A three-year Gallup study of twenty-six U.S. cities has found that residents' love and passion for their community may be a leading indicator for local economic growth.
Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the study, Knight Soul of the Community 2010 (36 pages, PDF), assessed the connection between local economic growth and residents' emotional bond to a place in cities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Among other things, the study found that cities with the highest levels of resident attachment also had the highest GDP growth rate over time. Indeed, quality-of-life elements — social offerings, openness, and aesthetics — consistently rated higher than perceptions of the economy, job availability, or basic services in creating a lasting emotional bond between people and their community. Moreover, despite a decline in economic indicators since the study began, researchers found that the link between local GDP and residents' emotional bonds to a community remained steady.
With support from the Knight Foundation, three of the cities included in the survey — Miami, Charlotte, and Detroit — will work to transform themselves by implementing projects that build on the findings of the study.
"This survey offers new approaches for communities to organize themselves to attract businesses, keep residents, and holistically improve their local economic vitality," said Gallup World Poll deputy director Jon Clifton. "Our theory is that when a community's residents are highly attached, they will spend more time there, spend more money, they're more productive, and tend to be more entrepreneurial. The study bears out that theory and now provides all community leaders the knowledge they need to make a sustainable impact on their community."