Northwest Arkansas Residents Report High Quality of Life
BENTONVILLE, Ark., Sept. 12, 2019 – Northwest Arkansas residents continue to view the region as a great place to live, with 95% of residents reporting being “very happy” or “fairly happy.” According to the latest Quality of Life Survey Report commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation, residents in Benton and Washington counties are generally satisfied with the region’s overall quality of life. The survey also highlights affordability and infrastructure trends that could limit access to key amenities.
“The survey allows to us understand how the initiatives we support in Northwest Arkansas enrich lives and help the region retain its unique identity,” said Karen Minkel, Walton Family Foundation Home Region Program director. “The findings also bring attention to emerging issues that could compromise access to opportunity as the region continues to grow, partly because of its national reputation as a great place to live.”
The 2018 Quality of Life Survey tracked progress over the past seven years in the foundation’s efforts to provide educational opportunities, cultural experiences, access to nature, better mobility and support for entrepreneurs in Benton and Washington counties.
Highlights of the 2018 Quality of Life Survey include:
- Greater use of cultural amenities: Residents reported significant increases in attendance across key arts and culture amenities, leading with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Seventy-one percent of residents reported visiting the museum over the last 12 months, up from 63% in 2015. Since 2012, the museum also experienced a substantial increase in reported attendance rates for all races, including an increase of 43 percentage points among Hispanics. Residents reported higher use of other cultural entities, including the Arkansas Music Pavilion at 53%, The Jones Center at 44% and the Amazeum at 36%.
- Recognition of high-quality education options: As many as 76% of respondents perceived the region’s elementary school through higher education options to be “good” or “very good quality.” Forty-nine percent perceived daycare offerings to be “high quality.”
- Enhanced trail and park use: Residents reported trails as the third most-used amenity behind parks and Crystal Bridges. Bentonville residents reported the highest trail use at 74%, down from a high of 81% in 2015. Fayetteville was not significantly different from 2015. Rogers and Springdale followed at 68% and 66%, respectively, representing a significant increase for both cities since 2015. Eighty-one percent of residents used parks.
- Increased visits to downtowns: Thirty-six percent of respondents reported visiting the region’s downtown areas more frequently over the last year while 49% reported no change. Residents were most likely to go to downtowns to dine, shop or visit farmers’ markets. Respondents did not view crime as a problem in downtowns or elsewhere in the region.
- A regional desire for additional transportation options: Fifty-two percent of residents said the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) provided flights at convenient times. Forty-four percent said it provided adequate routes. When asked their number one preference among their top-three desired amenities, mass transit rose to the top of the list.
- Growing diversity and inclusion: Eighty-seven percent of residents said they felt accepted by people in the local community. However, African Americans reported a higher non-acceptance rate at 26% than whites at 4% and Hispanics at 3%. Sixty-four percent of residents appreciated exposure to different lifestyles and cultures, significantly higher than 60% in 2015 and 59% in 2012.
- Concerns over affordability: The survey highlighted perceptions of affordability issues in several areas. Daycare: Only 22% of residents considered daycare services to be affordable. Airfare: Twenty-eight percent of residents said flights at XNA were affordable. However, it’s important to note the airport added lower cost flight options in the months following the survey. Health care: Nineteen percent of residents reported being unable to afford needed medical care, a significant improvement from 31% in 2012. Lower income residents continued to report concerns about health care affordability, access and quality at higher rates than wealthier individuals.
There were also differences in the use of certain amenities, which wealthier individuals reported accessing more often. These included downtown dining and farmers’ markets; attendance at cultural amenities such as Crystal Bridges and the Walton Arts Center; and likelihood of accessing a trail system, even though there were high rates of trail use among all income levels.
The foundation commissioned the Survey Research Laboratory (SRL) at Mississippi State University to measure the extent to which residents in Benton and Washington counties were satisfied with life in the region. SRL surveyed nearly 1,000 respondents in the two counties to assess trends and critical issues for residents.
The Walton Family Foundation works to build opportunity in its home region to support the communities where Sam and Helen Walton first found opportunity. In Northwest Arkansas, those efforts enable one of the nation’s best places to live to further that status by building on what has always made the region special and evolving to meet the needs of a growing population of all ages, incomes and cultures.
About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. The children and grandchildren of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. In 2018, the foundation awarded more than $595 million in grants in support of these initiatives. To learn more, visit waltonfamilyfoundation.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.