Landmark study: Aberdeen residents report high levels of community investment

The Knight Foundation-commissioned report shows residents report easy access to recreational areas and feel they are important, though a national gap in access exists.

ABERDEEN, S.D. – A new groundbreaking study commissioned by Knight Foundation and conducted by the Urban Institute finds that Aberdeen metro area residents invest more in their community than residents of other urban areas. The findings also show that while Aberdeen residents report easy access to recreational areas, national data may suggest that racial and economic disparities in accessing these areas may exist in urban communities such as Greater Aberdeen.

  • Many Greater Aberdeen residents invest more back into their community than the national average. Fifty-nine percent volunteered for a local group or organization in the last year, compared to the national average of 45%. And 78% of Aberdeen residents donated to local organizations. 
  • Most residents (90%) have easy access to recreational areas, above the national average (85%). 
  • Nationally, this study found that while recreational areas 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 shows that Aberdeen residents are not only connected, but invested in their community,” said Lilly Weinberg, Knight’s senior director of community and national initiatives. “Aberdeen can continue to build on this positive momentum by working to connect Northern State University to the larger community through continued investment in shared recreation spaces, which will create even more resident attachment and increase the vibrancy of local life.” 

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 Aberdeen — 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 Aberdeen data reveals how attached local residents are to the Aberdeen 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 Shaojie on Unsplash.