20.4 Incorporating human suffering in measures of human progress

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 9:45 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Ronald ANDERSON , University of Minnesota
While indicators of the reduction of pain and suffering obviously would contribute to improving measures of human progress, they have been neglected because of conceptual and measurement challenges. A project on measures of preventable suffering has developed measures of subjective and preventable suffering across nations using data on 123 countries from the Gallup World Poll of social well-being and the UNDP Human Development Report 2010 database. Using additional statistical data on calamities, both mental and physical, we examine the associations between indicators of preventable suffering and indicators of caring such as the amount of charitable giving as well, as well as measures of human progress and demographics. The Human Development Index in 2010 was adjusted for inequality; we add additional adjustments to encompass such considerations as human rights violations and rates of chronic pain. Major progress has been made in quantifying calamitous events and subjective suffering, showing their interaction with geography and social support systems. We found that the relationship between subjective suffering and charitable giving follows a decay function, such that those countries with greater suffering experience less charitable giving. Policies are needed that counteract this inequality process. By focusing on all those who suffer worldwide and improving measures of preventable suffering, measures of human progress can be made more compelling for policy makers and their publics.