Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Community Development and Applied Economics

First Advisor

Jane . Kolodinsky


While human “wellbeing” has historically been measured by economic growth, traditional metrics do not fit the challenges of the 21st century. Increasingly, decision-makers are adopting new guiding frameworks that encompass a more holistic understanding of wellbeing and progress including concepts such as ecological health and subjective wellbeing. Yet, the development processes and implementation challenges faced by these initiatives - as well as the opportunities for advancement - remain relatively unexamined for state and regional communities. This research considers the implementation and potential of existing wellbeing indicator systems in Vermont. With limited research on wellbeing measurement at the state or local level, this thesis provides novel insight using the state of Vermont as a case study. A better understanding of specific measurement tools, public and political interest in data collection, and shared experiences can help to fill the current gap in the literature and provide useful information for decision-makers.

The first article contains a case study analysis of four wellbeing indices at the regional and state level in Vermont: the Vermont Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), the Vermont Happiness Index, the Chittenden County Environment, Community, Opportunity and Sustainability (ECOS) project, and Vermont Act 186 (the “Outcomes Bill”). The case studies provide contextual background describing the impetus and development of each wellbeing initiative. The similarities, differences, and connections between each case study are further examined based on a general program theory of wellbeing measurement. The second article narrows in on one specific wellbeing index: the 2017 Vermont Happiness Index, a representative statewide survey of subjective wellbeing. The Index is composed of eleven domains of wellbeing, with each domain as an aggregation of 3 or more Likert-scale questions. The survey results are analyzed through statistical testing and recommendations for future research are provided.



Number of Pages

111 p.