UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


BGLP0002 - Researching and Measuring Global Prosperity

Availability & prerequisites

This module is only for students of MSc Global Prosperity and MSc Prosperity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Module Content:

Any notion of sustainable global prosperity is unavoidably bound up with the question of how prosperity should be systematically researched and measured. Many have argued that behind the spectacular failures of dominant economic forms lies a spectacular failure to 'measure what matters'. This module therefore explores diverse methods for effective prosperity research and measurement.

The module is practical in nature and focuses on the different sources and types of data (both quantitative and qualitative and at multiple scales from the individual to national) that may be brought to bear in prosperity research and how such data may be collected and analysed. The module is focused on the development and application of a range of core quantitative and qualitative research skills as well as an examination of how other organizations/bodies have approached the issue of researching prosperity. We also critically consider some of the conceptual models that underpin current prosperity measurement frameworks including subjective wellbeing, happiness, capability and quality of life. The module moves from consideration of more fine-grained qualitative understandings of prosperity in diverse contexts and towards broader measures of prosperity derived from larger-scale quantitative data sets. We cover diverse research methods including ethnographic and interview techniques, survey methods, online archival and big data, and citizen science and transdisciplinary techniques. You will become familiar with a range of metrics currently used to measure prosperity such as the GINI Index, Human Development Index, OECD Better Life Index, Legatum Prosperity Index Social Progress Index and Happy Planet Index. Working in groups, you will also deploy the methods learnt to develop and share your own ‘micro-prosperity’ index.

The module is taught through introductory online content and classes linked to a range of group practical or Active Learning tasks. Additional personal Skills and Resilience sessions are also offered in order to allow you to develop a range of professional and academic skills related to becoming a leader in the field of prosperity research.


Illustrative module outline

  1. Approaches to Researching and Measuring Prosperity
  2. Qualitative Prosperity Research: Ethnography and Interviews
  3. Intermediate Prosperity Research: Surveys and Subjective Measures
  4. Quantitative Prosperity Research: Archives, Big data and their analysis
  5. Transdisciplinary Research: Crowd Sourcing and Citizen Science
  6. The Legatum Prosperity Index
  7. The Social Progress Index
  8. The Institute for Global Prosperity approach to Prosperity in London (with possible field-trip to East London)
  9. Researching Prosperity in Context: Environment and Impact
  10. Student-led presentation of group ‘Micro-Prosperity Indexes’

Indicative Reading

Angner, E., 2010. Subjective well-being. The Journal of Socio-Economics39:361-368.

Bate, R., 2009. What Is Prosperity and How Do We Measure It? American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research 3:1-7.

Bonney, R., Shirk, J. L., Phillips, T. B., Wiggins, A., Ballard, H. L., Miller-Rushing, A. J., and Parrish, J. K. 2014. Next steps for citizen science. Science 343: 1436-1437.

Davis, K., B. Kinsbury, and S. Engle Merry. 2012. Governance by Indicators: Global Power through Classification and Rankings. Oxford University Press. [See especially the introduction, also try chapter 2] Online via UCL libraries.

Fox, J., 2012. The economics of well-being. Harvard Business Review90: 78-83.

Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. 2017. World Happiness Report 2017. New York, Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Hicks, S., Tinkler, L. and Allin, P., 2013. Measuring subjective well-being and its potential role in policy: perspectives from the UK office for national statistics. Social Indicators Research114: 73-86

Lang, D.J., Wiek, A., Bergmann, M., Stauffacher, M., Martens, P., Moll, P., Swilling, M. and Thomas, C.J., 2012. Transdisciplinary research in sustainability science: practice, principles, and challenges. Sustainability science7:25-43.

Leslie, P., and J. T. McCabe. 2013. Response, Diversity and Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems. Current Anthropology 54: 114–143.

Mintchev, N. and Moore, H.L., 2016. Community and prosperity beyond social capital: The case of Newham, East London. Critical Social Policy, p.0261018316683461.

Moore, H.L. 2015. Global Prosperity and Sustainable Development Goals: Global Prosperity and SDGs. Journal of International Development 27: 801–15. doi:10.1002/jid.3114.

Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., Persson, Å., Chapin III, F.S., Lambin, E., Lenton, T., Scheffer, M., Folke, C., Schellnhuber, H.J. and Nykvist, B., 2009. Planetary boundaries: exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and society14(2).

Scott, K. and Bell, D. 2013. Trying to Measure Local Well-Being: Indicator Development as a Site of Discursive Struggles. Environment and Planning: Government and Policy 31:522–39.

Sen, A. 1993. Capability and Wellbeing. Pp. 31-49, in Nussbaum, M. and Sen, A. (eds). The Quality of Life. Oxford, Clarendon Press.

Stiglitz, J. E., Sen, A., and Fitoussi, J. P. 2010. Mismeasuring our lives: Why GDP doesn't add up. The New Press.

UK Office for National Statistics, Measuring national well-being: Life in the UK, Apr 2017. Online: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/measuringnationalwellbeing/apr2017

Legatum Prosperity Index: http://www.prosperity.com/

Social Progress Index: https://www.socialprogressindex.com/

Watch: Green, M How we can make the world a better place by 2030 (Social Progress Index). TED Talk, September 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o08ykAqLOxk