventional sense of care work, but also the educational, health care, and material resource components essential for optimal human capacity development which can drive better research and improve our understanding of how to achieve social well-being and economic success. The two-day workshop will identify and discuss measures that are missing in current efforts, review existing indicators, and make policy recommendations.

The Social Wealth Indicators Workshop was held at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. on May 22 and 23, 2012. The symposium was broken into three parts. The first session included presentations and a discussion on indicators of care work and its role in building human capacity. The second section included presentations and a discussion of existing Health, Education (especially Early Childhood), Poverty, Employment, and Civil Society indicators with an eye toward gaps in coverage. The final section was devoted to recommendations for social wealth indicators.

Prior to the workshop, participants were provided a research paper to inform the discussion on Care Work, and a copy of The State of Society: Measuring Economic Success and Human Well-Being that describes gaps in current indicators. Participants will also be provided papers of session presentations.

Please click on the links below to learn more about Social Wealth Indicators:

The Urgent Need for Social Wealth Indicators

Social Wealth Indicators Guidelines

Caring Economy Campaign Advisory Council

Sample Metrics Fact Sheet

The State of Society: Measuring Economic Success and Human Well-Being