Social Indicators Research

, Volume 73, Issue 2, pp 221–246 | Cite as

Dimensions Of Well-Being In Eu Regions: Do GDP And Unemployment Tell us All We Need To Know?

  • Kitty StewartEmail author


Unemployment and GDP are widely used as proxies for a broader concept of well-being in the European Union, especially at regional level. This paper asks whether such an approach is reasonable. Using data from a range of sources, it examines the association between unemployment, GDP and a number of alternative well-being indicators in five domains – material welfare, education, health, productive activity and social participation. It finds that GDP per capita is not a good proxy for wider regional well-being within a country, but that the regional unemployment rate performs reasonably well. Pooling fifteen member states together, however, regional GDP is a better predictor of a region’s well-being than unemployment. This is because national GDP tells us more about how a country is doing overall than the national unemployment rate. These findings have implications for the European Council’s decision to treat variation in the regional unemployment rates as the sole indicator of regional inequality within Member States, and for the allocation of the Structural Funds.


European Union regional disparities social indicators well-being 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Armitage, P., Berry, G. 1994Statistical Methods in Medical Research3Blackwell ScienceOxfordGoogle Scholar
  2. Armstrong, H., Taylor, J. 2000Regional Economics and Policy3Black wellOxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. Armstrong, H.J. Taylor, Williams, A. 1997‘Regional Policy’Artis, M. J.Lee, N. eds. The Economics of the European Union: Policy and Analysis2Oxford University PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  4. Atkinson, A. B. 1998‘Social Exclusion, Poverty and Unemployment’Atkinson, A.B.John, Hills eds. Exclusion, Employment and OpportunityCentre for Analysis of Social ExclusionLondonGoogle Scholar
  5. Atkinson, A., Rainwater, L., Smeeding, T. M. 1995Income Distribution in OECD Countries: Evidence from the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS)OECDParisGoogle Scholar
  6. Atkinson, T., Cantillon, B., Manlier, E., Nolan, B. 2002Social Indicators: The EU and Social InclusionOxford University PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  7. Blank, R.M., Blinder, A.S. 1986‘Macroeconomics, income distribution, and poverty’Danziger, S.H.Weinberg, D.H. eds. Fighting Poverty MassachusettsHarvard University PressCambridge, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  8. Blank, R.M., Card, D. 1993‘Poverty income distribution, and growth: Are they still connected?’Brookings Papers on Economic Activity1993285325Google Scholar
  9. Boldrin, M. and F. Canova: 2001, Europe’s regions: Income disparities and regional policies’, Economic Policy April 2001, pp. 205–253.Google Scholar
  10. Burchardt, T., Le Grand, J., Piachaud, D. 2002‘Degrees of exclusion: Developing a dynamic, multi-dimensional measure’Hills, J.Le Grand, J.Piachaud, D. eds. Understanding Social ExclusionOxford University PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  11. Casellas, A., Galley, C.E. 1999‘Regional definitions in the European Union: A question of disparities?’Regional Studies33551558CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cutler, D. M., Katz, L. F. 1991‘Macroeconomic performance and the disadvantage’Brooking Papers on Economic Activity1991161Google Scholar
  13. Duncan, G. J.Brooks-Gunn, J. eds. 1997Consequences of Growing Up PoorRussell Sage FoundationNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Dunford, M. 1993‘Regional disparities in the European community: Evidence from the REGIO Databank’Regional Studies27727743Google Scholar
  15. Dunford, M. 1994‘Winners and losers: The new map of economic inequality in the European Union’European Urban and Regional Studies195114Google Scholar
  16. Dunford, M. 1996‘Disparities in employment, productivity and output in the EU: The roles of Labour Market Governance and Welfare Regimes’Regional Studies30339357Google Scholar
  17. Erikson, R. 1993‘Descriptions of inequality: The Swedish approach to welfare research’Nussbaum, M.Sen, A. eds. The Quality of LifeClarendon PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  18. European Commission1996First Report on Economic and Social CohesionOffice for Official Publications of the European CommunitiesLuxembourgGoogle Scholar
