Survey says some people aren’t satisfied living in Grand Rapids

gabriella patti

Newly released survey results from the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University show a disparity in how people rank their experience living in the city of Grand Rapids.

The Johnson Center hosted its first Community Research Summit on March 14 on GVSU’s Pew Campus to discuss the findings of the VoiceGR survey.

“We developed this summit to be an extension of our work, giving our community leaders an opportunity to explore the Community Research Institute’s data and to work together to spark innovation through our conversation,” said Jerry Johnson, director of the Community Research Institute.

The survey this year had a sample size of nearly 4,000 residents from Grand Rapids and Kent County.

“One of the first questions that we asked is how do you rate the city of Grand Rapids as a place to live and how do you rate your neighborhood as a place to live,” said Jodi Petersen, senior researcher at the Community Research Institute.

Overall, the results were positive with 87 percent of respondents saying that Grand Rapids is a good place to live. In addition, 79 percent of respondents said they are able to meet their basic needs.

Although the complete results look positive, the researchers questioned whether or not everyone agreed with them.

“When we look a little deeper look into the data, we saw that race, ethnicity, income and education matter,” Petersen said. “On nearly every factor, when we split groups into those categories we saw major disparities. We saw groups that didn’t have quite as easy of a time in Grand Rapids.”

Petersen said that 93 percent of white respondents gave the city an A or B letter grade while only 77 percent of non-white respondents gave it a positive rating.

“People are having major differences in what it means to live in the Grand Rapids area,” she said.

There were similar results in the other areas of unemployment, education level, location above or below the poverty line, and feelings of safety in neighborhoods.

“If you are overall able to meet your needs, you rate the city as better, have a better health status and feel that everything is safer,” Petersen said.

VoiceGR began in 2001 in order to assess the needs of the community as told by its members and then to share the information with policymakers, businesses and nonprofit organizations.

“We wanted this to be a holistic picture of what people were feeling the needs were of their community,” Petersen said.

VoiceGR hopes that community leaders will take this information and use to it to help the community.

“This group of community leaders is going to be able to use this information more meaningfully as we are starting to break the information down into the populations that they serve,” said William Crawley, associate dean for the College of Community and Public Service. “Leaders can use this data to see if their interventions in the community are having the change that they hope it is.”

The full results of the survey are available on the Johnson Center for Philanthropy’s website at

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