Once a country’s economy reaches a certain level of wealth, gross domestic product—which puts a single dollar value on a country’s total economic output—is no longer a good measure of its overall success.

That’s a main finding of our economic research, published in March with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries such as the United States, the Netherlands, and France, improvements in income, education, safety, and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century.

But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged. From the 1970s onward, growth in median incomes slowed down, as did educationCrime rose. In recent years, health outcomes have even declined.

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