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Community spirit can affect local economic growth, survey finds

November 15, 2010 |  4:22 pm

PleasantvilleDespite our fast-paced, gadget-heavy lifestyles, a recent Gallup study says many Americans are still chasing down fantasies of settling down in Pleasantville.

According to the study, a community’s social offerings, its openness to different social groups and its beauty trump  perceptions of local economy, leadership, jobs and basic services  when it comes to how the community's residents invest in its economic growth of their community. Emotional attachment to a community can also lead to local economic growth, according to the study.

“Our theory is that when the 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,” said Jon Clifton, deputy director of the Gallup World Poll.

Produced in conjunction with the Knight Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting journalistic causes, the Knight Soul of the Community survey was conducted in 26 communities across the country.

The California cities surveyed were San Jose and Long Beach. What? No L.A.?

In a recent statement, Gallup states that the cities with the highest levels of resident love and passion for their community, or resident attachment, also had the highest rates of GDP growth over time.

The cities surveyed vary in terms of population size and how urban or rural they are. Gallup randomly surveyed 43,000 adults by phone in cities including Akron, Ohio, Tallahassee, Fla., and Detroit.

Paula Ellis, a spokesperson for the Knight Foundation,  said the findings point to a new trend when it comes to choosing a city to live in. “It’s especially valuable as we aim to strengthen our communities during this tough economic time,” Ellis said. The survey — conducted from 2008 to 2010 — was consistent despite declines in the economy.

Clifton said the study offers “new approaches for communities to organize themselves to attract business, keep residents and holistically improve their local economic vitality.”

Find the full study here.

-- Nathan Jackson