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What drives attachment to cities

The Knight Foundation recently published a report looking at what attaches people to the place in which they live. To get this information, they surveyed over 11,000 Americans, some of which live in urbanized areas and some of which just live in metro areas across the United States. This is interesting information to know at any time point in time, but you could argue that it’s even more important at a time like this, where everyone seems to be questioning everything about cities.

Here are two of their key findings:

  • People who spend more time in the principal or main city of a metro area — whether as residents or as frequent visitors — tend to be more attached. This is is true both in terms of how they feel, but also in terms of how they act, such as how much they give back to the community. I suppose you could debate whether going to the city creates attachment or whether attached people tend to go to the city, but this association does seem somewhat intuitive to me. I am imagining a greater sense of place in principal cities.
  • People who choose to live in a place because of its quality of life tend to express more attachment than people who live in a place for other reasons — such as for work. About 40% of Miami transplants cited the climate as the primary factor for moving. Sounds right. Weather is pretty hard to control, but there are lots of other things that cities can do to improve quality of life. And it seems to be one of the stickier factors. Similarly, access to cultural activities and recreational amenities seem to lead to greater attachment.

More specifically, here are how some people feel about their metro areas:

This chart is showing the “perceived accessibility to quality features.” The left column is what they believe to be the national average. And the other columns are for Akron, Charlotte, Detroit, Macon, Miami, Philadelphia, San Jose, and St. Paul. Looking at one row in particular — affordable housing — we see that about 50% of Americans surveyed believe they have access to it. In comparison, only 29% and 12% of residents in Miami and San Jose, respectively, feel the same way.

For a full copy of the report, click here.

Chart: Knight Foundation

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