To effectively assess a community’s quality of life, planners and policymakers rely on indicators for specific elements. Initially, the process of identifying indicators that are relevant to a particular place enables planners and policymakers to gain a holistic perspective on what defines their community. Secondly, as these indicators are refined, the issues that are most important to the community emerge. Lastly, indicators allow policymakers to measure and, therefore, manage their community’s quality of life.
While some quality of life indicators are highly subjective, setting standards is essential to the assessment process. Measuring indicators initially provides an inventory of the community’s current status, such as park acreage, the student-teacher ratio, and the accessibility of transit and frequently-used services. This inventory provides a baseline from which to grow.
Planners and policymakers also must understand the context of their community by comparing it to other similar communities that possess desirable characteristics. Measuring indicators provides this ability. For instance, the quality of life assessment might indicate that a community has far fewer parks than other desirable communities of similar size and demographics. Or, the assessment could indicate that the educational foundation in the community is much stronger than the national average. Community comparisons identify gaps and strengths in a place’s overall quality of life.
Perhaps most importantly, setting standards and measuring quality of life indicators enables policymakers and planners to set goals for their community. Where weaknesses are identified, they can use comparable community standards for something to strive toward. Where strengths are identified, they can make budgetary adjustments to maintain that quality, but reprioritize investments in other areas. Clearly, quality of life assessments can have profound effects on the planning and management of a community.