A New Cross-Country Measure of Material Wellbeing and Inequality: Methodology, Construction and Results

This paper advances a new framework for defining a country’s material wellbeing based on the distribution of consumer durables, building on the recent material wellbeing literature that calls for an increased focus on both the level and the distribution of consumption and wealth.

Our framework is demonstrated using household-level data from the OECD PISA surveys, from which triennial metrics are constructed consistently for 40 countries since 2000. Comparisons with income-based alternative metrics suggest that our consumption-based measure captures important aspects of material wellbeing at both the micro and the macro level. Differences between the two approaches is shown to be associated with life-cycle smoothing, an important aspect that should be captured in material wellbeing estimates.


Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand