Measuring Wellbeing Inequalities And Progress In Reducing Them

The publication of the World Happiness Report The launch of Life is cut shortHealth Equals launched a public awareness campaign called ‘Health Equals: Inequalities in the Public Eye’ to bring them into the forefront of national conversations and international discussions.

We can examine differences in well-being between and within different social groups using measures of inequality. There are well-established methods of measuring and evaluating income and health inequalities.

Our latest methods series discussion paper is published today. We discuss whether there can be a similar consensus on subjective wellbeing. We explore the opportunities and challenges involved in this endeavor. Four possible methods of measuring are presented.

The 11th World Happiness Report outlines the goals. Trends in wellbeing inequality by country, region, or the whole world. It also examines benevolence, which is helping one another and peer support – and new data about social connections and loneliness.

“This is where it’s important to go back to the definition of success, and insist that our true goal must be improving wellbeing And “Reducing inequality in wellbeing.” Lord Gus O’Donnell, Former Cabinet Secretary

This year’s report measures inequality in wellbeing by looking at trends in wellbeing distribution. Trends in wellbeing are calculated separately for each country’s happier and less happy halves, giving rise to a ‘happiness gap.

They found:

  • This “happiness gap” is smaller in countries where the majority of people are unhappy than in countries where nearly everyone is happy. People are generally happier in countries with a smaller happiness gap.
  • Global happiness gaps have been relatively stable over time. However, there are growing gaps within many African countries.
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We will examine ways to measure inequality in wellbeing.

What is wellbeing inequality and how can it be measured?

The degree to which people have different experiences of life is called wellbeing inequality.

These differences can be used to help policymakers target the most vulnerable people, closing the gap between those who thrive and those who struggle by decreasing inequalities while increasing wellbeing.

This is the goal of the Levelling Up program by the UK government.

There are many differences between people, These are not unavoidable.This suggests that policies could be designed to reduce or eliminate inequalities.

What are the current problems?

We know there are areas in the country that have more potential than what is being realized, even if they are not part of London’s financial sector. All aspects of poverty, unemployment and median income are important. Higher wellbeing inequality at local authority levels is associated with lower quality of life. Despite the fact that rural areas tend to have higher levels of wellbeing, it doesn’t mean there is less inequality in wellbeing.

While headline GDP can be a useful indicator for overall national progress, it doesn’t capture the reality of UK wellbeing inequality. Averages are not the same as headline GDP. This is why wellbeing research, policy and advocacy are so important. You cannot rely on only evidence that has been evaluated at the mean.

We need methods to measure and track inequalities accurately and consistently, assess progress and evaluate success to achieve our public policy goals. Beyond the headline national GDP.

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A wellbeing lens, which includes local-area insights, provides more information than a sole focus on income and health inequality. It is also important to consider wellbeing when evaluating policy and making decisions in order to make positive changes.

Although there have been some improvements since our publication, 2017 report on measuring Britain’s wellbeing inequalityThere are still questions about how to best measure and communicate these insights.

Discussion paper: Thoughts about wellbeing inequalities

Our newly published paper aims to stimulate discussion about how we might measure inequalities of wellbeing in a way that reflects people’s lived experiences and allows for useful comparisons across people and time.

The authors talk about a variety of issues in trying to create a metric or metrics of inequality in wellbeing.

  • Subjectivity
  • Scale
  • There are differences in severity
  • Censoring
  • Discreteness

These problems aren’t as serious as they may initially appear. The authors also highlight the limitations of income metrics such as:

  • Minimizing marginal returns: The more you have of something, the less useful each unit is in terms its utility.
  • It is easy to make things look the same, but they aren’t.
  • Not taking advantage of structural and social factors

After establishing this context, the authors present four possible methods to measure inequalities of subjective wellbeing.

  1. Standard deviation
  2. Ratio of High/ Low
  3. Gini Coefficient
  4. Shannon Index

This discussion paper makes use of publicly available data from the United Kingdom in order to compare the scores and rankings of the four models (refer to tables 1 & 2)

Table 1: UK Regional Inequality Scores

Table 2: UK Area Rankings for Each Metric

The table below shows the UK area rankings according to each metric. These are calculated using Standard Deviation (SD), Low/High Ratios (R); Gini(G); Shannon Index[S]. These data are as follows: UK: SD = 7, R = 8, G = 7, S = 7. England: SD = 10, R = 10, G = 9, S = 9. North East: SD = 1, R = 2, G = 1, S = 1. North West: SD = 3, R = 5, G = 3 and S = 3. Yorkshire and Humber: SD = 9, R = 9, G = 8, S = 10. East Midlands: SD = 4, R = 12, G = 5, S = 4. West Midlands: SD = 6, R = 4, G = 6 and S = 6. East of England: SD = 13, R = 11, G = 13, S = 13. London: SD = 12, R = 6, G = 11, S = 11. South East: SD = 14, R = 13, G = 14, S = 14. South West: SD = 11, R = 7, G = 12, S = 12. Wales: SD = 2; R = 3; G = 2; S = 2. Scotland: SD = 5, R = 1, G = 4, S = 5. Northern Ireland: SD = 8, R = 14, G = 0.10, S = 8.

Rankings for each metric in the UK. Source: Discussion paper on Thinking about Wellbeing Inequality

The Shannon Index, Gini Coefficient and Standard Deviation all produce similar rankings of regions. Although the ratio approach is less reliable than the others, it produces results that are quite closely correlated with all three scores.

The discussion paper is available in its entirety.

What’s next?

Comments that are made in this paper are welcome. Get in touch at Send us your thoughts.

In the months ahead, we will continue to develop measures of well-being inequalities. This includes updated analysis of Britain’s wellbeing inequality.

Note: This blog was updated following clarifications of regional codes in the data set (29 March, 2023)

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