Measuring human development in a high-income country: a conceptual framework for well-being indicators

Burchi, Francesco / Pasquale De Muro
External Publications (2016)

in: Forum for Social Economics 45 (2-3), 120-138


This paper is concerned with the construction of an appropriate conceptual framework for measuring human development with a focus on high-income countries. Too often, the measurement exercise is based on a purely empirical basis where indicators simply reflect data availability and “conventional wisdom”. This is likely to misguide policy makers.
We deal with two core points for construction of a conceptual framework: (a) specification of the theoretical approach; (b) identification of the relevant categories of indicators. The paper endorses the capability approach which is the theoretical underpinning of human development. In line with this perspective, it offers a view of the relationships between key concepts such as human development, well-being, capabilities, and functionings. Based on this framework, it then tries to identify which typology of indicators is more suitable for measuring people’s functionings. Building on a multidisciplinary literature, we classify indicators as input, output, outcome, and impact indicators, and conclude that outcome indicators are the best solution for measuring functionings. Finally, the paper provides examples of theoretically-robust indicators and argues for a focus on more advanced functionings in high-income countries.

About the author

Burchi, Francesco

Development Economy


Further experts

Brüntrup, Michael

Agricultural Economy 

Dick, Eva

Sociologist and Spatial Planner 

Malerba, Daniele


Negre, Mario