Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources


In order to better manage progress toward improved human welfare, governments and organizations around the world have begun to report on more comprehensive indicators of environmental, social, and economic conditions. The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) has proven useful as a measure of economic welfare by incorporating changes in environmental conditions, resource stocks, social capital, income distribution, and other non-marketed economic activity. Studies at the local scale have also found the GPI to be an effective tool for informing debate and stimulating questions about the nature of the economic development process. In this study, the GPI methodology is applied to Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Maryland in order to explore how sustainable economic welfare in the Baltimore region has changed from 1950-2005. A comparison among per capita GPI trends in four US cities shows Baltimore to have the highest average annual growth rate over the study period. Comparisons are made between per capita GPI and Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the most widely recognized measure of national economic performance. Analysis of the trends at all three scales show that GDP growth does not correlate well with changes in welfare as measure by GPI. This implies that Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Maryland could be in a period of uneconomic growth, when the social and environmental costs of further economic growth outweigh the benefits of such growth. However, the underlying methods used in sub-national applications of the GPI inevitably lead toward certain results, giving rise to an indicator framework that favors particular policy and development outcomes. This situation is defined as indicator bias. Since indicator bias can inadvertently lead society toward undesirable conditions, key assumptions that contribute to indicator bias in the GPI are tested for how they influence the final GPI results. The costs of crime, long-term environmental damage, and depletion of non-renewable natural resources categories are explored in more depth. GPI is found to be an imperfect measure of true progress, but it is believed to be an improvement over GDP for guiding modern society towards a more sustainable and desirable future. More work is needed to incorporate uncertainty, fine-tune the underlying GPI methodology, and build broad consensus about how to measure economic performance and social progress. By providing information about social, ecological, and economic conditions of the region, though, the Baltimore GPI does inform citizens and decision-makers about a wide range of impacts resulting from the modern ‘GDP growth’ paradigm