What’s the Better Life Index?
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The Better Life Index is designed to let you visualise and compare some of the key factors – like education, housing, environment, and so on – that contribute to well-being in OECD countries. It’s an interactive tool that allows you to see how countries perform according to the importance you give to each of 11 topics that make for a better life.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What’s the point of the Better Life Index?
- Why choose 11 topics of well-being?
- What countries does the Index cover?
- Which country is #1?
- How do men and women compare?
- Why do I compare my Index?
- What else can I learn from this website?
- What are the indicators behind Your Better Life Index?
- What is the difference between the Better Life Index and the OECD’s How’s Life reports?
- How can I do my own well-being calculations?
- Why is Your Better Life Index relevant?
- Where do the data come from?
- Does the Index provide details at the regional level?
- How are social inequalities integrated in the Index?
- What if my Better Life Index doesn't contain topics which matter to me?
- What's the point of the survey?
- Does the Index allow comparisons over time?
- How are the weights assigned?
- How are the indicators normalised?
- How are the indicators aggregated?
- How are inequalities calculated?
- What is an imputed value?
What’s the point of the Better Life Index?
There’s been a lot of debate lately on measuring the well-being of societies – is wealth all that matters, or should we be looking at other things, like the balance between work and the rest of our lives? The Index aims to involve citizens in this debate, and to empower them to become more informed and engaged in the policy-making process that shapes all our lives.
Why choose 11 topics of well-being?
Since it was founded in 1961, the OECD has helped governments design better policies for better lives for their citizens. More recently, the OECD has been keenly involved in the debate on measuring well-being. Based on this experience, these 11 topics reflect what the OECD has identified as essential to well-being in terms of material living conditions (housing, income, jobs) and quality of life (community, education, environment, governance, health, life satisfaction, safety and work-life balance).
Each topic is built on one to four specific indicators: For example, the Jobs topic is based on four separate measures: the employment rate, personal earnings, the long-term unemployment rate and job security. For each indicator you can also compare results for men and women, and see how much your social and economic status affects results.
In the future, these indicators reflecting current material living conditions and quality of life will be complemented by indicators describing sustainability of well-being over time.
What countries does the Index cover?
The 38 countries are the members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, which brings together most of the world’s developed economies and a number of emerging economies, plus Brazil, Russia and South Africa.
Which country is #1?
That’s up to you! The OECD has not assigned rankings to countries. Instead, Your Better Life Index is designed to let you, the user, investigate how each of the 11 topics can contribute to well-being. If you think Housing is more important than Environment, for example, just change the ratings in Your Better Life Index toolbar and instantly see how countries compare. When you’ve created your own Index, click “Compare” to see how your Index compares with other people in your country or around the world, and “Share this Index” to show it to your friends and further the debate on what makes for a better life.
How do men and women compare?
Taking all 11 topics of the BLI into account, the differences between women and men’s well-being are small. However, there are topics where men do much better than women, such as for instance jobs and earnings. Conversely, women fare better than men in health, education, community and life satisfaction.
- Can one compare men and women BLI with country average BLI? Although men and women BLI are calculated with the same indicators included in the country average BLI, the BLI scores cannot be directly compared as the normalisation is done with respect to different values.
- How should I read the flower between the men and women BLI scores?The flower shown between men and women BLI scores is simply calculated as the arithmetic average of men and women scores. It does not corresponds to the country average Better Life Index. This flower is displayed to remind the users the weights that they have assigned to the various topics and how this affects men and women BLI scores.
Why do I compare my Index?
Every time you create an Index, it will enter a publicly accessible database, enabling you to compare your Better Life Index with the Indexes of other people around the world and see who else shares your view of the most important issues. To make this possible, we will ask you to tell us what country you are in, your gender and your age group, then all you have to do is submit your index and compare. And of course you can share your Index with your friends or embed it in your own website and encourage others to compare their Index with yours. Over time, this will also help the OECD to build up a picture of what you, citizens from across the world, believe shapes a good life.
What else can I learn from this website?
Lots! There are three main areas of information:
- Index: The main page of Your Better Life Index presents a comparison of countries’ overall outcomes across 11 topics of well-being, as well as outcomes by gender. It allows you to create your own Index, compare it with that of others, and share it.
- Topics: Click on “Topics” in the navigation menu for an overall explanation of each topic followed by notes on the situation in each country and examples of good practice.
