Other articles by the same author
Recently, in my article about the standard of living in Grand Rapids, I placed a poll for readers to weigh in about their experiences and whether their standard of living had changed in the past five years and in the past 10 years. Almost immediately after publishing it, I realized the poll questions wouldn't give me enough to go on, but here is what they told me:
- 55 people responded in total. Of those 55, 55% (ha!) said their standard of living was in some way better than five years ago, and 59% said their standard of living was in some way better than 10 years ago.
- 37% said their standard of living was in some way worse than five years ago, and 31% said their standard of living was in some way worse than 10 years ago.
- 8% said their standard of living was the same as five years ago, and 9% said their standard of living was the same as 10 years ago.
Interestingly, the initial responses were far more positive than the later responses. Most people took the poll within the first day of it being posted. These responses were very nearly universally positive. Those who took the poll 2 or more days later were far more negative about their current standard of living. I wondered if this was merely coincidence.
The majority of people taking the poll were enjoying better standards of living now than previously, but most interesting was the fact that so few were in similar situations as they were five or 10 years ago; they had moved either up or down. Is the lack of stasis good or bad?
As I mentioned, I realized that I would not get enough information to determine why Rapidian users might feel their standard of living had improved or declined, so I've made a second survey in an attempt to make out more of the picture of life in our city. Besides more of the typical poll questions about income, age and marital status, I've added questions about food security, housing adequacy and access to health care. It's easy to focus on income, but, frankly, money - or the lack of it - is only one factor in standard of living, although we've become accustomed to relying upon it in our economy. Worldwide, people manage to house, feed and entertain themselves on considerably less money and may consider themselves happier in far less affluent places. Arrangements can also be made to provide for children, the elderly and the sick that do not rely on institutions, but family. Billions of people worldwide are grateful to have manual labor jobs, and would be grateful to trade up to a U.S. standard of living, even one we'd consider poor. Standard of living is a relatively complex concept, enmeshed as it is with personal happiness and satisfaction and comparison to others' lifestyles. What I am talking about here is not whether we in Grand Rapids have what we want, but do we have enough?
Please do take the poll. I hope it will give a more pixilated picture of live here in Grand Rapids.
Rachel Potter has lived with her family in the Riverside Gardens neighborhood for 16 years. She is passionate about better living through food, exercise, sleep, herbalism, and community building.
Reports on: Food, herbalism, dogs, Creston