Feasible future global scenarios for human life evaluations.


Christopher Barrington-Leigh


Institute for Health and Social Policy; and School of Environment, McGill University, Montreal, H3A1A3, QC, Canada. [Email]


Subjective well-being surveys show large and consistent variation among countries, much of which can be predicted from a small number of social and economic proxy variables. But the degree to which these life evaluations might feasibly change over coming decades, at the global scale, has not previously been estimated. Here, we use observed historical trends in the proxy variables to constrain feasible future projections of self-reported life evaluations to the year 2050. We find that projected effects of macroeconomic variables tend to lead to modest improvements of global average life evaluations. In contrast, scenarios based on non-material variables project future global average life evaluations covering a much wider range, lying anywhere from the top 15% to the bottom 25% of present-day countries. These results highlight the critical role of non-material factors such as social supports, freedoms, and fairness in determining the future of human well-being.