Deep-Rooted Culture and Economic Development: Taking the Seven Deadly Sins to Build a Well-Being Composite Indicator


This work involves undertaking a reappraisal of the Seven Deadly Sins in order to construct synthetic indicators of well-being aimed at measuring spatial economic disparities and their link to economic development. The Seven Deadly Sins constitute a way of describing vices vis-à-vis Christian moral education. Yet they might also be viewed as general norms of social behaviour and interpreted today as notions related to the concept of well-being. For example, the level of concentration of wealth (greed), sustainability of resources (gluttony), safety index (wrath), problems adapting to the labour market or workplace absenteeism (sloth), etc. The Seven Deadly Sins have also yielded emblematic examples of artistic iconography and cultural production. How they are perceived and expressed may also differ depending on each group’s cultural idiosyncrasy, in the sense of a series of beliefs and attitudes forged over the centuries. Based on these premises, the current work first seeks to compile variables that reflect each conceptual dimension so as to later construct a synthetic indicator of well-being with territorial disaggregation. This enables us to explore spatial disparities and the extent to which they relate to economic development. This is applied to a group of countries in the European Union with NUTS 2 territorial disaggregation (regions). The sources of information are basically Eurostat. The method involves applying Data Envelopment Analysis to construct the synthetic indicator, and spatial econometrics to pinpoint spatial dependence effects.

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  1. 1.

    In fact, the deadly sins are initially assumed to be abuses or excessive versions of humans’ natural faculties or passions, and therefore invoke moral norms aimed at preventing an inclination towards evil, by setting behaviour on the right path towards an idea of perfection, achievement of which is by no means hypothetical or transcendental, but which is perfectible on earth and in real terms. This is why what constitutes correct individual behaviour is also reflected in the form of cooperative behaviour and social norms.

  2. 2.


  3. 3.

    We were unable to compile sufficient and homogeneous information with regional disaggregation for countries such as Ireland, the United Kingdom, Greece, Croatia and Luxembourg. In certain Nordic countries and the Netherlands some health variables did not appear with regional disaggregation, such that we took the regional distribution of national data in terms of demographic size and surface area of each region. For the few regions where data was missing, we took the value of the year immediately prior, or when no data was available this was recovered by allocating the value corresponding to a region in that country that had a similar surface area and demographic size. The final database is available upon request to authors.

  4. 4.

    We carried out a prior test of constructing a global synthetic indicator for well-being using data from around 2010. Results were virtually the same, at least in the basic structure of the ensuing spatial disparities. This therefore serves to further strengthen the robustness of the results, since it is to be assumed that structural identity trends remain unchanged in the short and medium term.

  5. 5.

    For constructing synthetic indicators, similar applications can be seen in Murias et al. (2006), Peiró-Palomino and Picazo-Tadeo (2018) and Gómez and Herrero (2018).

  6. 6.

    Nevertheless, applying the univariate Pearson correlation between the value of the indicator of well-being and per capita GDP standardized for all the regions in the sample proves significant when excluding or including Polish and Czech regions. In other words, quality of life through our indicator and levels of regional economic development in Europe display a strong correlation in the inverse sense, i.e. higher values of the synthetic indicator (which means lower levels of well-being) imply a comparatively lower level of economic development for the regional structure of the sample of European countries.


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The authors would like to thank the participants at the 8th Spanish Workshop on Cultural Economics and Management, Seville, and the 20th ACEI International Conference on Cultural Economics, Melbourne, for comments and discussion on a preliminary version of the paper. Usual disclaimer applies.

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Herrero-Prieto, L.C., Boal-San Miguel, I. & Gómez-Vega, M. Deep-Rooted Culture and Economic Development: Taking the Seven Deadly Sins to Build a Well-Being Composite Indicator. Soc Indic Res 144, 601–624 (2019).

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  • Cultural identity
  • Welfare indicators
  • Economic development
  • Synthetic indicators
  • Deadly sins
  • Europe

JEL Classification

  • Z11
  • Z13
  • R12
  • O12