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Iowa State University Extension

Quality of life is high for Iowa farm families, survey shows

J. Arbuckle

Quality of life is an elusive concept, but ISU Extension researchers are capturing what it means to Iowa farm families. The results of the 2008 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll show the largest increase in assessments of quality of life in a decade, at both the family and community levels, said J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., ISU Extension sociologist who leads the annual survey.

The poll defines quality of life as “degree of satisfaction with all aspects of your life,” Arbuckle said. “Since 1982 we have asked the same set of questions every two years, tracking both ups and downs across the decades as the farm economy and other factors have buoyed or depressed farm families’ assessments of quality of life for themselves, their communities and rural communities across Iowa.”

With grain prices on the rise for much of 2007 and modest economic growth at the state level for the year, Arbuckle and his colleagues expected that ratings of quality of life would increase as well.

Looking at the past five years, 46 percent of the farmers reported that their own families’ quality of life had improved; 35 percent believed that other families in their communities had experienced similar improvements.

Nearly 60 percent of farmers reported that they could not think of any other community where they would rather live, and 75 percent felt their community would be a good place for future generations to raise their families.

Farmers also were optimistic about the next five years, Arbuckle said. Forty-eight percent expected that quality of life for their families would remain at current levels, while 37 percent indicated it would improve. At the community level, 46 percent forecasted that quality of life would stay the same and 27 percent that it would improve.

“Farmers generally were positive or neutral about the overall economic prospects for rural Iowa, with nearly 40 percent anticipating improvements over the next five years,” Arbuckle said. “This is a sharp increase from 2006, when only 19 percent believed that economic prospects would improve, and represents the largest percentage of positive responses on this question since 1988.”

Arbuckle said 1,262 farmers participated in the poll. The 2008 summary report (PM 2067) is available from ISU Extension county offices and the ISU Extension Online Store.

This article appeared in December 2008 -- From Jack Payne Newsletter