- Countries: Click on a country’s “flower” (or on “Countries” in the navigation menu) for an overall description of the country, and notes and explanations for how that country performs in each of the 11 topics.
What are the indicators behind Your Better Life Index?
Each of the 11 topics of the Index is currently based on one to four indicators. Within each topic, the indicators are averaged with equal weights.
(Note that these data should not be used for analysis – please refer to the question on “How can I do my own well-being calculations?”)
The indicators have been chosen on the basis of a number of statistical criteria such as relevance (face-validity, depth, policy relevance) and data quality (predictive validity, coverage, timeliness, cross-country comparability etc.) and in consultation with OECD member countries. These indicators are good measures of the concepts of well-being, in particular in the context of a country comparative exercise. Other indicators will gradually be added to each topic.
However, some countries and cultures may include in the definition and measurement of well-being additional aspects which are relevant to their context and history (e.g. spirituality). Thus, while the OECD framework covers dimensions of well-being that are relevant for all human beings, it may be usefully complemented by national similar initiatives which can add context-specific information on what constitutes a good life.
What is the difference between the Better Life Index and the OECD’s How’s Life reports
The Better Life Index (BLI) is one of several projects in the OECD’s Better Life Initiative that seeks to help governments put well-being at the centre of policy-making. Whereas the BLI is an interactive communication tool to reach out to citizens, the OECD also regularly publishes a comprehensive well-being report called How’s Life?.
Both How’s Life? and the BLI draw on the OECD Well-being Framework, but there are some differences: most importantly, How’s Life? includes separate measures of well-being inequalities, and of the sustainability of well-being over time (across environmental, economic, human and social resources or “capitals”). The BLI contains a smaller set indicators than How’s Life. In 2020, the OECD Well-being Framework was updated following a consultation with member countries and in line with best international practice on measuring well-being. This process involved reshaping of some dimensions (e.g. “Jobs” is now “Work and Job Quality” to reflect the importance of a good working environment) and the inclusion of new themes and indicators (e.g. mental health, unpaid work). We are working on reflecting some of these changes in the BLI in the future.
How can I do my own well-being calculations?
The OECD How’s Life? Well-being database includes all indicators included in the OECD Well-being Framework from 2005 until the latest available year, and covers all OECD and selected partner countries (Brazil, Costa Rica, the Russian Federation and South Africa
Why is Your Better Life Index relevant?
Well-being is a multidimensional concept that deserves a multi-dimensional measure. However, extracting a single story from a very complex picture can be challenging. The advantage of composite indices is that they can provide an easy-to-read overview of well-being patterns.
The 11 topics of well-being used in the Index have been chosen in accordance with theory, practice and consultation on the issue of how to best measure well-being from a comparative perspective. Read about this in greater detail in our companion publication, How's Life? – Measuring Well-Being. From a statistical point of view, the Index relies on best practices for building composite indicators. The Index is robust to various methodological assumptions.
Where do the data come from?
The data mostly come from official sources such as the OECD or National Accounts, United Nations Statistics, National Statistics Offices. A couple of indicators are based on data from the Gallup World Poll a division of the Gallup Organization that regularly conducts public opinion polls in more than 140 countries around the world. More than 80% of the indicators in Your Better Life Index have been already published by the OECD.
Read about this in greater detail in our companion publication, How's Life? – Measuring Well-Being.
Does the Index provide details at the regional level?
At the moment, most of the indicators entering the Better Life Index are not available at a more disaggregated level; in other words, they don’t allow comparisons of disparities within a country or between various social groups (e.g. men vs. women, youth vs. elderly, etc.) Depending on data availability, future editions of the Index may have this feature.
How are social inequalities integrated to the Index?
Information on social inequalities is shown for selected indicators of the BLI in the topics and countries pages. This information is shown by comparing the achievements of people with high socio-economic status with the achievements of people with low socio-economic status, through the social inequalities ratio. Socio-economic status refers to either income or educational level, depending on data availability on the type of socio-economic breakdown for the various BLI indicators. In the case of income, high socio-economic status is defined as the group of the population belonging to the top income quintile while low socio-economic status is defined as the group of the population belonging to the bottom income quintile. In the case of education, high socio-economic status is defined as the group of the population with a tertiary education degree while low socio-economic status is defined as the group of the population with a primary education degree.
For more details on the type of socio-economic breakdown available by indicator, please refer to the following table: Social inequalities in the BLI .
