Years of Good Life (YoGL): A new indicator for assessing sustainable progress

Lutz, W. ORCID:, Lijadi, A.A., Strießnig, E. ORCID:, Dimitrova, A., & Caldeira Brant de Souza Lima, M. (2018). Years of Good Life (YoGL): A new indicator for assessing sustainable progress. IIASA Working Paper. Laxenburg, Austria: WP-18-007

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Project: The Demography of Sustainable Human Wellbeing (EmpoweredLifeYears, H2020 741105)


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) consist of 17 goals with 169 targets and 230 indicators. They provide a wide-ranging set of partly overlapping and partly contradictory social, economic and environmental goals which are important in their own rights but are almost impossible to measure in their entirety to assess whether overall there has been progress or not. This paper proposes the opposite approach; it defines one quantitative indicator for overall quality of life which can be applied to any sub-population of humans and over a long-term horizon, allowing for the inclusion of feedback from environmental change, and measuring whether there has been any genuine progress or not. We define this indicator as Years of Good Life (YoGL) which is based on the fact that in order to be able to enjoy any quality of life, first and foremost one has to be alive. While life expectancy is at the basis of this indicator, it also reflects that mere survival is not enough, life years need to be weighted by subjective and objective factors in order for them to measure years of good life. The objective variables considered are being in acceptable health (as measured by activity limitations), being out of poverty (as measured by a basic-needs approach) and being cognitively fit (as measured by tested literacy). These also refer to the dimensions of capable longevity as suggested by Sen. Only life years that both satisfy the minimum levels of these objective criteria, and at the same are time are associated with positive life satisfaction, as a subjective indicator, are counted as ʹgood years’ in the YoGL indicator. Technically, this is done on the basis of demographic life table methods where the person-years lived at each age are multiplied (following the Sullivan method) with the proportions of people at each age that are above the critical quality of life thresholds.
This paper discusses the requirements needed for a new indicator, such as YoGL, to be used as a sustainability criterion and as the dependent variable of a well-being production function. These requirements include (1) the need to be based on observable individual characteristics that can be flexibly aggregated to (sub-) populations, and (2) have substantive meaning in its absolute level that can be compared across populations and over long timespans. The paper also compares this new indicator to other existing indicators in terms of theoretical framework, criteria and calculation methods, and discusses the advantages of YoGL with regards to meeting the specified criteria. It also includes examples for how YoGL can be calculated and estimated empirically based on survey data.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: World Population (POP)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 03 Aug 2018 07:32
Last Modified: 05 Aug 2023 05:01

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