Landmark study reveals social circles of Wichita residents lack diversity

The Knight Foundation-commission study also reveals that Greater Wichita residents report easy access to recreational areas and feel they are important, but a national gap in access exists.

WICHITA, Kan. – A new groundbreaking study commissioned by Knight Foundation and conducted by the Urban Institute finds that while most Wichita metro area residents report easy access to recreational areas, national data may suggest that racial and economic disparities exist in accessing these amenities in urban communities such as Greater Wichita. 

The study, “Community Ties: Understanding what attaches people to the place where they live,” also finds that social networks of Greater Wichita residents lack diversity across barriers of race and language. 

Here are other key Wichita findings: 

  • Many Greater Wichita residents say their social networks lack diversity across racial (57%) and language barriers (33%) — both below the national averages of 64% and 48%. 
  • Most residents feel they have access to critical amenities such as recreational areas (87%).
  • 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 Wichita continues to connect residents to what they feel is necessary in their community,” said Lilly Weinberg, Knight’s senior director of community and national initiatives. “By investing in physical connections between areas such as the downtown and riverfront, which have tremendous opportunity and entrepreneurship, Wichita could further explore opportunities to improve diverse engagement between community members. Through strategic community investments, Wichita can continue to build a community where current residents, and eventually visitors and new residents, feel deeply connected to one another and the city itself.” 

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 Wichita — 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 Wichita data reveals how attached local residents are to the Wichita 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.

###

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 Alexis Brown on Unsplash.