Aerial shot of an urban park

Measuring social cohesion and wellbeing

The persistence of national, ethnic and religious conflicts around the world, combined with rising dissatisfaction among large population groups that feel left behind in both the developed and developing countries and environmental degradation pose major challenges in the 21st century. While GDP per capita – our conventional measure of economic prosperity – has grown reasonably steadily over the past four decades, this growth does not appear to have been matched by a steadily rising sense of social prosperity, in terms of rising well-being within thriving societies. Nor has this economic growth been environmentally sustainable, with further adverse repercussions for social prosperity.  Although economic inequality measured at the global scale is showing moderate signs of reduction – albeit being high by any standard – within-country income inequality has been on the rise in most Western countries. Leaving the incomes of middle and low classes stagnating or falling poses urgent problems to social cohesion, because large cohorts of the population feel to have been left behind by traditional forms of representation leading to societal fragmentation and polarization. To stop the fragmentation of our societies and to shape a sustainable economy, we need to identify determinants of social cohesion, understand the interdependence of economic, social and environmental prosperity and formulate new measurements of wellbeing to guide policy making. This research topic therefore focuses on

  • identifying the causes undermining social cohesion
  • understanding the relationship between environment and wellbeing
  • developing cutting-edge measurements of wellbeing
  • formulating policy recommendations for policy makers


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