Well-being and Growth in Advanced Economies: The Need to Prioritise Human Development (by Maurizio Pugno, Routledge, NOW PUBLISHED)

Does growth of advanced economies lead to human development, i.e., the development of those capabilities that most distinguish human beings? Are improvements of well-being thus guaranteed?

The half-century decline of well-being (both subjective and objective) in the United States suggests a pessimistic stance, aggravated by the recent pandemic and war.

Well-being and Growth in Advanced Economies argues with theory and facts that economic growth can surprisingly bring ill-being to people because it erodes their Fundamental Human Development (FHD) when market forces are prioritised, with consequent self-defeating race to consumption, including some addiction to digital devices.

‘Human development’ is here formulated as ‘fundamental’ when it expands those capabilities, such as creativity and sociality, which have determined the evolutionary success of the human species.

The book concludes that prioritising FHD in individual and collective choices would guarantee improvements of well-being, and could shape economic growth as more socially and environmentally sustainable.

Table of Contents

Introduction and Summary


Chapter 1. Economic growth and people’s well-being in advanced countries

Chapter 2. Human development and well-being

Chapter 3. Why growth in market economies can deteriorate human development and well-being

Chapter 4. Economic growth and human development: which priority in the post-pandemic era?



ISBN 9781032149059

July, 2022 Published by Routledge

124 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations


For excerpts and commercial information, see the website of the publisher

Structural changes in economic growth and well-being (by M. Pugno and F. Sarracino – published in Social Indicators Research)

The controversies on the relationship (or `gradient’) between GDP and subjective well-being oppose those who claim that the gradient is positive and stable around the world to those who argue that long-run trends of subjective well-being are flat despite economic growth. The possible existence of structural breaks of the gradient within the same country is a challenge to both views. By focusing on the case of Italy, we show that the long-run trends of GDP and of well-being turned from increasing to decreasing, and the gradient exhibits a rise through two structural breaks. Macro and micro analyses explain why the gradient changes, and we find evidence consistent with the `loss aversion’ hypothesis. In addition, the gradient changed because the erosion of trust in others, the increase of financial dissatisfaction and worsened health hinder well-being independently from income.

Published in SIR. Previous version as working paper.

Italy’s parabolas of GDP and subjective well-being: the role of education (by M.Pugno, published in MPRA)

The rise and decline of the Italian economy over the past 60 years form a surprisingly regular parabola, if the main European partner economies are taken as benchmark, so that its vertex equal to 1 means that Italy completely caught-up Europe around the 1990s. This implies that, in order to repeat that experience of catching-up, Italy needs to grow at extraordinary rates, which are not on the horizon. The paper shows that the Italians’ morale is even in worse conditions and explores why. The analysis firstly focuses on subjective well-being (and other subjective indices), thus finding another parabola and with more worrying features than the economic parabola. Then it explores the role of education in shaping the long-run dynamics of both the economy and subjective well-being. As a first result, the paradox of the excess supply of educated workers in Italy becomes clearer. The second result shows how poor education weakened Italians’ ability to fully enjoy their income, in particular after the shocks of the 1990s. An education policy thus becomes urgent to provide both specialized skills for production and general skills for people’s lives, thus definitively reinforcing the recent weak rebound in educational levels.

(published in MPRA working papers)

Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation to protect the environment (by M. Pugno and F. Sarracino – MPRA paper)

Understanding why many people spontaneously perform pro-environmental behaviours, rather than requiring some incentive, is an active area of research. We contribute to this research by relating intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in pursuing central goals in people’s lives, and specifically in looking for a job, to pro-environmental attitudes and engagements. Using an international sample, we find that intrinsic motivation relates positively and extrinsic motivation relates negatively to a variety of subjective pro-environmental outcomes. This result holds for different sub-samples and for various econometric specifications and methodologies. In particular, two-stage least squares estimation with proper instruments provides evidence of a causal relationship between motivations and pro-environmental outcomes.

Published as downloadable  MPRA working paper.