The Decent Society Index Mark 2: (1) Constructing the Index

Roger Sapsford, Pamela Abbott, Claire Wallace

Research output: Working paper


In The Decent Society: planning for social quality (Abbott et al 2016) we developed the ‘Decent Society Model’ (DSM), on the shoulders of the ‘Social Quality’ approach (Beck et al 1997, 2001; Van der Maesen and Walker 2012) as a way of understanding, measuring and advising about the extent to which governments provide the resources and institutions within which their residents can live decent and productive lives. ‘Decency’ is not seen as some sort of latent variable underlying a range of indicators, but as a portmanteau term for characteristics which a society must have as ‘infrastructure’ for decent living. People have, acquire, display, profit from and develop or actualise themselves through ‘capabilities’ (see Sen 1993, 1999, 2004a,b, 2009). It is the business of the state to provide the means of acquiring developing and displaying capabilities, either directly as in the Scandinavian model of welfare or through some combination of how socioeconomic life is governed and what ‘safety-net’ provision is there for those who do not flourish.

A ‘Decent Society Index’ (DSI) was constructed to explore the book’s ideas by comparing countries with which we were familiar – mostly Europe, the former Soviet Union, North America and sub-Saharan Africa. The fit of the indicators to the underlying theoretical concepts of the DSM could be improved, however, and we are now in the process of constructing a Mark 2 version which will be better conceived, and we shall try to construct ‘back data’ as well to permit the examination of trends. This first Working Paper outlines the principles and mechanisms to be used in the construction of the Index, with rationales for the decisions which are taken, and we will keep it up to date as a guide to the use of the Index by adding an Appendix giving precise origin of the data for each quadrant of the model as it is completed. Successive Working Papers will present illustrative analyses of each of the four quadrants of the Model and its corresponding Index as well as listing scores for as many of the world’s countries as we can retain despite the occasional absence of data in our main sources.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2018

Publication series

NameSSRN Research Paper Series
ISSN (Electronic)2399-4975


  • decent society
  • social quality
  • index


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