2015 Northwest Arkansas Quality of Life Survey
Northwest Arkansas Quality of Life
- Northwest Arkansas Quality of Life
- Parks & Trails
- Arts & Culture Attendance
- Attendance at Crystal Bridges
- Education in Northwest Arkansas
- Education Options
- Downtown Areas
- Transportation & Infrastructure
- Full Report
In general, Northwest Arkansas residents are happy and believe they have a high quality of life. 95% of residents reported being “very happy” or “fairly happy.” 72% of residents rated their overall quality of life as “excellent” or “very good” (up from 59% in 2012). Three survey questions focused on how happy residents were with life overall, how they would rate their quality of life, whether they consider themselves happy and whether they felt their quality of life had improved in the past year.
Common themes about what most influences quality of life were family, finances and health. Our overall interpretation of survey responses is that residents see the lifestyle in the area as appealing, and survey results suggest that this is, in part, due to foundation investments in areas such as education, trails and museums. At the same time, it is also fair to say there are likely other factors, such as low-crime rates, smaller town feel, and good social ties that may contribute as well.
Parks and trails are the most used amenities in Northwest Arkansas, with 83% of residents reporting using parks and 69% reporting using trails.
While higher-income residents were typically more likely to report using the local trail system, there were high rates of trail use reported among all income levels. However, there was a difference in trail usage by metro area. Bentonville (81%) and Fayetteville (71%) had the highest reported trail use, with Rogers at 61% and Springdale at 53%.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is the most used arts and culture facility in Northwest Arkansas at 63% of residents visiting in the last 12 months, followed by Walton Arts Center at 48% and the Arkansas Music Pavilion (AMP) at 42%.
There was an increase of 21 percentage points in resident attendance at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Hispanic attendance rates at Crystal Bridges increased from 30% in 2012 to 62% in 2015.
Overall, 75%-81% of respondents perceived the quality of elementary school through higher education to be of good or very good quality. 68% reported that daycare or Pre-K options in the region are high quality, but only 28% believed that they are affordable.
56% of residents agreed or strongly agreed that having school options would be good for the community, which is an increase of five percentage points over 2012 results. Only 15% disagreed or strongly disagreed, a decrease of six percentage points since 2012.
Overall, 34% of respondents reported an increase in visits to downtown areas over the past year, while 51% reported no change.
The use of farmers markets, seeking entertainment and downtown dining was higher for wealthier residents, but the use of downtowns for other purposes did not differ by income category. Our key findings indicate that Northwest Arkansas residents generally feel safe in downtown areas, with 96% reporting feeling safe during the day and 83% reporting feeling safe after dark.
Mass transit was identified as a desired amenity by 29% of residents, with multiracial and non-Hispanic residents reporting mass transit as a priority over other races and ethnicities.
The survey also asked questions about the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. Only 41% of residents said the airport provided adequate routes, which is down from 49% reported in 2012. Only 26% said flights were affordable.
A complete understanding of quality of life must include both quantitative and qualitative measures. The Walton Family Foundation has long tracked a number of quantitative quality of life indicators in the region related to economic prosperity – such as sales tax revenue, percent of residents with a bachelor’s degree, employment rates, and poverty levels.
In 2012, the foundation collected for the first time qualitative measures using the Northwest Arkansas Quality of Life Survey. The survey was commissioned by the foundation's Evaluation Unit in partnership with the Survey Research Laboratory (SRL) at Mississippi State University and was designed to gauge the extent to which residents are satisfied with life in the region and view Northwest Arkansas as “a great place to live.” In 2015, the Evaluation Unit again commissioned the SRL and Mississippi State University to conduct another survey to determine if the quality of life perceptions of Northwest Arkansas residents had changed over the past three years.
Northwest Arkansas (NWA) was defined as Benton and Washington counties for this survey since this is the region that is the focus of the foundation’s investments.
Survey Purpose and Method
The 2015 Northwest Arkansas Quality of Life Survey has two primary goals:
1. To evaluate the impact of foundation giving in the Northwest Arkansas community by tracking changes over time; and
2. To inform strategic decisions about future grantmaking.
To accomplish these goals, residents were asked to provide their views on areas in which the foundation invests directly and about areas commonly associated with quality of life in which the foundation is not currently investing. SRL surveyed a representative sample of 1,035 residents in Benton and Washington counties between the ages of 20 and 64; there were 99 survey questions.