A community’s social offerings, its physical beauty and its openness to new and different people are most important to making residents love where they live, according to a Gallup study of 26 U.S. communities completed last fall. It found that the worst economic crisis in decades is not a key factor in attracting and retaining residents.
After interviewing close to 28,000 respondents over two years, the study learned that social offerings such as entertainment venues and places to meet were the top factor in 21 of 26 communities. That quality was followed by how welcoming a place is and the area’s aesthetics – its physical beauty and green spaces.
Access to quality education, whether at the elementary, secondary or college level, was also an important factor.
The top three qualities remained strong over two years of polling, unaffected by the national economic crisis, Gallup said. The levels of residents’ emotional attachment to their towns also remained steady.
Examining how passionate and loyal people are to their communities and local economic growth, researchers saw a significant relationship between the two. For example, from 2002-06, the most attached communities had the highest local GDP growth.
Commented Warren Wright, managing partner for Gallup, which conducted the study with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation:
“While the pain from the recession is deep, other factors far outweigh economics when it comes to determining how emotionally attached people are to their communities.”
The following communities were included in the survey: Aberdeen, S.D., Akron, Ohio, Biloxi, Miss., Boulder, Colo., Bradenton, Fla., Charlotte, N.C., Columbia, S.C., Columbus, Ga., Detroit, Mich., Duluth, Minn., Fort Wayne, Ind., Gary, Ind., Grand Forks, N.D., Lexington, Ky., Long Beach, Calif., Macon, Ga., Miami, Fla., Milledgeville, Ga., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Palm Beach, Fla., Philadelphia, Pa., San Jose, Calif., St. Paul, Minn., State College, Pa., Tallahassee, Fla., Wichita, Kan.
When I look at the cities that are not included, I have to wonder about the validity of the findings. In my layperson’s view, it was a mistake to exclude a metropolis the size of Los Angeles, Chicago or New York.
I could be wrong, but I have to believe people who inhabit the cities that were studied think and act differently from those in other cities. Arguably, the ones in the survey are more like each other than they are like the biggest urban centers.
Does the omnipresence of Starbucks level the playing field in terms of social offerings? Does the relative paucity of community swimming pools in New York give the smaller areas an edge? Doesn’t the social conservatism of many cities rule them out? Does a verdant landscape trump urban vistas?
Wouldn’t Census figures tell us more about what people want from where they choose to move than a study like Gallup’s. Of course, as I’ve said, I’m no expert, but the research somehow smacks of trying to prove a foregone conclusion with sweeping observations. A big lie? Yet the researchers and sponsor are credible.
I could be wrong in my skepticism. It happens.
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022