Quantity, quality, equality: introducing a new measure of social welfare

Social Choice and Welfare 57 (3):665–701 (2021)
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In this essay I propose a new measure of social welfare. It captures the intuitive idea that quantity, quality, and equality of individual welfare all matter for social welfare. More precisely, it satisfies six conditions: Equivalence, Dominance, Quality, Strict Monotonicity, Equality and Asymmetry. These state that i) populations equivalent in individual welfare are equal in social welfare; ii) a population that dominates another in individual welfare is better; iii) a population that has a higher average welfare than another population is better, other things being equal; iv) the addition of a well-faring individual makes a population better, whereas the addition of an ill-faring individual makes a population worse; v) a population that has a higher degree of equality than another population is better, other things being equal; and vi) individual illfare matters more for social welfare than individual welfare. By satisfying the six conditions, the measure improves on previously proposed measures, such as the utilitarian Total and Average measures, as well as different kinds of Prioritarian measures.

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Karin Enflo
Umeå University


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