Clair Brown, Professor

Closed (1) Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) for California

Closed. This professor is continuing with Spring 2017 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Fall 2017.

This research project is developing and estimating a holistic metric for California’s economic growth based on the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI).
Background: Countries around the world measure economic performance by the growth of average national output (GDP), or average income per person. Then analysts use GDP per person to compare well-being across countries. Economists agree that GDP does not measure well-being because it ignores many valuable activities of daily life. GDP excludes anything that is not a market transaction—house work and child care are ignored; leisure activities are valued by the goods and services purchased; health and longevity are only registered by how much we spend on health care; and the list goes on. How income is distributed across families is ignored. Growth in GDP that increases incomes of the rich is counted the same as growth in GDP that increases incomes of the needy.
Our alternative metric (post-GDP): GPI is a sustainable economy indicator that subtracts social and environmental negatives in a way that GDP does not. It has been calculated independently for a variety of states and countries. We are completing an accounting of the GPI for CA that: 1) compares our estimation in detail to a recent study which assessed all 50 states; 2) re-calculates the CA GPI with methodological changes that we propose to make GPI a comprehensive welfare measure, and conducts a sensitivity analysis; and 3) builds a policy-relevant GPI tool, using sensitivity analysis over time. All 3 threads of the project include preparing academic papers for submission.


Both positions:
The overall learning outcomes are improved critical thinking skills; learning how to collect and evaluate data; and learning how to find, evaluate, and summarize articles on specific topics.
The specific tasks include:
Students will be given instruction on the GPI, as well as training and guidance on best practice for each specific task. As background reading, students will be given a short selection of papers and example files to enhance their understanding of the GPI theory and methodology. Both students will learn about conceptual frameworks of sustainability, welfare measurement, inequality metrics, and relevant economic theory. The students will meet weekly with the GSR (and some times with professor) to go over what is being and what to do next.

Position 1)
This student will conduct a focused literature review of academic work on environmental and social valuations/costs. This will be independent, guided research, seeking the most up-to-date findings relevant for application and incorporation in the CA GPI welfare version. The student will learn to rapidly assess the quality and relevance of academic papers, using title, abstract, skimming and the find function. The student will be guided in organized documentation of the literature they review. They will learn to build on previous research and to incorporate other research results into current projects.

Position 2)
This student will be undertaking data collection and organization, seeking the best available data for each of the range of the 27 GPI components. The student will learn how to find multiple kinds of data and to navigate the practical limits of data availability, incorporating methods such as proxy measures, indexing, and data filling. They will also gain experience in assessing the reliability of data sources and be exposed to a wide range of publically available data, and the challenges and methods of taking data from its available form to the form necessary for a project.


Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Eli Lazarus, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Both positions: Students should be able to work independently, with critical thinking and initiative, and be good time managers. The students must be conscientious and able to organize and document their work, based on the specific guidance provided by the GSR and professor. Position 1) The student should have good English reading comprehension ability. Some interest in economics, welfare and/or sustainability will be helpful. Position 2) The student is required to be able to navigate websites with the focus on obtaining data. Some basic Excel is desired, but otherwise will be taught. Database, data scraping, website or coding are desired but not necessary.

Weekly Hours: 6-9 hrs