Research Seminar

Robert Erikson: Happiness or Resources?

Date: 18 February 2015
Time: 10:00–12:00

Robert Erikson, professor at the Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI), Stockholm University.

"Happiness or resources? On quality of life measures for official use"

The seminar is based on preliminary considerations by a Governmental Committee appointed with the task to suggest indicators of the quality of life to supplement GDP/capita in monitoring societal development.

Quality of Life can be interpreted as Affluence; Happiness; Meaningfulness; Freedom of action.

None of these interpretations can be regarded essentially right or wrong, the choice of a measure must be depend on the intended purpose and use of it. Criteria for the choice of a Quality of life concept to be used for an official measure to judge societal development include that the measure should be expected to change when social conditions change; that it should be difficult to manipulate; that it should be easy to make sense of; and that it should be measured at the individual level.

On the basis of considerations of these criteria for an official concept of Quality of Life, Freedom of action is regarded as the most appropriate interpretation. The individual’s Quality of Life is then supposed to depend on her command of resources to control and consciously direct her living conditions. However, in some areas outcomes rather than resources have to be measured. Resources and outcomes are categorised in ten domains or social concerns:

Knowledge and skills (Education)
Employment and work conditions         
Economic resources
Political resources 
Social relations
Security to life and property
Time squeeze

By collecting data on individual level it will be possible not only to report on the average Quality of Life in the nation, but also on variation (inequality) and on how conditions in one respect co-varies with conditions in other domains.   

Data are suggested to be collected and published by Statistics Sweden. To assess the effects of policies on the Quality of Life of the nation would demand a major research operation. There is accordingly no expectation or ambition that the publications should attempt to go beyond giving a pure description of ‘how it is’.

Read more about Robert Erikson at

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