Groundbreaking new study reveals strong access to recreational areas, safe spaces in State College

The Knight Foundation-commissioned report also reveals while most residents feel these amenities are important, a national gap in access exists along racial and economic lines.

STATE COLLEGE, PA – A new landmark study commissioned by Knight Foundation and conducted by the Urban Institute finds that most State College metro area residents report easy access to recreational areas and safe places to live, work and play. However, national data from the study may suggest a gap along racial and economic lines in accessing these amenities in urban communities such as Greater State College.

The study, “Community Ties: Understanding what attaches people to the place where they live,” also finds that Greater State College residents report higher rates of community investment as compared to other urban communities.

Here are other key State College findings: 

  • In State College, more residents volunteer with local organizations in the community (50%) as compared with the national average of 45%.
  • State College residents report easy access to recreational areas (91%) and safe spaces to live, work and play (95%) — both far above the national averages of 85% and 77%.
  • Nationally, this study found that while recreational areas and safe spaces ultimately could create more attachment between residents and their community, low-income residents and residents of color often feel that these amenities are less accessible to them than higher-income, white residents.

“This study indicates that State College has cultivated a strong connection between residents and their community,” said Lilly Weinberg, Knight’s senior director of community and national initiatives. “It’s important to continue building upon that connection, and addressing issues of equity through strategic investments. By better integrating the university with the downtown area, State College can continue to create an even more desirable place to live, work and play.”

Conducted prior to the COVID-19 shutdowns, Community Ties leverages a survey of over 11,000 Americans residing in metro areas across the country — including State College — to create one of the richest datasets on what drives attachment to place. 

  • Those with access to quality of life amenities such as arts, recreational areas and safe places to live, work and play reported a deeper attachment to their community, compared with those who did not.
  • The State College data reveals how attached local residents are to the State College metro area and where gaps in access exist across urban amenities. It offers points of consideration for such leaders such as boosting time in the city, focusing on quality of life and paying attention to issues of equity, to strengthen residents’ ties to their communities.

As cities plan for a post-COVID-19 world and reckon with racial justice, the report provides knowledge for public officials and other community leaders to help make cities more resilient, urban public spaces more equitable, and think anew about how to build places where people want to live, work, play and stay. 

To see how your city compares in different areas with other Knight communities and the national averages, go to our interactive website

For interviews, please contact Alexa Lamanna at [email protected] or 202-320-2766.

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About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit kf.org.

About Urban Institute  

The nonprofit Urban Institute is a leading research organization dedicated to developing evidence-based insights that improve people’s lives and strengthen communities. For 50 years, Urban has been the trusted source for rigorous analysis of complex social and economic issues; strategic advice to policymakers, philanthropists and practitioners; and new, promising ideas that expand opportunities for all. Our work inspires effective decisions that advance fairness and enhance the well-being of people and places.


Image (top) by Imani on Unsplash.