There have been several attempts to measure the simultaneous occurrence of economic growth (measured in Gross National Product, GNP) and increasing social and ecological costs. While it has limitations, the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) is possibly the most comprehensive instrument. It is now called the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). It combines social factors, income inequalities and environmental deterioration. For a range of countries, ISEW (or GPI) and GNP run parallel for a while, after which they uncouple and ISEW (or GPI) declines or even drops. The US surpassed its optimal point in the early 1970s, after which the ISEW plummeted; the UK and Australia peaked in the mid-1970s; Germany, Austria and the Netherlands in the early 1980s.
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Daly, H. E., Cobb, J. B., & Cobb, C. W. (1990). For the common good: Redirecting the economy toward community, the environment, and a sustainable future (London: Green Print).
Max-Neef, M. A. (1995). Economic growth and quality of life: a threshold hypothesis. Ecological Economics, 15(2), pp. 115-118.
Lawn, P. (2006). Using the Fisherian concept of income to guide a nation’s transition to a steady-state economy. Ecological Economics, 56(3), pp. 440-453.