Some argue economic factors drive the small towns of Iowa. Not so fast says one Iowa State professor.
David Peters is an associate professor of Rural Sociology at Iowa State University.
He recently published a study titled “What Drives Quality of Life in Iowa Small Towns?”
“What we found was that the quality of life was not driven by the usual factors we would think. [This means] jobs, income, and poverty. But what really drives high quality of life is people’s civic engagement in their communities and their levels of social capital, which measures trust, support, and affinity for their towns,” Peters said.
Residents of 99 small towns (population between 500 and 6,000) were surveyed in 1994, 2004 and 2014. Peters says the regions varied across the state.
“Generally, the northern tier tended to have the highest quality of life. Areas like north central, northwest Iowa, and the northeast part of the state.”
Comparing north to south, northern towns tended to have a better quality of life because of more productive farm ground. But Peters says there are other ways to make towns better.
“By enhancing civic engagement and social capital of communities, they can improve their quality of life and the reason that should be a priority is because it is inexpensive, a town can do it in the near term, and you don’t need a lot of outside help.”
The data used in the publication is from the Sigma Study. It’s a long-term USDA-funded research effort in Iowa.