Launch of How was Life? Global Well-Being Since 1820

The How was Life? Global Well-Being Since 1820 report was published in October 2014. To celebrate the publication of this important report and to present it to the world, two launches were organised: one by the OECD in Paris, and one by Clio Infra in Utrecht. An impression of these two events can be found below.
About the report
The How was Life? Global Well-Being Since 1820 report is the product of cooperation between two projects:
• the OECD Better Life initiative: In the Better Life initiative, the OECD focuses on people's well-being and societal progress, by not only looking at the functioning of the economic system but also at the diverse experiences and living conditions of people and households.
• The Clio Infra project: Clio Infra is a global network of economic historians who, inspired by Angus Maddison (an economic historian who collected and published data on historical global GDP), collect data on the different facets of the evolution of the world economy from 1500 to 2010.
The OECD and Clio Infra worked together to present state of the art estimates on the development of various indicators of well-being from 1820 onwards. The volume represents an important contribution to the discussion about broadening the concept of welfare used to understand socio-economic development (generally GDP per capita) and thereby illustrates the importance of measuring well-being ‘beyond GDP’.
More information and the PDF version of How was Life? Global Well-Being Since 1820 can be found on the following page:
The data underlying the report can be found on the following page:
Presentation in Paris
On the 2nd of October, 2014, the OECD organised the first launch of the “How was Life? Global Well-Being Since 1820” report in Paris. In a large auditorium, filled with experts from the OECD and journalist from many different countries, Martine Durand (Chief Statistician) and Mario Pezzini (Director of the Development Centre) started by introducing the project. Next, Jan Luiten van Zanden (Professor of Social and Economic history at Utrecht University and leader of the Clio Infra project) presented the main findings of the report which was followed by a comment and food for thought by Guido Alfani (Bocconi University) discussed the report. Lastly, Conal Smith (OECD Statistics Directorate) demonstrated a data visualisation tool.
The Q&A session afterwards highlighted the diversity of journalists in the room and the wide international interest in the report. As can be imagined, some of the journalists were particularly interested in the performance of their own country, also in comparison to other countries and regions. These types of questions are not easily addressed without consulting the data direct and therefore highlighted the importance and potential of the publication of not only the report, but also of the underlying datasets. Because all data on the various indicators of well-being available on the Clio Infra website, it is possible for any interested party to answer their specific questions regarding a specific indicator, region or time, and make comparisons across time and space.
Presentation in Utrecht
On October 23rd, 2014, a launch was organised in Utrecht by the Clio Infra project. During the launch, Jan Luiten van Zanden presented a general overview of the report, stressing the interesting results that came from it. A further two chapters were also presented: the 12th chapter ‘Gender inequality since 1820’ presented by Sarah Carmichael and Selin Dilli, and Chapter 13, ‘A composite view of well-being since 1820’ by Auke Rijpma. The composite measure of well-being brings together the various indicators used throughout the volume to explore how they behave in conjunction. Auke highlighted that focusing on single measures of well-being misses overall progress made across multiple dimensions. Ingrid Robeyns, Professor of Ethics of Institutions, reflected on the importance of the results of the report and highlighted areas where future work might be valuable. Finally, the first copy of the report was officially presented to Keimpe Algra, Professor of the History of Philosophy and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Humanities of Utrecht University by prof. Van Zanden (see photo).
Media coverage
The report has received wide-spread media coverage. More than 50 articles and blogs from all regions of the world have been published about the report, of which you can find a small selection below:
- (Norwegian)
- (Canadian)
- (Greek)
- (Dutch)