The project supported by the MeRSA Grant is going to model the relative impact of spatial location on individual and aggregated measures of well‐being. The research considers the simultaneous relationships between separate components of people’s well-being: health, education and training, work and life balance, economic well-being, social relationship, politics and institutions, safety, subjective wellbeing, natural and cultural heritage, environment, research and innovation, quality of services. These dimensions are consistent with those adopted by the OECD Better Life Index and with other similar attempts to monitor well-being and progress.
One of the main goals is to identify the drivers of individual well-being heterogeneity and to examine the role played by the socio-spatial context in shaping individual preferences over these different domains. As the most recent literature on heterogeneous wellbeing determinants claims, both the personal and the socio-geographic contexts play a remarkable role in shaping and affecting wellbeing conditions through psychological (i.e. idiosyncratic) and geographical (i.e. regional) dimensions. Both dimensions have the same effect on wellbeing measures: they convey heterogeneity in the weights associated to its drivers. Our research aims primarily to identify such weights addressing two main dimensions of its heterogeneity: individual characteristics and contextual attributes. In particular, we are interested in addressing whether and how they are influenced by individual socio-demographic factors, by political orientation and by the characteristics of the geographical area of residence.
Individual preferences and the local level policies in a specific wellbeing domain vary greatly in the geographical space. Ultimately, the characteristics of the area chosen affect the subjective allocation over the different well-being domains. As the domains are a mix of both material and non material conditions we look at how they are influenced by local characteristics to provide direct information on well-being distribution in the population and across places within a country.
Our reference is a wellbeing indicator, the BES (Sustainable and Equitable Wellbeing) indicator, recently created and adopted as a benchmark in Italy by the National Statistical Institute (ISTAT), with the cooperation of a coalition of representatives of different interest groups of the Italian society.
Our empirical analysis is based on data collected with an online survey where respondents are asked to simulate policy-makers decisions by allocating the hypothetical sum of 100 million Euros to promote well-being improvement in one of the eleven BES domains. The questionnaire also collects data on standard socio-demographic variables and the database is enriched with data on characteristics of the province/region in which the respondent lives including values of BES indicators at that level in order to provide the contextual framework.
We show that right wing respondents desire to invest relatively more in economic wellbeing and safety, while left wing respondents in education, social relations and the environment. The impact of education is also relevant as graduated respondents would invest significantly more in the environment, social relations, natural and cultural heritage and quality of services.
We as well assess whether respondents’ expenditure preferences on a given BES domain are affected by the relative scarcity/abundance of wellbeing on that given domain at the regional level. Our findings show the prevalence of the marginal impact hypothesis since in most cases wellbeing expenditure preferences are higher in areas where the quality of a given wellbeing domain is relatively lower.
Our contribution, by allowing for differentiated weights, enables a fairer and more effective representation of the heterogeneous wellbeing conditions. This set up allow us to focus both on individuals and on place-based factors, as people’s well-being is shaped by a combination of individual and local characteristics. Identifying such weights is important in order to evaluate whether and in which direction they are affected by socio-demographic factors and/or characteristics of the place of residence. In this respect, local level policies (education spending, labour market policies, family policies, etc.) can be beneficial or detrimental to the well‐being outcomes at various aggregation levels and also differ across them, i.e. within and between countries and regions. The plan is to allow policy‐makers to know where their citizens stand on progress towards better lives, and also to make it possible to assess the determinants of this progress and the most effective policies to improve people’s lives both at the national, local and individual level.
Luisa Corrado, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy
 Becchetti L., Corrado L. and M. Fiaschetti (2016). “The Regional Heterogeneity of Wellbeing ‘Expenditure’ Preferences: Evidence from a Simulated Allocation Choice on the BES Indicators”, Journal of Economic Geography https://doi.org/10.1093/jeg/lbw042. Published online 06 December 2016.
 See for example reports by Australia (Measures of Australia’s Progress ), Finland (Findicator – Set of Indicators for Social Progress) and Germany (Sustainable Development Report).