Social Indicators Research

, Volume 115, Issue 1, pp 441–456 | Cite as

What Defines Quality of Life? The Gap Between Public Policies and Locally Defined Indicators Among Residents of Kodagu, Karnataka (India)

  • Francisco Zorondo-RodríguezEmail author
  • Erik Gómez-Baggethun
  • Kathryn Demps
  • Pere Ariza-Montobbio
  • Claude García
  • Victoria Reyes-García


Improving quality of life (QoL) is one of the main goals of many public policies. A useful tool to measure QoL needs to get a good balance between indicators guided by theories (top-down approach) and indicators defined by local people (bottom-up approach). However, QoL measurement tools often neglect to include elements that define the standard of living at local level. In this paper, we analyse the correspondence between human development index, as an indicator adopted by governments to assess QoL, and the elements defined by local people as important in their QoL, called here local means. Using a free-listing technique, we collected information from 114 individuals from Kodagu, Kartanataka (India), to capture local means defining QoL. We then compared local means with the indicators used by Human development report (HDR) of Karnataka, the main measurement tool of QoL in Kodagu. The list of local means included access to basic facilities and many issues related to agriculture and natural resources management as elements locally defining QoL. We also found that HDR does not capture the means defined by people as indicators of QoL. Our findings suggest an important gap between current QoL’s indicators considered by public policies and the means of QoL defined by people. Our study provides insights for a set of plausible local indicators useful to achieve a balance between top-down and bottom-up approaches for the local public policies.


Quality of life Human well-being Local means Human development index Kodagu India 



This research was funded by NSF- Cultural Anthropology Program (BSC-0726612) and ANR-French National Research Agency Project (ANR-05-PADD-0XX Public Policies and Traditional Management of Trees and Forests -POPULAR). We greatly appreciate the hospitality, kindness, and friendship of people from Kodagu. We are also grateful to P. Vaast, K.T. Vaast, and C.G. Kushalappa. Thanks to Sumanth and Govind for help with translations. F. Zorondo-Rodríguez thanks the economic support provided by the "Presidente de la República" scholarship (CONICYT, Chile). We appreciate the comments and editing support by H. Leach, A. Luz, D. Calvo, and M. Aguado. We thank the Forest Department of Karnataka (India) for providing the permits to conduct this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francisco Zorondo-Rodríguez
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Erik Gómez-Baggethun
    • 1
    • 3
  • Kathryn Demps
    • 2
    • 4
  • Pere Ariza-Montobbio
    • 1
  • Claude García
    • 2
    • 5
  • Victoria Reyes-García
    • 2
    • 6
  1. 1.Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia AmbientalsUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  2. 2.Ecology DepartmentFrench Institute of PondicherryPondicherryIndia
  3. 3.Social-Ecological Systems Laboratory, Department of EcologyAutonomous University of MadridMadridSpain
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  5. 5.CIRADRessources forestières et politiques publiquesMontpellierFrance
  6. 6.ICREA and Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia AmbientalsUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain

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