What if my Better Life Index doesn't contain topics which matter to me?
The topics of the Index have been chosen to correspond to the essential components of well-being in many countries and culture around the world. It is however possible that there are additional things which matter to your life and do not feature in the Index (e.g. religion, having children, etc). We encourage you to use the comment box that appears before you submit your Index to let us to let us know of any additional topics that you would like to see included in future editions of Your Better Life Index. If data allow it, we will take into account this information. You can also send a message via our contact page.
What's the point of the survey?
The survey has two essential functions. The first is to create a more comprehensive dataset on BLI users and preferences that can be shared publicly. The second is to better understand what drives BLI users’ responses, in other words whether views on what matters most in life depend on living circumstances and satisfaction with the 11 topics of well-being. For instance the survey will allow us understanding whether the high importance attributed to the health care system is related or not to the objective quality of health care system in any particular country. Thanks to the answers given to this survey, the OECD will be in a better position to advise policy makers on the priorities they should concentrate on to deliver better lives for their citizens.
Does the Index allow comparisons over time?
At the moment the Index cannot be compared over time, as its methodology is still being fine-tuned. In addition, many of the BLI indicators do not move quickly over time and thus before assessing genuine progress/regression over time it will be necessary to wait a few more years.
How are the weights assigned?
The web application that builds the Index requires some default weights at the start. For simplicity, these weights have been set equal to the grade of 1 for all topics. These default weights do not represent the OECD’s view on the relative importance of each topic.
Weights are assigned by the users, who build and customise their own Index. To do so, users have to rate each topic from 0 (“not important”) to 5 (“very important”). The score given to each topic is converted into a weight, by dividing the grade given to each topic by the sum of the grades given to all topics. For example, if a user assigns of a score of 5 to Health and Education and 3 to all the other topics, their Index will weigh health and education by a factor of 5/37 (i.e. around 13.5%) and all the other topics by a factor of 3/37 (i.e. around 8.1%). The sum of all weights is 100%.
How are the indicators normalised?
The Index gathers many indicators, expressed on very different units (dollars, years, etc). To compare and aggregate values expressed in different unities, the values have to be normalised.
This normalisation is done according to a standard formula which converts the original values of the indicators into numbers varying in a range between 0 (for the worst possible outcome) and 1 (for the best possible outcome). The formula is:
maximum value – minimum value
When an indicator measures a negative component of well-being (e.g. unemployment) the formula used is:
maximum value – minimum value
How are the indicators aggregated?
Each topic of well-being is measured by one to four indicators. After normalisation, indicators are averaged with equal weights. For instance education is measured through educational attainment, students’ skills and years in education. The education score will thus be given by:
How are inequalities calculated?
- How is the Better Life Index for men and women calculated?
The BLI for men and women is calculated with the same methodology than the baseline BLI, that refers to country average values. The BLI for men and women include the same 24 indicators than the country average BLI. The large majority of these indicators is gender-specific, i.e. available for women and men separately and thus these gender-specific indicators enter the calculations of women/men BLI scores. In a small minority of cases (e.g. in the housing dimension), the indicators cannot be broken down by gender and thus the average country value are included in the calculations of women and men BLI.
The gender inequalities ratios show the gender gaps in well-being achievements for all the 11 topics of the BLI. For each indicator whose gender breakdown is available, the ratios are calculated by dividing the highest achievement between men and women by the lowest achievement between men and women:Min (men value, women value)
A ratio of 1 indicates gender parity while a ratio greater than 1 indicates gender disparity.
- What are the social inequalities ratios and how are they calculated?The social inequalities ratios show the socio-economic gaps in well-being achievements for all the 11 topics of the BLI. For each indicator where the socio-economic breakdown is available, the ratios are calculated by dividing the highest achievement between high and low socio-economic status by the lowest achievement between high and low socio-economic status :
Min (value of the group with high socio-economic status, value of the group with low socio-economic status)
What is an imputed value?
For a very small number of observations (less than 5% of the data), the values used to compute Your Better Life Index rely on imputed values. Imputed values refer to estimates of missing data points that are carried out through specific statistical techniques. Although these imputations do not significantly affect the results of the Index, estimated values have to be taken with caution.
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Better Life Index
- nzlNew Zealand
- rusRussian Federation
- svkSlovak Republic
- czeCzech Republic
- gbrUnited Kingdom
- usaUnited States
- zafSouth Africa
- criCosta Rica