Applied Research in Quality of Life

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 49–71 | Cite as

Monitoring Perceptions of Social Progress and Pride of Place in a South African Community

  • Valerie MøllerEmail author
  • Sarah Radloff


A social indicators community project was conducted in 2007 to monitor living standards and quality of life in Rhini, a low-income suburb of Grahamstown, Makana Municipality, South Africa. Since 1994, under democratic rule, considerable progress has been made in service delivery to the formerly disadvantaged in South African society in terms of access to housing, infrastructure, and a social safety net to mitigate the high rate of unemployment. A representative cross-sectional household study (n 1020) conducted in 2007 in Rhini found that a positive assessment of the household’s situation and personal life satisfaction did not reflect better living conditions. Lack of income and employment opportunities appeared to dilute gains from higher living standards. The project also inquired into attitudes to place names and a proposed name change for the city under discussion at the time of the survey. It is argued that a place name with which one can identify may be as important as service delivery to enhance community satisfaction and overall quality of life. Dissatisfied residents who had limited access to services and expressed less civic pride were more likely than others to opt for a proposed name change for the city of Grahamstown that would better reflect the country’s new identity and multicultural heritage. It is concluded that a useful pursuit for community quality-of-life studies in countries undergoing social transformation will be to inquire into the complex combination of factors that drive perceptions of material and symbolic progress.


Service delivery Living standards Life satisfaction Community quality of life Place names Social progress Civic pride 



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the First International Sociological Association Forum, ‘Sociological Research and Public Debate’, Barcelona, Spain, 5–8 September 2008, Working Group WG06 Social Indicators. Conference participation was made possible by a Rhodes University travel grant. The paper is based on a survey supported by a grant from the South Africa–Netherlands Programme on Alternatives in Development (SANPAD). Fieldwork for the survey was commissioned to Development Research Africa. Two reviewers supplied useful comments on an earlier manuscript. While this sponsorship and assistance is gratefully acknowledged, views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to sponsors or others.


