Living in a Grand city

The Grand Valley State University Johnson Center for Philanthropy, an academic center within the College of Community and Public Service, recently released the results from the 2014 VoiceGR survey. The results indicate that most people feel positively about living in Grand Rapids.

Jodi Petersen, senior researcher at the Community Research Institute, explained that the Johnson Center has conducted the survey annually since 2001. In 2013, the format changed from primarily phone calls to online and in-person questioning.

“We are really working on increasing the number of people taking the survey and splitting it by demographics,” Petersen said.

Eighty percent of people who responded to the VoiceGR between Sept. 15 and Dec. 1, 2014 gave Grand Rapids either an ‘A’ for excellent or a ‘B’ for good. In addition, city dwellers were asked questions about topics such as safety, work, healthcare, the economy and the ability to meet their basic needs.

“The hope is that the survey will provide feedback to better understand what’s happening in the neighborhoods,” Petersen said.

Despite the overall positive outlook, Petersen acknowledged that there is still work to be done to disclose some disparities the survey highlights. For instance, different demographic, geographic and socioeconomic groups have different experiences within the same city.

According to the Johnson Center’s website, 76 percent of respondents said they can afford to meet their needs very or fairly well based on their current income, but this statistic changes depending on the person’s race and education level. Fifty-two percent of Hispanic/Latino people said they could afford their basic needs, while 83 percent of Asian or Pacific Islanders said they can meet theirs.

Fifty-three percent of those with less than a high school education indicated that they could meet their basic needs, and 88 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher could meet theirs. For those who cannot meet their basic needs, top concerns include utilities, food, shelter and healthcare.

As for the general West Michigan atmosphere, 11 percent of residents said racism is very much an issue in their community, and 33 percent said it is somewhat an issue. Thirty-three percent of people reported feeling discriminated against in the past year.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents said the economy and jobs should be the top area for improvement in their community. Crime, public safety and transportation were other topics people thought should be improved.

Petersen said the impact on college students is also a factor.

“College students at Grand Valley are looking for ways to make the community better,” Petersen said. “We want to help people see they do have a voice in decision making. The hope is that it can help provide that feedback loop.”

According to a 2014-2015 GVSU Accountability Report, 89.9 percent of recent graduates are employed or in graduate school, while 86.3 percent of graduates are employed in Michigan. In addition, 81.4 percent of graduates are employed in Michigan while 71.5 percent are employed in West Michigan.

For the full results of the VoiceGR survey, visit