Over the weekend we had a charity which supports the idea of public parks telling us that public parks have a value to people. That seems pretty uncontroversial of course, to the point of certainly being true. The question will only ever be, well, what value?
They tell us one large each:
Parks and green spaces generate health benefits that would cost more than £34bn if they did not exist, research by Fields in Trust has suggested.
The charity, which protects green spaces, also found that parks save the NHS about £111m a year.
The report coincides with the launch of a five-year plan to protect parks.
Green spaces can improve overall health for all, including “the young, isolated and the vulnerable”, said parks and green spaces minister Rishi Sunak.
In the report, Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces, it is calculated that people would need to spend £974 each year to achieve the same level of life satisfaction they get from parks if they were not there.
Note that’s not one grand per park – which would be a negative value once opportunity costs are taken into account – but one grand each person. Per year.
Hmmm, well, a charity which campaigns for public parks isn’t going to aim on the low side of the actual number now, are they?
But this does mean that we’re richer than we commonly assume. GDP is, as we know, the value of all production – or income, or consumption – at market prices. Where there’s no market price we don’t count it. But this does mean that GDP is only a proxy for what we’re actually interested in – how rich are the peeps?
Depending upon how you measure it GDP per capita is some £20,000 to £30,000 for the UK. Add a grand to that for the parks and that’s a 5% increase, isn’t it? Well, to one of the numbers. We’re 5% richer – not in GDP, but in the thing we want to really measure. And there’s rather a lot of this sort of thing around, it’s not just parks that do this.
So, we’re richer than we all thought we were, hurrah. But that also means that all derived statistics are wrong. Productivity for example. The costs of producing those parks are inside our current GDP figures. The output, the consumption, not, so, that makes our productivity look worse.
And then there’s inequality. We all get to enjoy exactly equal amounts of these parks on the basis of our income. So, we’re adding £1,000 a year to the income of the thieving banker and also £1,000 to the income of the thieving chav. Actually, the chav probably gets the greater value, the banker already having a garden it takes more than 30 seconds to walk around.
Inequality is lower than we thought too.
Interesting what you can prove if only you understand what the numbers are trying to tell you, isn’t it?