When Nobel laureate Simon Kuznets declared in 1934 that “the welfare of a nation can hardly be estimated by the measure of national income”, he probably did not think that gross domestic product (GDP) was still a measure of well-being. will be used as a shorthand for. and prosperity in the third decade of the 21st century.
Kuznets developed GDP as a means of measuring the effects of the Great Depression. This enabled governments to track any increase or decrease in their country’s wealth, as represented by the value of the goods and services produced, and became increasingly important as governments calculated the costs of waging World War II. had guessed.
Today, the inadequacy of GDP as a measure of prosperity is evident. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for the decade to 2019 shows that the UK’s annual growth in GDP averaged less than 2%. By comparison, income inequality increased by 2.2% over that ten-year period and worsened on the ONS’s annual average ratings of life satisfaction, happiness and anxiety in the year ended March 2020. The trend of rising income inequality despite GDP growth suggests that not everyone is taking advantage of this growth, or leading a prosperous life, indicating that GDP is a poor proxy for citizens’ well-being.
With “levelisation” and regional prosperity now central to UK government thinking, the Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) working with a team of civic social-scientists and community organizations in east London to create an entirely new definition of prosperity Has been doing. Instead of the old measures of growth, productivity, and income, our research identified 15 headline indicators – a “prosperity index” – of what constitutes a real experience of well-being and security and a good quality of life for people in these places. It reflects. .
In the areas around the Royal Docks and Olympic Park, we found that secure livelihoods, access to key public services, good quality and truly affordable homes, and a sense of involvement in the economic and social life of the city are the foundations of one’s life. prosperous life. You don’t get any of this from the goals of job creation and road building, which the government believes will improve quality of life.
To take this research further, we have launched a new ten-year study to look at how households in 12 industrial East London neighborhoods report on their prosperity over the coming decade.
The study mainly focused on neighborhoods that have been directly affected by Olympic heritage regeneration. The initiative aims to bridge the gap between prosperity and possibilities between the poorest parts of East London and the wealthiest areas of the city. However, our decade-long study will be the first time that people – rather than abstract metrics – have been used to evaluate the impact of regeneration.
Self-reporting will enable us to accurately assess the long-term effects of social, economic and material change on individual and community prosperity, the first findings of which will be published ahead of the 10th anniversary of the London Olympics in 2022.
We believe this study will challenge the established view that individual prosperity increases in line with job creation and economic growth, and is the first in the UK to track households using the IGP’s Local Prosperity Index. Over ten years this study will present local evidence about prosperity as perceived and experienced by people, rather than centrally determined data about the number of homes built or jobs created.
measuring the impact of regeneration
Although strategic urban regeneration programs are designed with increasingly complex social and economic objectives in mind – such as tackling unemployment and increasing economic inclusion – research evaluating the consequences and impacts of regeneration is lacking.
This is partly due to the way the government measures prosperity. As large infrastructure projects such as HS2, Olympic Park and Birmingham’s Big City plan increase GDP, the UK government can claim economic progress and wealth creation.
Our ten-year study takes a different approach by involving local people to measure prosperity based on the priorities of local communities and answering three questions:
1. How are the “prosperity benefits” from regeneration distributed within and between neighborhoods?
2. How is prosperity experienced by people from different backgrounds living in different neighborhoods?
3. What are the local, short, medium and long term issues that enable people to prosper?
New ways to level up
Preliminary evidence suggests that the UK government’s approach to raising the level will once again rely on the same tired approaches – such as the goals of home building and job creation that have in the past been aimed at solving regional and local inequalities and social and economic exclusion. failed to remove.
New leveling up requires an exchange of knowledge. Allowing citizens, local government, businesses and community organizations to collaborate, make decisions, test radically new approaches, and rapidly assess change. Shared knowledge creates an opportunity to identify innovative policy options and new pathways to prosperity that are more targeted and more effective at improving quality of life.
Involving local people in the process will enable them to understand, conceptualize and measure prosperity, inform local decision-making, and equip communities with the tools, evidence, and trust needed to monitor progress and keep decision-makers at bay. A new method is born.
I hope for the best from the impending leveling white paper. But old habits die hard, and the graveyard of prosperity initiatives is already flowing.