  19. European Commission2001Second Report on Economic and Social CohesionOffice for Official Publications of the European CommunitiesLuxembourgGoogle Scholar
  20. European Commission: 2003a, ‘Regional Policy: General Provisions on the Strcutural Funds’. Scholar
  21. European Commission: 2003b, ‘Regional Policy: Objective 2’. Scholar
  22. Ferrie, J.E., Shipley, M.J., Marmot, M.G., Stansfeld, S., Smith, G.D. 1995‘Health effects of anticipation of job change and non-employment: longitudinal data from the Whitehall II study’British Medical Journal31112641269PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Green, A., Gregg, P., Wadsworth, J. 1998‘Regional unemployment changes in Britain’Lawless, P.Martin, R.Hardy, S. eds. Unemployment and Social Exclusion: Landscapes of Labour Inequality’, Regional Policy and Development Series (Chap.3)Jessica KingsleyLondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Gregg, P. and J. Wadsworth: 2002, Why We Should (also) Measure Woklessness at the Household Level. Theory and Evidence from Britain, Spain, Germany and the United States, Centre for Economic Performance Working Paper 1168, London School of Economics.Google Scholar
  25. Haveman, R., Schwabish,  2000‘Has macroeconomic performance regained its antipoverty bite?’Contemporary Economic Policy18415427CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hobcraft, J., Kiernan, K. 2001‘Childhood poverty, early motherhood and adult social exclusion’British Journal of Sociology52495517PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Micklewright, J., Stewart, K. 2001‘Child well-being in the EU – and enlargement to the East’Vleminckx, K.Smeeding, T. M. eds. Child Well-Being, Child Poverty and Child Policy in Modern Nations: What Do We Know?The Policy PressBristolChap. 4Google Scholar
  28. Morris, J.K., Cook, D.G., Shaper, G.A. 1994‘Loss of employment and mortality’British Medical Journal30811351139PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Neloo, S.,Sr. 2002‘Preparing for enlargement in the European Union: The tension between economic and political integration’International Political Science Review23291318Google Scholar
  30. Putnam, R. D. 2000Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American CommunitySimon and SchusterNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  31. Robinson, P., Oppenhem, C. 1998‘Social Exclusion Indicators: A Submission to the Social Exclusion Unit’ mimeoInstitute for Public Policy ResearchLondonGoogle Scholar
  32. Sala-i-Martin, X. 1996‘Regional cohesion: evidence and theories of regional growth and convergence’European Economic Review4013251352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sen, A. 1985The Standard of LivingCambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  34. Sen, A. 1992Inequality reexaminedClarendon PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  35. Shaw, M., Dorling, D., Gordon, D., Smith, G.D. 1999The Widening Gap: Health Inequalities and Policy in BritainThe Policy PressBristolGoogle Scholar
  36. Social Protection Committee: 2001, ‘Report on Indicators in the Field of Poverty and Social Exclusion’, Report No. 13509/01 (European Commision).Google Scholar
  37. Steedman, H., McIntosh, S. 2001‘Measuring low skills in Europe: How useful is the ISCED framework?’Oxford Economic Papers3564581CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Stewart, K. (2002). ‘Measuring Well-Being and Exclusion in Europe’s Regions’, CASEpaper 53 (Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion).Google Scholar
  39. Stewart, K.: 2003, ‘Monitoring social inclusion in Europe’s Regions’, Journal of European Social Policy 13(4).Google Scholar
  40. Streeten, P. and S. Burki: 1978, ‘Basic needs: Some issues’. World Development, 6.Google Scholar
  41. UNDP1998Human Development Report 1998UNNewyork, NYGoogle Scholar
  42. UNDP2001Human Development Report 2001UNNewyork, NYGoogle Scholar
  43. Waldmann, R.J. 1992‘Income distribution and infant mortality’The Quarterly Journal of Economics10712831302Google Scholar
  44. Wilkinson, R. 1992‘Income distribution and life expectancy’British Medical Jounal304165168Google Scholar
  45. Wilkinson, R.G. 1996Unhealthy Societies: The Afflictions of InequalityRoutledgeLondonGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ESRC Research Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion Kitty Stewart (CASE)London School of EconomicsLondonUK

Personalised recommendations