Utilizing an Agentic Capacity Index to Measure Human Agency
MetadataShow full item record
CitationByrne, Patrick. 2023. Utilizing an Agentic Capacity Index to Measure Human Agency. Master's thesis, Harvard University Division of Continuing Education.
AbstractThis paper proposes a method to measure human agency and discusses its relationship to sustainable development and ecological economics. Society is confronting a rapidly changing natural world, with important implications for managing ecosystem services, and reconsidering consumption-based economics. Existing models can calculate ecological footprints and analyze well-being, assisting policy makers in evaluating strategies to reduce biodiversity loss. A new model to measure agency can further the research in these areas.
The peer-reviewed literature shows that increased well-being correlates with measures of sustainable development (Helliwell et al., 2020; OECD, 2019). When societal well-being has increased to the point that daily needs are met, individuals, communities and nations can focus on improving life circumstances and developing constructive outcomes. The ability to formulate life strategies and control outcomes is known as human agency. But agency is an elusive topic in the social sciences and there is little agreement on a standard definition, nor is there a standardized methodology to assess it (Cavazzoni et al., 2022). For purposes herein, agency is defined as the capacity to exercise control over the nature and quality of one’s life (Bandura, 2001).
This paper proposes a composite index, the Agentic Capacity Index (ACI), that measures a nation’s agentic capacity, using a methodological approach and similar framework to the Human Development Index (HDI). Based on responses from the World
Values Survey the ACI analyzes key agency indicators across three dimensions: individual, collective, and institutional. The resulting data is also analyzed against a second data set from Gallup World Poll surveys to validate findings and to discuss limitations to the ACI.
The ACI is valuable for social scientists because it can provide a novel input for economic policy and sustainable development policy discussions. The ACI provides a single reference measurement of agentic capacity much in the way that HDI provides one for human development. Studies by other scholars demonstrate that when societies pursue strategies that maximize agency, they yield higher social satisfaction than strategies that maximize economic welfare (Welzel & Inglehart, 2010). Measuring agentic capacity is the first step in pursuing improved social strategies and as Bandura states, improving the
quality of one’s life."
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37375051
- DCE Theses and Dissertations 
Contact administrator regarding this item (to report mistakes or request changes)