To quote the Economist: Man does not live by GDP alone.
And new research is turning up all around the world suggesting that statistically evaluating other factors leads to a better rounded measurement of a citizens life - other than the standard GDP per person.
"The Commission on the measurement of economic performance and social progress has been created at the beginning of 2008 on French government's initiative. Increasing concerns have been raised since a long time about the adequacy of current measures of economic performance, in particular those based on GDP figures. Moreover, there are broader concerns about the relevance of these figures as measures of societal well-being, as well as measures of economic, environmental, and social sustainability.
Reflecting these concerns, President Sarkozy has decided to create this Commission, to look at the entire range of issues. Its aim was to identify the limits of GDP as an indicator of economic performance and social progress, to consider additional information required for the production of a more relevant picture, to discuss how to present this information in the most appropriate way, and to check the feasibility of measurement tools proposed by the Commission. Commission's work is not focused on France, nor on developed countries. The output of the Commission has been made public, providing a template for every interested country or group of countries.
The Commission was chaired by Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz, Columbia University. Professor Amartya Sen, Harvard University, was Chair Adviser. Professor Jean-Paul Fitoussi, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, President of the Observatoire Français des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE), was Coordinator of the Commission. Members of the Commission are renowned experts from universities, governmental and intergovernmental organisations, in several countries (USA, France, United Kingdom, India). Rapporteurs and secretariat have been provided by the French national statistical institute (Insee), OFCE, and OECD. The Commission held its first plenary meeting on 22 - 23 April 2008 in Paris. Its final report has been made public on 14 September 2009."
Excerpt: GDP shortcomings, as an index for measuring socio-economic progress, feature again prominently in the public debate, following years of benign neglect. Such criticisms are almost as old as the concept itself and national accountants have repeatedly warned about limitations of GDP as a welfare indicator. At the end of the day, it is essentially a measure of economic activity, and more specifically of economic activities leading to monetary transactions. As a result, GDP suffers from two major weaknesses: (a) being a monetary aggregate, it pays little or no attention to distributional issues and to elements of human activity or well-being for which no direct or indirect market valuation is available; (b) it is measuring productive flows and, as such, ignores the impact of productive activities on stocks, including stocks of natural resources.
Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress