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Special Issue "Measuring Socio-Economic Well-Being"

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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2013)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Robert B. Richardson

Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies, Michigan State University, MI 48824-1222, USA
Fax: +1 517 353 8994
Interests: ecosystem services; sustainable development; environment and development; eeasuring socio-economic well-being; sustainability indicators

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The scholarship of sustainability, like sustainable development, is concerned with sustaining human well-being and quality of life, and as such, there is a growing interest in indicators of sustainability that incorporate measures of socio-economic welfare. Despite the fact that measures of economic production and national income such as gross domestic product (GDP) poorly depict socioeconomic well-being, they are still the most frequently tracked and commonly used indicators of welfare at nearly all spatial scales. GDP is a nearly universal indicator of socioeconomic wellbeing, despite its inclusion of welfare-reducing activities as positive and its failures to account for welfare-enhancing economic benefits of ecosystem services. It is essentially a gross measure of national income and spending—a tally of goods and services produced, regardless of their effect on well-being—and as such, it has been broadly criticized as a measure of welfare. Numerous quality of life indices and alternative economic indicators have been developed that consider the values of social capital, natural capital, and the distribution of income. A burgeoning literature on subjective well-being and happiness has emerged to broaden the discourse on measurement. In addition, adaptive learning and participatory processes have been used to develop sustainability indicators with local communities. This special issue will focus on the measurement of social and economic welfare at regional, national, and local scales, including reviews, theoretical frameworks, and empirical research.

Dr. Robert B. Richardson
Guest Editor

Submission

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed Open Access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs).

Keywords

  • socio-economic welfare
  • subjective well-being
  • quality of life
  • prosperity
  • Progress
  • sustainability indicators
  • sustainable development
  • community sustainability
  • regional development

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Jump to: Review

Open AccessArticle Social Capital and Walkability as Social Aspects of Sustainability
Sustainability 2013, 5(8), 3473-3483; doi:10.3390/su5083473
Received: 1 July 2013 / Revised: 18 July 2013 / Accepted: 7 August 2013 / Published: 13 August 2013
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (473 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The concepts of sustainability and sustainable development are frequently described as having three main components, sometimes referred to as the three pillars or the triple bottom line: environmental, economic, and social. Because of an historical focus in the sustainability field on correcting [...] Read more.
The concepts of sustainability and sustainable development are frequently described as having three main components, sometimes referred to as the three pillars or the triple bottom line: environmental, economic, and social. Because of an historical focus in the sustainability field on correcting environmental problems, much consideration has been given to environmental issues, especially how they interface with economic ones. Frequently mentioned but rarely examined, the social aspects of sustainability have been considered the weakest and least described pillar. After a brief review of existing concepts and theories, this paper uses a case study approach to examine the third pillar more comprehensively and offers social capital as one measure of social sustainability. Specifically, social capital was used to measure the social-environmental interface of communities. The positive correlation between aspects of the built environment, specifically walkability, and social capital suggests that measuring a social aspect of sustainability may be feasible, especially in the context of community development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Measuring Socio-Economic Well-Being)
Open AccessArticle Global Insights Based on the Multidimensional Energy Poverty Index (MEPI)
Sustainability 2013, 5(5), 2060-2076; doi:10.3390/su5052060
Received: 26 March 2013 / Revised: 22 April 2013 / Accepted: 26 April 2013 / Published: 7 May 2013
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (1014 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Energy access metrics are needed to track the progress towards providing sustainable energy for all. This paper presents advancements in the development of the Multidimensional Energy Poverty Index (MEPI), as well as results and analysis for a number of developing countries. The [...] Read more.
Energy access metrics are needed to track the progress towards providing sustainable energy for all. This paper presents advancements in the development of the Multidimensional Energy Poverty Index (MEPI), as well as results and analysis for a number of developing countries. The MEPI is a composite index designed to shed light on energy poverty by assessing the services that modern energy provides. The index captures both the incidence and intensity of energy poverty. It provides valuable insights–allowing the analysis of determinants of energy poverty–and, subsequently insights into policy efficacy. Building on previous work, this paper presents results obtained as a result of both increased data availability and enhanced methodology. Specifically, this analysis (i) includes an increased number of countries, and (ii) tracks the evolution of energy poverty over time of energy poverty in selected countries is reported. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Measuring Socio-Economic Well-Being)
Open AccessArticle Can We Model the Scenic Beauty of an Alpine Landscape?
Sustainability 2013, 5(3), 1080-1094; doi:10.3390/su5031080
Received: 20 December 2012 / Accepted: 22 February 2013 / Published: 7 March 2013
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (346 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
During the last decade, agriculture has lost its importance in many European mountain regions and tourism, which benefits from attractive landscapes, has become a major source of income. Changes in landscape patterns and elements might affect scenic beauty and therefore the socio-economic [...] Read more.
During the last decade, agriculture has lost its importance in many European mountain regions and tourism, which benefits from attractive landscapes, has become a major source of income. Changes in landscape patterns and elements might affect scenic beauty and therefore the socio-economic welfare of a region. Our study aimed at modeling scenic beauty by quantifying the influence of landscape elements and patterns in relationship to distance. Focusing on Alpine landscapes in South and North Tyrol, we used a photographic questionnaire showing different landscape compositions. As mountain landscapes offer long vistas, we related scenic beauty to different distance zones. Our results indicate that the near zone contributes by 64% to the valuation of scenic beauty, the middle zone by 22%, and the far zone by 14%. In contrast to artificial elements, naturalness and diversity increased scenic beauty. Significant differences between different social groups (origin, age, gender, cultural background) occurred only between the local population and tourists regarding great landscape changes. Changes towards more homogenous landscapes were perceived negatively, thus political decision makers should support the conservation of the cultural landscape. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Measuring Socio-Economic Well-Being)
Open AccessArticle Focal Areas for Measuring the Human Well-Being Impacts of a Conservation Initiative
Sustainability 2013, 5(3), 997-1010; doi:10.3390/su5030997
Received: 31 December 2012 / Revised: 8 February 2013 / Accepted: 16 February 2013 / Published: 6 March 2013
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (785 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Within conservation, the need to measure the impacts on people from conservation initiatives such as projects and programs is growing, but understanding and measuring the multidimensional impacts on human well-being from conservation initiatives is complex. To understand the constituent components of human [...] Read more.
Within conservation, the need to measure the impacts on people from conservation initiatives such as projects and programs is growing, but understanding and measuring the multidimensional impacts on human well-being from conservation initiatives is complex. To understand the constituent components of human well-being and identify which components of well-being are most common, we analyzed 31 known indices for measuring human well-being. We found 11 focal areas shared by two or more indices for measuring human well-being, and the focal areas of living standards, health, education, social cohesion, security, environment, and governance were in at least 14 of the 31 human well-being indices. We examined each of the common focal areas and assessed its relevance to measuring the human well-being impacts of a conservation initiative. We then looked for existing indices that include the relevant focal areas and recommend the use of Stiglitz et al. (2009)—a framework designed to measure economic performance and social progress—as a starting place for understanding and selecting human well-being focal areas suitable for measuring the impacts on people from a conservation initiative. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Measuring Socio-Economic Well-Being)
Open AccessArticle The Regional Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare for Flanders, Belgium
Sustainability 2013, 5(2), 496-523; doi:10.3390/su5020496
Received: 28 December 2012 / Revised: 17 January 2013 / Accepted: 21 January 2013 / Published: 1 February 2013
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (1139 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In this paper, the regional Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) is compiled for Flanders for the period 1990–2009. The ISEW is a measure of economic welfare in that it measures the contribution of a country’s or region’s economy to the overall [...] Read more.
In this paper, the regional Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) is compiled for Flanders for the period 1990–2009. The ISEW is a measure of economic welfare in that it measures the contribution of a country’s or region’s economy to the overall level of well-being of its citizens. It does so by comparing the benefits and the costs of economic activities rather than simply looking at the market value of all final goods and services produced in an economy (Gross Domestic Product-GDP). The ISEW for Flanders shows that the per capita level of sustainable economic welfare in the region decreased between 1990 and 2009. The drop in the ISEW/capita is caused by a deterioration of the net international investment position of Belgium (which is divided over the different regions in the country on a per capita basis) and by an increase in the income inequalities in Flanders. To a lesser extent, the increase of the environmental costs (climate change and the use of non-renewable energy resources) also contributed to the decrease in the ISEW per capita. In the last four years of the study period, the level of sustainable economic welfare in the Flemish region started to rise again, even in 2008 and 2009 during the economic recession. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Measuring Socio-Economic Well-Being)
Open AccessArticle Understanding Progress: A Heterodox Approach
Sustainability 2013, 5(2), 417-431; doi:10.3390/su5020417
Received: 5 December 2012 / Revised: 15 January 2013 / Accepted: 21 January 2013 / Published: 30 January 2013
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (208 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper examines the possibility of understanding and measuring well-being as a result of “progress” on the basis of today’s dominant epistemological framework. Market criteria distort social values by allowing purchasing power to define priorities, likening luxury goods to basic needs; in [...] Read more.
This paper examines the possibility of understanding and measuring well-being as a result of “progress” on the basis of today’s dominant epistemological framework. Market criteria distort social values by allowing purchasing power to define priorities, likening luxury goods to basic needs; in the process they reinforce patterns of discrimination against disadvantaged social groups and women, introducing fatal distortions into the analysis. Similarly, because there are no appropriate mechanisms to price natural resources adequately, the market overlooks the consequences of the abuse of natural resources, degrading the quality of life, individually and collectively, or—in the framework of Latin American indigenous groups—foreclosing the possibility of “living well”. We critique the common vision of the official development discourse that places its faith on technological innovations to resolve these problems. The analysis points to the need for new models of social and environmental governance to promote progress, approaches like those suggested in the paper that are inconsistent with public policies currently in place. At present, the social groups forging institutions to assure their own well-being and ecological balance are involved in local processes, often in opposition to the proposals of the political leaders in their countries. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Measuring Socio-Economic Well-Being)

Review

Jump to: Research

Open AccessReview Rethinking What Counts. Perspectives on Wellbeing and Genuine Progress Indicator Metrics from a Canadian Viewpoint
Sustainability 2013, 5(1), 187-202; doi:10.3390/su5010187
Received: 25 September 2012 / Revised: 29 November 2012 / Accepted: 2 January 2013 / Published: 14 January 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (257 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
A prevailing undercurrent of doubt regarding the merits of economic growth has motivated efforts to rethink how we measure the success of economic policy and societal wellbeing. This article comments on efforts to better account for impacts of economic activity emphasizing genuine [...] Read more.
A prevailing undercurrent of doubt regarding the merits of economic growth has motivated efforts to rethink how we measure the success of economic policy and societal wellbeing. This article comments on efforts to better account for impacts of economic activity emphasizing genuine progress indicator (GPI) and wellbeing metrics from a Canadian viewpoint. The authors caution that GPI and related metrics are measures of human and social welfare and not adequate to account for the ecological costs associated with economic growth. In addition, the article discusses the suitability of wellbeing models and metrics for local scale applications, recognizing growing interest in these techniques at the urban and local level. The article concludes with a reflection on the uptake of GPI and wellbeing measures highlighting the Canadian experience. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Measuring Socio-Economic Well-Being)

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