Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators: A New Tool for Assessing National Trends


Other authors: 
Jon Lickerman and Patrice Flynn (editors)

Published by: 
Calvert Group ltd.

Publisher town: 


THE CALVERT-HENDERSON Quality of Life Indicators represent a first national (USA) comprehensive effort to redefine overall quality of life using a systems approach. It was created jointly by a multi-disciplinary group of practitioners and scholars from government agencies, for-profit firms and non-profit organizations that saw the need for more practical and sophisticated metrics of societal conditions. The Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators allow individuals and/or groups to access in one place a comprehensive picture of the overall well-being of the nation. This is facilitated in a manner that is easy to understand and use, statistically verifiable, grounded in theoretical and empirical knowledge about each domain, and rigorous in its treatment of the subject matter.

The twelve quality of life indicators are education, employment, energy, environment, health, human rights, income, infrastructure, national security, public safety, recreation and shelter. Each of the 12 is examined in detail in separate chapters. The research methodology and a biographical sketch of the authors is included in a separate chapter. Historical and contemporary efforts to assess the nation’s progress and well-being influenced the design and development of the Calvert-Henderson indicators. These therefore deal with the application of statistics to the measurement of environmental, societal and economic conditions over time. The project rests on the wealth of knowledge gained from four major fields of research: the field of sustainable development or environmental indicators; the vast literature on social indicators; the solid research and analysis on economic indicators in the United States; and the body of information on socially responsible investing (SRI).

The Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators’ approach is unique in that it was designed and implemented by a multi-disciplinary group of researchers, scholars and practitioners with considerable expertise in creating and using indicators in their respective fields of study. The ultimate product is a result of the work that took place in close collaboration with editors on the conceptual models that frame the issues. Furthermore, the indicators unbundle central social, economic and environmental issues into 12 distinctive domains of quality of life instead of single composite index. The indicators also reveal the underlying trends and deeper processes that accompany the daily reported news events. Lastly, the indicators also identify interfaces with other domains, allowing a systemic overview of our society which is often concealed by aggregation of traditional indices.

Basically, the goal of these indicators is to inform and present a framework through which one can understand and assess salient national trends, using rigorous empirical techniques and reliable data. Each indicator provides a road map into its subject, explaining leading concepts and detailing national trends though time-series data. National statistical information is presented on a host of variables included in each indicator. Information is provided in language accessible to those not necessarily schooled in the fields examined. By placing statistics in this context, the report hopes to increase citizen understanding, in turn increasing citizen influence and effectiveness.

Also unique to this project is the development of a model for each indicator that serves as a frame through which the underlying phenomena can be clearly organized, examined and understood. The model outlines and prioritizes key concepts and relationships that are central to understanding each domain. The models reveal explicitly what is and what is not included in the indicator, the type of data presented and how to expand upon the information.

The Calvert-Henderson models reflect the unique nature of scholarly research and data collection in each field of study. For example, while the ruman rights indicator is grounded in

Available from: 
Calvert Group ltd. 4550 Montgomery Avenue, Bethseda, MD 20814, 800-368-2748, USA

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