  1. Afrobarometer. (2002). Afrobarometer Briefing Paper No. 1 (
  2. Andrews, F., & Withey, S. (1976). Social indicators of wellbeing: American perceptions of quality of life. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  3. Böhnke, P. (2008). Does society matter? Life satisfaction in the enlarged Europe. Social Indicators Research, 87(2), 189–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Butana, K. (2008). ‘Unnecessary bureaucracy’ delays housing. Residents wait for houses for over 15 years. Grocott’s Mail, Grahamstown. 14 October. p. 5.Google Scholar
  5. Campbell, A., Converse, P. E., & Rodgers, W. L. (1976). The quality of American life. New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  6. Carter, J., Dyer, P., & Sharma, B. (2007). Dis-placed voices: sense of place and place-identity on the Sunshine Coast. Social & Cultural Geography, 8(5), 755–773.Google Scholar
  7. Cohen, S. B., & Kliot, N. (1992). Place-names in Israel’s ideological struggle over the administered territories. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 82(4), 653–680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. D’Agostini, L. R., & Fantini, A. C. (2008). Quality of life and quality of living conditions in rural areas. Social Indicators Research, 89(3), 487–499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Delhey, J., Böhnke, P., Habich, R., & Zapf, W. (2002). Quality of life in a European perspective: the Euromodule as a new instrument for comparative welfare research. Social Indicators Research, 58(1), 163–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dickow, H., & Møller, V. (2002). South Africa’s ’rainbow people’, national pride and optimism: a trend study. Social Indicators Research, 59(2), 175–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Diener, E., & Suh, E. (1997). Measuring quality of life: economic, social and subjective indicators. Social Indicators Research, 40(1–2), 189–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Easterlin, R. A. (1995). Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all? Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 27(1), 35–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eckersley, R. (2001). The mixed blessings of material progress: diminishing returns in the pursuit of happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 1(3), 267–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gill, G. (2005). Changing symbols: the renovation of Moscow place names. The Russian Review, 64, 480–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Govender, P., & van Rooyen, K. (2009). Schools in suburbs swamped. Sunday Times, Johannesburg, 22 February, p. 5.Google Scholar
  16. Guyot, S., & Seethal, C. (2007). Identity of place, places of identities: change of place names in post-apartheid South Africa. South African Geographical Journal, 89(1), 55–63.Google Scholar
  17. Huschka, D., & Mau, S. (2006). Social anomie and racial segregation in South Africa. Social Indicators Research, 76(3), 467–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jenkins, E. (2007). Falling into place: The story of modern South African names. Clarement: David Philip.Google Scholar
  19. Kearns, R. A., & Berg, L. D. (2002). Proclaiming place: towards a geography of place name pronunciation. Social & Cultural Geography, 3(3), 283–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lund, F. (2008). Changing social policy: The child support grant in South Africa. Cape Town: Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).Google Scholar
  21. Manona, C. W. (1987). Land tenure in an urban area. Development Southern Africa, 4(3), 569–581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Marans, R. W. (2003). Understanding environmental quality through quality of life studies: the 2001 DAS and its use of subjective and objective indicators. Landscape and Urban Planning, 65(1–2), 75–85.Google Scholar
  23. Meiring, B. (2008). Proudly South African: a toponymical excursion. Language Matters, 39(2), 280–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Memela, S., Mautjane, B., Nzo, T., & van Hoof, P. (Eds.). (2008). The state of local governance in South Africa: What does the Local Government Barometer tell us? Cape Town: Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa).Google Scholar
  25. Ministry in the Office of the President. (1995). Reconstruction and Development Programme: Key indicators of poverty. Pretoria: South African Communication Services.Google Scholar
  26. Møller, V. (Ed.) (2001a). Living in Grahamstown East/Rini: A social indicators report. Research Report Series No. 6, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Rhodes University, Grahamstown. Rhodes University Repository:
  27. Møller, V. (2001b). Growing up in Grahamstown East/Rini: A sample survey of youth 15–24 years. Research Report Series No. 9, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Rhodes University, Grahamstown.Google Scholar
  28. Møller, V. (2003). Quality of life and positive youth development in Grahamstown East, South Africa. In M. J. Sirgy, D. Rahtz, & A. C. Samli (Eds.), Advances in quality-of-life theory and research (pp. 53–79). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  29. Møller, V. (2007). Satisfied and dissatisfied South Africans: results from the general household survey in international comparison. Social Indicators Research, 81(2), 389–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Møller, V. (2008). Living in Rhini: A 2007 update on the 1999 social indicators report. Research Report Series No. 14, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Rhodes University, Grahamstown. Rhodes University Repository
  31. Rabkin, F. 2009. Jo’burg to challenge Phiri water ruling. Business Day, Johannesburg, 23 February. P. 3.Google Scholar
  32. Snowball, J. (2008). Measuring the value of culture: Methods and examples in cultural economics. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  33. South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR). (2007). South Africa Survey 2006/2007. Johannesburg: SAIRR.Google Scholar
  34. Stedman, R. C. (1999). Sense of place as an indicator of community sustainability. Forestry Chronicle, 75(5), 765–770.Google Scholar
  35. Tweed, C., & Sutherland, M. (2007). Built cultural heritage and sustainable urban development. Landscape and Urban Planning, 83(1), 62–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Veenhoven, R. (2000). The four qualities of life: ordering concepts and measures of the good life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 1(1), 1–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Veenhoven, R. (2002). Why social policy needs subjective indicators. Social Indicators Research, 58(1–3), 33–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Vogel, J. (1994). Social indicators and social reporting. Statistical Journal of the United Nations, 11, 241–260.Google Scholar
  39. Vogel, J. (1997). The future direction of social indicators research. Social Indicators Research, 42(2), 103–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wee, H.-L. (2000). Quality of life assessment: Is quality of place an appropriate proxy? In F. T. Seik, L. L. Yuan & G. W. K. Mie (Eds.), Planning for a better quality of life in cities (pp. 54–69). Singapore: School of Building and Real Estate, National University of Singapore.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V./The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Social and Economic ResearchRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Statistics DepartmentRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations