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New Survey Rates Quality of Life Factors in Northwest Arkansas

February 13, 2013
Majority satisfied with region quality of life and amenities; traffic, pre-K, air travel identified for improvement

BENTONVILLE, ARK., Feb. 13, 2013 – Northwest Arkansas residents are generally happy and believe they have a high quality of life, but would like to see more affordable high-quality pre-K options, cheaper and more frequent flights to more destinations and less traffic, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation.

The survey was conducted by the foundation’s Evaluation Unit and the Survey Research Laboratory at Mississippi State University. Respondents from Washington and Benton counties answered questions about overall perceptions regarding quality of life. Most questions focused on strategic areas of interest for the foundation, though there were also some general interest questions included.

“This survey provides a deeper look at what quality of life means in northwest Arkansas, beyond just job numbers and tax revenue,” said Rob Brothers, director of the Walton Family Foundation’s Home Region Focus Area. “The results validate many of the foundation’s investments and provide a baseline from which to measure future investment strategies.”

The foundation commissioned the survey in order to assess its grant making strategy in the northwest Arkansas region. As part of its Home Region Focus Area, the foundation intends to measurably impact the quality of life for northwest Arkansas residents through focused investments in five strategic areas:

  • Economic development and infrastructure
  • Arts and natural amenities
  • Education
  • Diversity outreach
  • Environmental programs

This strategy is driven by a desire to help the region’s major employers attract and keep a high-quality workforce. The foundation is midway through a five-year strategic plan for grant making in the region and made investments of more than $23.5 million to 36 organizations from January 2010 to August 2012.

Researchers reported that in questions that gauged overall quality of life more than 80% of respondents answered favorably on key questions, including:

  • Are you happy with life overall? – 94% positive
  • Do you rate the quality of life as excellent or good? – 85% positive
  • Do you have a sense of pride in the way your city looks? – 83% positive

Respondents shared that the factors most impacting their quality of life are jobs, income and family. Comparing the results to a national survey conducted by the University of Chicago, northwest Arkansans (94%) are happier on average as a group compared to the nation as a whole (91.5%).
Approximately 25% of those surveyed said they did not have enough money to meet their everyday needs. These residents were mostly white (83%) with children under the age of 18 (60%). The majority is women (51%) with a household income of under $20,000 annually (52%).

Of the residents that have moved to northwest Arkansas in the last five years, 55% said they did so for their job, salary or career, while 16% did so because of friends and family in the region and 8% did so because they believe northwest Arkansas is a good place to live.

Of the area amenities, those that the foundation invests in appear to be among the most popular. Respondents reported using foundation-supported amenities at the following levels:

  • Local trails - 63%
  • Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art - 42%
  • The Jones Center - 41%
  • Walton Arts Center - 40%

Among the high points were the availability of amenities such as local trails, the Walton Arts Center and also The Jones Center. Respondents indicated they frequently use these facilities. Survey respondents indicated they would like to see improvements in traffic congestion, the affordability and quality of pre-K programs and airline ticket prices at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.

Survey results are being made available publicly so that other leading organizations and residents in the region can make informed decisions about shaping the future of northwest Arkansas. The foundation plans to conduct and share this survey on a biannual basis.