Community Attachment

Cornhusker Economics January 10, 2018Relationships between Connection to Community, Perceived Community Outcomes and Individual Well-Being

Community attachment or connection to a community has been shown to be related to numerous items. The Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community project found positive correlations between community attachment and local GDP growth. They also found higher levels of community attachment were related to community social offerings, openness of the community to different types of people and aesthetics of the community. Community attachment has also been related to decreased mobility of residents (people attached to their community are more likely to want to stay there). However, is community attachment also related to perceived change in the community and perceived powerlessness of the community? In addition, is community attachment related to individual well-being? Data from the 2017 Nebraska Rural Poll (conducted in the spring of 2017) can examine these questions.

The Knight Foundation defines community attachment as an emotional connection to a place that transcends satisfaction, loyalty and even passion. Attachment can be operationalized in various ways. In the 2017 Nebraska Rural Poll, respondents were asked the extent to which they agree or disagree with various statements about their community. Two of those items cover emotional connection: “I feel connected to this community” and “I have a good bond with others in this community.” Most rural Nebraskans agree or strongly agree that they have a good bond with others in their community (63%) and that they feel connected with their community (54%).

These two items were combined to create a scale of community connection. The values of this scale range from 2 to 10. For these analyses, the responses were divided into two categories: low connection (values of 6 or less) and high connection (values of 7 or more).

Community connection has a positive relationship to perceived community change. Persons with higher levels of connection to their community are more likely than persons with less connection to believe their community has changed for the better this past year. Over four in ten (43%) persons with high levels of connection to the community say their community has changed for the better, compared to less than one-quarter (24%) of persons with low levels of community connection. This same pattern occurs when asked about the future of their community. One-third (33%) of persons with high levels of community connection believe their community will be a better place to live ten years from now, compared to less than one in five (19%) persons with low levels of connection to their community.

Community Change
WorseAbout the sameBetter
When you think about this past year, would you say…My community has changed for the
Lower levels of community connection 26% 51% 24%
Higher levels of community connection 13% 44% 43%
Based on what you see of the situation today, do you think that in ten years from now your community will be a worse place to live, a better place or about the same?
Lower levels of community connection 28% 53% 19%
Higher levels of community connection 13% 54% 33%

While perceptions of community change are important to gauge residents’ feelings about how their community is doing now and how they think it will operate in the future, measuring their feelings about the perceived powerlessness of their community can help determine if residents believe their community is capable of achieving its desired future. There is a relationship between connection to the community and its perceived powerlessness. Persons with high levels of connection to their community are more likely than persons with less connection to disagree that their community is powerless to control its own future, 67% compared to 51%.

Community Connection and Perceptions of Community Powerlessness

Graph depicting relationship between community connection and community powerlessness

Now the relationships between connection to community and individual well-being and quality of life are examined. There is a positive relationship between connection to a community and individual well-being. Persons with high levels of connection to their community are more likely than persons with low levels of connection to believe they are better off compared to five years ago (58% and 43%, respectively). And, the same relationship occurs when asked about expected future well-being. Just over one-half (51%) of persons with high levels of connection to their community expect to be better off ten years from now, compared to 44 percent of persons with low levels of community connection.

Individual Well-Being
WorseAbout the sameBetter
When you think about this past year, would you say…My community has changed for the
Lower levels of community connection 24% 33% 43%
Higher levels of community connection 11% 31% 58%
Based on what you see of the situation today, do you think that in ten years from now your community will be a worse place to live, a better place or about the same?
Lower levels of community connection 21% 35% 44%
Higher levels of community connection 12% 37% 51%

Similarly, there is a positive relationship between connection to community and satisfaction with quality of life. Nine in ten (90%) persons with high levels of connection to their community are satisfied with their general quality of life. In comparison, just under seven in ten (69%) persons with low levels of connection to their community are satisfied with their general quality of life.

Community Connection and Quality of Life

Graph depicting relationship between community connection and quality of life

In summary, high levels of connection to their community are related to positive perceived change in the community, low levels of perceived community powerlessness, higher individual well-being and higher satisfaction with quality of life. While this relationship does not imply causation, it is important to consider in community development work. If stronger connections are fostered between residents and their community, positive outcomes such as economic and population growth can occur.

 

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Becky Vogt
Department of Agricultural Economics
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
rvogt2@unl.edu

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