The study seeks to answer three key questions:
- What makes a community a desirable place to live?
- What draws people to stake their future in it?
- Are communities with more attached residents better off?
The study was launched in 2008, and 28,000 people have been interviewed in 26 communities over two years (including
- Special offerings such as entertainment and cultural venues that serve as places to meet – the top factor in 21 of the 26 communities.
- Openness – how welcoming a place is to different types of people.
- The area’s aesthetics – it’s physical beauty and green spaces
Access to quality education (at all levels, K-12 and higher ed) was also an important factor.
These top three qualities remained consistent over the two year period. Economy eclipsed crime as the top concern in 2008, but neither of these factors was primary in driving the emotional attachment citizens have to their towns and cities. The study also looked at the connection between how passionate and loyal people are to their communities and economic growth. Researchers found a significant connection between the two - the most attached communities had the highest local GDP growth. With other research
I think this research can serve as a persuasive new public policy tool in helping decision-makers understand the role that arts and culture play in a community, including open space and parks, architecture and the built environment. Arts groups play a critical role in providing the connective tissue of a community, creating places where people can come together and share communal experiences. The "openness" finding is also in keeping with Richard Florida's correlation between how welcoming a community is to the LGBT community and how successful it is at attracting and retaining creative workers.
The less than stellar performance in perception of social offerings surprised me, and indicates we have some work to do getting Philadelphia's citizens to recognize the assets available in their community and to take advantage of them. The poor openness showing was less surprising, in that Philadelphia is notoriously insular, a City of neighborhoods filled with families who go back many generations in the City. However - speaking as a relatively new arrival - this is clearly changing. I have found the city to be warmly welcoming. So I think here as well perceptions have not kept pace with reality. The self-image Philadelphians have of their own city tends to be considerably more negative than reality. This was verified in the recent Travel + Leisure magazine poll on American cities, in which Philadelphia was ranked much more highly by visitors than it was by residents.