The Social Indicators Movement: Progress, Paradigms, Puzzles, Promise and Potential Research Directions

Tan Lei Shek, Ka Yu Florence Wu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


This paper is a response to the article entitled “Fifty years after the Social Indicators Movement: Has the promise been fulfilled?” by Ken Land and Alex Michalos (2015) which constitutes a careful review of the historical development of the Social Indicators Movement, utility of social indicators in shaping the concept of quality of life and subjective well-being, and issues deserving social indicators research in future. In this response paper, we join in the discussion by highlighting five issues—progress, paradigms, puzzles, promise, and potential research directions of social indicators research. In terms of progress, while we have accomplished many tasks proposed by Solomon et al. (The quality of life, Sage, London 1980), some of them are yet to be achieved. Regarding research paradigms surrounding social indicators, researchers have primarily used positivistic or post-positivistic orientation to conduct and interpret social indicators research, with relatively fewer studies using interpretive, constructionist or critical theory perspective. There are also several puzzles deserving consideration. These include (a) the use of “other types of evidence”, particularly qualitative data; (b) evaluation of social programs; (c) feasibility of assessing “social progress”; (d) choice of social indicators; (e) interpretation of findings; (f) methodological debates; and (g) explanations for social change. Finally, the promise of social indicators research to promote quality of life and potential future research directions of social indicators research are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)975-990
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Indicators Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Evaluation
  • Social development
  • Social indicators
  • Social indicators movement
  • Social progress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)


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