The purpose of this paper is to provide details about the articulation and measurement of four select indicators from the Quality of Life Study for the City of Alexandria. A brief overview of the survey constructs, conceptual framework, data sources, and data analysis is provided as introduction to the discussion of the specific indicators.
Quality of life is a concept that takes on as many meanings as there are individuals living in a community. Individual perceptions are key in any definition of quality of life, but generally the concept has to do with positive feelings of well-being and a sense that one is living "the good life." The word good, and the mental images and emotional feelings associated with the concept of goodness, are generally agreed by psychologists to be fundamental to a concept of quality of life. In fact, the association is so strong that Wellsprings of a Good Life is the title of the "working movement" that led to a joint project of the Gallup Organization and the College of Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis Aesthetics. Gallup's theoretical approach to studying the constructs believed to be important to perceptions of overall happiness and satisfaction diverges from the norm, in that, Gallup did not consider the influence of respondents' socio-economic status or educational status.
The concept of quality of life makes salient all the aspects and attributes of community life that are valued by its citizens. For each individual residing in a community, the constellation of attributes and elements will differ, but the aspects and attributes may be aggregated in order to arrive at a quality of life portfolio for a specific community. This quality of life portfolio must be capable of being disaggregated in order to more deeply examine the data and data sources from which the desirable elements were elicited or identified.
The development of a quality of life concept has bearing on its usability and on opportunities for replication of the process used to arrive at a validated quality of life concept. As with any research, the more care that is taken in the development and implementation of the research design, the more opportunity there is to apply the research findings to praxis, to "real life," and to future research. So, too, careful and reasoned development of a quality of life construct, conceptual framework, and instrumentation is important to its credible use, application, and influence. A good case can be made by considering that the joint project of the Gallup Organization and the College of Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis Aesthetics produced a survey -- Gallup's Quality of Community Life Survey -- which was of such good quality that it was used as a template for community change. The survey was used to provide feedback to the St. Louis metropolitan community and was of sufficient scientific rigor to be benchmarked to national surveys on quality of life. The survey results were used at annual summits to drive the setting of positive action priority setting and action planning sessions to implement those priorities. The survey processes and data were made available on an integrated web-based database with the aim of encouraging use of the data by the general public, urban researchers in St. Louis and other metropolitan settings, researchers at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the Gallup Organization researches, and senior scientists and researchers around the globe. Clearly, a well-conceived and robustly implemented quality of life study can have been important well beyond the realm of the community in which the research was conducted.
Quality of life is a community-specific measure of the aggregate perceptions of those residing in a particular community with regard an evidence-based value configuration. The configuration must be evidence-based in that it is derived from research -- typically multiple measures research which consists of both qualitative and quantitative measures.
A value configuration can be thought of as akin to the value innovation used in Blue Ocean strategy. A value innovation is the configuration of core competencies expressed by a company that signals its differentiation. In Blue Ocean terms, this differentiation must be based on what is most valued by consumers and what is not offered by competitors. It is the value innovation that provides the competitive edge for a company employing Blue Ocean strategy. Similarly, a quality of life value configuration must illustrate the unique elements and attributes, as described by a particular community, that best represent those desirable traits capable of engendering feelings of well-being and positive regard toward one's community life.
The dimensions identified by Gallup and used in the survey follow. The aesthetics dimension is the experience of engaging in, appreciating, or being surrounded by music, drama, paintings, sculpture -- arts and performing arts of all kinds. The civic dimension consists of volunteer service and working to improve one's community or state. The dimension of courage is identified by taking a stand in the face of resistance and standing up for one's beliefs. The dimension of creativity can be seen when someone produces something original and uses imagination. The dimension of discipline was described as being detail-oriented. The friendship dimension is manifested by caring for someone, being good neighbors, and having a best friend. The future focus dimension entails having goals and plans for the future. The learning dimension includes learning and growing, and always asking questions. The principle-centered dimension consists of having principles to guide one's life. The spirituality dimension includes prayer and meditation, and a belief in universal power. The subjective well-being dimension is manifested through satisfaction with one's life and life conditions. The wisdom dimension includes being able to sense the feelings of others, and having people seek someone out for advice. The workplace satisfaction dimension is manifested by looking forward to going to work.
A national survey (n = 1,008)and a survey restricted to the St. Louis metropolitan area (n = 999) were conducted during a period between June 22, 2001 and August 3, 2001. Instrumentation was based on the 17 dimensions originally identified and included items related to demographics and 106 other items related specifically to quality of life. Following administration of the surveys, the quality of life dimensions and the question items were reconfigured. The new configuration was a smaller -- just 12 quality of life dimensions and 67 question items, with the addition of two overall measures. The final survey consisted, then, of 75 items total. The researchers tested the reliability of the reconfigured instrument and found it to be .90, well within the acceptable range.
Indicator 20 -- Median Gross Rent
Indicator Response #1: Definition & Measurement
Concept Measured by Indicator -- The American Community Survey (ACS) data includes profiles of social, economic, housing, and demographic data tables, and geographic comparison tables for select data characteristics. The calculation of gross rent is eliminates disparity resulting from different practices with regard to the inclusion of fuel and utilities as part of the rental payment. Median gross rent represents the point on a distribution where half of the rent figures are above and half are below median.
Concept Measurement / Variable Scale -- The ACS data indicates that Q1 2011 median gross rent was $1,001. Sourcebook. Retrieved http://www.housingvirginia.org/tc.aspx?PID=360
Concept Importance -- The median gross rent is associated with a number of dynamics, such as rental unit supply and demand, cost of living increases, inflation, demographic churn, and so forth.
Concept Operational Definition -- Median gross rent divides the gross rent distribution into two equal parts: one-half of the cases falling below the median gross rent and one-half above the median. Median gross rent is computed on the basis of a standard distribution and so is a derived measure. Median gross rent is rounded to the nearest whole dollar. ACS Report 2005, Puerto Rico. Retrieved http://www.census.gov/acs/www/Downloads/
Data Source Identification -- The median gross rent is based on the one-year annual American Community Survey (ACS) sample data. The median gross rent for the year is adjusted by the CPI to estimate rent for a quarter The median gross rent can also be based on a five-year average ACS sample data.
Data Source -- Data sources include the U.S. Census and the American Community Survey (ACS). A function of the U.S. Census Bureau, the American Community Survey is an ongoing research activity that reports annually. The ACS is intended to support economic development, investment planning, and service provision for communities, and state and federal funds distribution.
Data Collection -- Three forms of data collection are employed: Mail, telephone, and personal visits. Questionnaires are mailed to sample addresses. If there is no response to the mailed surveys, computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) is used. If CATI is unsuccessful or if the household refuses to participate, computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) may be employed.
Unit of Observation -- The units of observation include sample person, household and group quarters persons, and sample housing units…