Quality Of Life Versus Standard of Living

“The quality of life is more important than life itself”
-Alexis Carrel

The terms quality of life, and standard of living, are often used interchangeably. Standard of living is for the most part, a measure of consumption. Money, however, cannot buy happiness. It can’t keep people from discriminating against you. It can’t make you as young as you used to be.

quality of life vs. standard of living

An article by Cornelia Butler Flora, published by the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development, cites a NCRCRD study “relating the objective measures with subjective measures of quality of life.” Among the the findings of that study:

1. Quality of life is not related—either positively or negatively—to standard of living.
2. Having choices in the productive work that you do is the most important dimension of quality of life.
3. The respect of family and people who matter to you in your communities of place and interest is the second key dimension of quality of life.

This is important to understand if you are trying to innovate some change in the world. Even though quality of life is subjective, and means different things to different people, there are many values and dreams that are shared among many individuals, and groups in a community. One of the important things that leaders can do is to work toward achieving satisfaction with quality of life throughout their organization or community. People make up their minds on issues based on how those issues impact their own quality of life.

This does not mean that standard of living indicators are not important. It just serves as a reminder that many, many of our desires transcend money and wealth.

I once worked with a leadership group in a small, scenic community that was staring the quality of life/standard of living question smack dab in the face. This small town had a resident who was proposing to build the nation’s largest tire incineration plant. He was selling the idea primarily on the idea of job creation. His claim was that burning the nation’s used tires would improve the local economy, improving the standard of living for low level wage earners.

Of course, the opposition to this plan came from citizens whose arguments were rooted in quality of life issues. Air quality, ecosystem destruction and aesthetics,eventually won the day, but not before the community experienced considerable divisiveness, trying to reconcile their common values.

There can be no community development without economic development; and there can be no economic development without talking about quality of life concerns.

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