Landmark study reveals strong access to educational institutions, recreational areas in Grand Forks

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

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – A new groundbreaking study commissioned by Knight Foundation and conducted by the Urban Institute finds that while residents of the Grand Forks metro area report easy access to urban amenities such as educational institutions and recreational areas, national data may suggest that racial and economic disparities exist in accessing these amenities in urban communities such as Greater Grand Forks. 

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

Here are other key Grand Forks findings: 

  • Many Greater Grand Forks residents say their social networks lack diversity across racial (43%), and language barriers (21%) — both below the national averages of 64% and 38%. 
  • Most Grand Forks metro area residents rated K-12 schools (93%) local colleges and universities (94%) and recreational areas (91%) as the most easy to access.
  • 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 there is an opportunity to connect the diverse student populations at local colleges and universities with the larger community in Grand Forks,” said Lilly Weinberg, Knight’s senior director of community and national initiatives. “Through further investment in the corridor between the University of North Dakota and downtown, and developing relationships between the university, residents and local businesses, it’s possible to build even deeper, broader connections across communities that are so critical to tying people to their communities and boosting their quality of 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 Grand Forks — 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 Grand Forks data reveals how attached local residents are to the Grand Forks 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 NESA by Makers on Unsplash.