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Monday, June 21, 2010

Widening the Measurement Lens

In Time magazine, Zachary Karabell writes about the inadequacies of existing government metrics on most things: "If you examine almost any government statistic or calculation more closely, you will find that it is a guesstimate . . . On almost every level, we are making national economic policy on the basis of problematic data and inadequate models."

We at Gallup wholeheartedly agree, which is why we're investing a lot of our own time and money in creating new metrics to help the world better understand and solve social and economic problems. Our data, like the government's in most cases, is also based on surveys, with the added benefit of independent, objective, daily tracking.

Like Karabell states, the world has in fact gotten a lot more complicated. A key learning of the global economic collapse that even Alan Greenspan has acknowledged is that the old way of thinking -- a reliance on the rational and tangible -- is no longer enough. Human beings are at the helm and they are emotional, erratic creatures.

That's why our data are behavioral, based on how humans think and act, with the goal of anticipating their future behavior. Doesn't it make sense, for example, that how workers perceive the hiring situation at their place of work would be more likely to drive how much money they spend than what the government reports about jobs created or lost in communities far and wide?

And what about the finding that despite all that has happened in the past two years worthy of making any rational person pessimistic, Americans rate their lives more positively than at any time since January 2008? Make of it what you will, but it's something to be monitored and taken into account.

Countries like Bhutan and France already understand this, and are also investing time and money into new measurements to better measure and improve what is going on their societies. Leaders, journalists, and economic analysts in all countries including the U.S. owe their constituents the same attention to more inclusive, versus exclusive, ways of measuring all that matters.

Explore Gallup news and Social and Economic Analysis to learn more about our efforts in this arena.


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