Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Jon Erickson


The use of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the primary measure of economic progress has arguably led to unintended consequences of environmental degradation and socially skewed outcomes. The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) was designed to reveal the trade offs associated with conventional economic growth and to assess the broader impact of economic benefits and costs on sustainable human welfare. Although originally designed for use at the national scale, an interest has developed in the United States in a state-level uptake of the GPI to inform and guide policy. However, questions exist about the quality and legitimacy of the GPI as a composite indicator. These questions include concerns about the underlying assumptions, the monetary weights and variables used, statistical rigor, magnitude of data collection required, and lack of a transparent governance mechanism for the metric. This study aims to address these issues and explore the GPI through a design-thinking lens as both a design artifact and intervention.

The leading paper in this dissertation offers the first GPI accounting for all 50 U.S. states. State GPI results are introduced and compared to Gross State Product (GSP). Then an analysis of the components to GPI reveals which drive the differences in outcomes, including examining the sustainability aspects of the state-level results. The second paper investigates the quality of the GPI as a composite indicator by testing its sensitivity to numerical assumptions and relative magnitudes of components, with particular attention to the possible unintended policy consequences of the design. The third paper seeks to answer the question of both efficiency (data parsimony) and effectiveness (comparatively to other indicators) by analysis of correlations between GPI components and with other state-level indicators such as the Gallup Well-Being Indicator, Ecological Footprint, and UN Human Development Index. To garner insight about possible GPI improvements, goals, and governance gaps in the informal U.S GPI network, the final paper dives into processes, outputs, and outcomes from the community of practice as revealed through a facilitated U.S. GPI workshop.



Number of Pages

168 p.