This paper reports our experiences with the application of a number of alternative approaches to a study of women's economic circumstances and quality of life in a typical western city. The important work of, especially, Martha Nussbaum on the capabilities approach to evaluations of “quality of life” has highlighted pitfalls associated with the use of a narrow informational base in studies of women's lives and has emphasized the value of qualitative methods in these evaluations. However, to date, most discussions of the relevance of plural approaches to studies of women's lives have been conducted in the context of developing countries. This paper contributes a practical, current example of the relevance of such approaches to assessments of the lives of women in western countries as well. The research findings reported in the paper also cast further light on the importance of several, related themes in the literature on the capabilities approach, namely the importance of understanding how women's aspirations and expectations change with their economic and social experiences; and the importance of appreciating the social uses of language and how this affects the way in which women describe their lives.economic well-being, quality of life, adaptive preferences, qualitative methods, Australia,
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