Social Indicators Research

, Volume 134, Issue 2, pp 473–509 | Cite as

Have Your Cake and Eat it Too: The Well-Being of the Italians (1861–2011)

  • Mariateresa Ciommi
  • Andrea Gentili
  • Barbara Ermini
  • Chiara Gigliarano
  • Francesco M. Chelli
  • Mauro Gallegati


As a part of the international debate on Beyond the GDP, this paper describes the temporal trend of the multidimensional well-being of the Italians from 1861 to 2011. Building on the CNEL and ISTAT’s Equitable and Sustainable Well-being (Benessere Equo e Sostenibile, BES) project, the paper selects 41 indicators that are grouped into eight dimensions characterizing the most important aspects of everyday life: health, education, work, economic well-being, political participation, security, environment and research and development. In order to synthesize the information provided by this large set of indicators, a composite index for each dimension is tracked over the time span of 150 years. The main contributions of this paper consist in providing an analysis of the Italian BES over such a long period. As a result, the eight domains exhibit temporal tendencies that are different from the one of economic well-being. In particular, health, education, work and political participation show a pattern increasing over time (analogously to economic well-being), although at different growth rates, while an overall declining path emerges for the domains of security, environment and research and development. Moreover, we identify four main periods of the Italian history (before WWI, the Fascist period, the years from 1950 to 1990 and the most recent period) each characterized by different relations among the well-being domains.


Italian economic history Well-being Adjusted Mazziotta-Pareto index BES 



We thank Giorgio Alleva, Leonardo Becchetti, Enrico Giovannini, Filomena Maggino, Matteo Mazziotta, Fabiola Riccardini, Lucia Vergano and Stefano Zamagni for their helpful comments and suggestions. We are also grateful to the participants at the 52-th Meeting of the Italian Society of Economics, Demography and Statistics (SIEDS) held in Ancona Fermo in May 2015 and to the participants at the AIQUAV Conference held in Florence in December 2015 for their interesting comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. Finally, we would also like to express our sincere thanks to the Editor and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions. This research was encouraged under the E-Frame project (SSH.201162-1). The general disclaimer applies.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 127 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mariateresa Ciommi
    • 1
  • Andrea Gentili
    • 1
    • 2
  • Barbara Ermini
    • 1
  • Chiara Gigliarano
    • 3
  • Francesco M. Chelli
    • 1
  • Mauro Gallegati
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Economics and Social SciencesUniversità Politecnica delle MarcheAnconaItaly
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsAlma Mater Studiorum - Università di BolognaBolognaItaly
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsUniversità degli Studi dell’InsubriaVareseItaly

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