Economic development is about more than increasing jobs and income. Ultimately, it is about improving the standard and quality of life. Of course, the economy and economic development are just not the only factors affecting the quality of life and the efforts to improve it. Health care, education, public infrastructure, the availability of affordable housing and others also affect the quality of life.
In an effort to sort through the various major influences on the quality of life and give the concept measureable dimensions, DBEDT and the UH Center on the Family partnered to develop a comprehensive set of indicators. The goal was to identify the most important qualify of life factors at both the state and county levels and to find measures that could be compared to the nation as a whole. For the most part these goals were achieved.
The UH Center on the Family reviewed numerous studies on the quality of life and hundreds of potential indicators to arrive at the 67 metrics that comprise the Hawaii quality of life measures and indexes for both the state and county levels.
Overall, the study shows that the state ranks above the nation as a whole in quality of live. Using data from 2000 to 2008, the study found that economic conditions were Hawaii’s strongest quality of life advantage over the nation, followed by health, the environment and social factors. Hawaii fell below the nation in quality of life related to housing & transportation, and matched the nation in terms of educational factors.
The study also looked at the direction of recent changes in the six quality of life categories. Economic factors showed the strongest positive change from 2000 to 2008, followed by education and the environment. Overall measures in the health category slipped modestly over the period, while housing & transportation measures remained about the same.
Funds provided by the Governor and Legislature under Act 148 (2007) made the study possible. Act 148 also established a program of growth industry and innovation research in DBEDT.
These indicators provide a valuable benchmark for monitoring and improving the quality of life in Hawaii and will be updated annually. They will be used to help identify strengths and weaknesses in quality of life factors impacting residents’ standard of living as well as factors affecting Hawaii’s ability to attract and retain skilled workers and high growth companies.