Development of Neighbourhood Quality of Life...

In Development of Neighbourhood Quality of Life Indicators, Yinshe Sun undertakes a literature review to develop a suite of indicators for understanding quality of life in Saskatoon. Establishing better and more sensitive indicators allows for informed community planning by highlighting the assets and needs of particular neighbourhoods.

Conducting quality of life research involves breaking down the overall aim into specific segments called domains, such as environment or health. Domains are further broken down into indicators, which are the main units assembled to be studied. In the environment domain, for example, indicators might include pollution levels, green space, and traffic patterns. Indicators must reliably provide meaning to domains (which, in turn, create the larger illustration of quality of life for the area being measured). Availability of data and methods of interpretation determine which indicators can be developed and how well they can inform their domains. Likewise, the domains to be pursued will determine what kind of quality of life picture emerges.

Sun explores eight domains relating to neighbourhood quality of life—housing, health, employment/income, land-use and environment, crime and safety, education, social environment and services, and community participation. The aim was to look for common dimensions and criteria, and then further establish the most useful indicators for future studies. To this end, Sun compiles several tables of data sources and types to illustrate what kind of material is available for constructing indicators. Sun then turns to evaluating the criteria used for determining whether an indicator is appropriate for studying particular domains. First is validity and relevancy, which means that the indicator must be able to accurately reflect neighbourhood concerns and be able to respond to changes over time. Second, reliability and understandability refers to an indicator’s consistency over time, and that nonexperts can comprehend its significance. Third, accessibility and availability involve the ease and reliability of data for long periods of time. And last, spatial responsiveness has to do with accurately tracking variations in neighbourhood boundaries. Considering these criteria, a suite of neighbourhood quality of life indicators was then suggested.

Sun also examines the validity of some indicators for Saskatoon neighbourhoods. The distribution of a few housing indicators was analyzed for their relevance to the study. Additional indicators were used to identify particular groups of Saskatoon neighbourhoods. A comparison of 1991 and 1996 neighbourhood groups revealed that spatial polarization during the early 1990s resulted in peripherally located middle class families and a disadvantaged inner-city lower income group. Sun concludes the report with a discussion of the most important factors in choosing quality of life domain indicators. Of great concern is selecting indicators that will be relevant to the locale being studied.

Indicators must also have a certain obvious comprehensibility for citizens. Combining subjective (e.g. interviews) with objective (e.g. statistics) measures will further add to the depth and reliability of indicators. Finally, any quality of life system needs regular monitoring and maintenance from all interested parties to ensure its validity.

Sun, Yinshe. (2004). Development of Neighbourhood Quality of Life Indicators. Saskatoon: Community-University Institute for Social Research.