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Measuring Wellbeing

Italy - born as one nation on March 17, 1861 - was a poor and backward country in the most Southern part of Europe. Most Italians lived a short and troubled life, with little prospect of giving their children a better future. That was how it had been for centuries in the Italian peninsula. In one and half centuries, the Italians astonished us by turning Italy into a country where living standards are among the highest in the world. The Dolce Vita found its home in Italy. How did such a transformation come about? The book provides an answer based on an impressive volume of newly-constructed historical statistics, and does so aided by an easilyt accessible and enjoyable narrative. In more than 20 years of research, Giovanni Vecchi has gathered tens of thousands of family accounts, so that the themes of economic inequality, poverty and vulnerability can at last be placed at the centre of the book. This history is written from the bottom up, starting with the elementary data, those coming from the lives of individuals and households. Measuring Wellbeing builds up the "macro" picture (the history) from the "micro" data (the stories). The concept of wellbeing is, by its very nature, multidimensional and must therefore include the non-monetary aspects of life: nutrition, health and education, but also less tangible elements such as freedom or the possibility to exercise one's political rights. The book deals with this polyhedral nature of wellbeing using a uniform method. Great effort has been taken not to exercise the reader with technical details, but tables and graphs have nevertheless been included because they are decisive tools for readers to gain insight and keep up their guard against the fallacy of what at first sight may seem to be incontrovertible.
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About the Author

Giovanni Vecchi is a Professor of Economics at the University of Rome "Tor Vergata". He specializes in the theory, measurement and history of welfare, as well as economic history. His scholarly articles have appeared in a number of international, peer-reviewed journals. He is a regular consultant to the World Bank on issues related to the measurement of poverty and inequality. He is President of the Italian Economic History Association (Associazione per la Storia Economica) and co-editor of the Rivista di Storia Economica.


In this pioneering book, Giovanni Vecchi traces welfare, inequality and poverty of Italy from its reunification to today. Very few countries may boast of such a panoramic view of their economic history, as Italy can, thanks to Vecchi's work. His methodological innovation, the use of historical household budgetsmonthly or weekly expenses written down by thousands of familiesto study the evolution of living standards enables us to learn about the lives of the previous generations more than we ever expected. We are thus, through Vecchi's approach, rediscovering own economic history. * Branko Milanovic, Graduate Center, City University of New York, and author of Global Inequality * A fascinating economic history of how Italian living standards have evolved over 150 years emerges from this studys painstaking work assembling and harmonizing historical data on household budgets, in combination with modern surveys and other data. Long-run social progress is evident, but so are the challenges for the future. I look forward to seeing further work from this project. * Martin Ravallion, Georgetown University and author of The Economics of Poverty: History, Measurement, and Policy * This amazing and novel book on Italian inequality, poverty, and living standards since unification has no competitor. Certainly not in English, which is used here with great elegance. And perhaps not even in the whole EU. Anyone involved in policy debate over inequality and poverty in modern Italy and the EU must read this book about origins. * Jeffrey G. Williamson, Laird Bell, Professor of Economics, emeritus, Harvard University and Honorary Fellow, Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin * This is an important book for Italians, and it makes a remarkable contribution to the description of the long-term evolution of standards of living in Italy. * Marc Fleurbaey, Robert E. Kuenne, Professor in Economics and Humanistic Studies, Professor of Public Affairs and the University Center for Human Values *

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