Since its launch in May, the OECD’s Better Life Index has been attracting a lot of media coverage and, even better, lots of interest from users: In just its first month, the Index generated over a million hits.
A quick reminder of what it’s all about: As its name suggests, the OECD Better Life Index looks at a range of factors – not just economic wealth – that make for a decent quality of life in OECD countries. As Dean Robinson at The New York Times points out, the Index is “part of broader and quite serious movement to get beyond gross domestic product as the sole determinant of how a country and its people are doing.”
But, rather than the OECD trying to tell you what matters most, the Index lets you, the user, set the priorities. Or, as the blog noted in May, it lets “you compare and contrast the various factors that determine people’s well-being – not just GDP, but a much wider range of things like education, income, housing, security and so on”.
The fact that this is a place where users set the priorities, not the OECD, has maybe got a little bit lost in some of the news coverage. That’s why you may have seen headlines like “OECD rates Australians as the happiest people in the world” or “Canadians can’t complain: Better Life Index”, or “USA comes up a bit short in global Better Life Index”.
Although it’s still fairly new, the Better Life Index is already giving some clues about the issues users think are most important to a good life. We know that because the Better Life Index has a unique, interactive feature: It lets you, as a user, create your own Index and share it with the world. When you do so, your Index joins a database, and the results can then be put through the number cruncher.
That’s just what they’ve been doing over at the OECD Factblog, where analysis of data so far shows users are currently ranking “Life Satisfaction” as the most important of the 11 topics on the Index. At the other end of the scale is “Governance”. It’s interesting to speculate on why that is: “Life satisfaction” echoes the name of the Index, so that may possibly be steering users to favour it. By contrast, “Governance” – although important as a policy issue – may be a more abstract term.