A new study released today by the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University shows more than 80 percent of Grand Rapids area residents would give the city an overall grade of "A" or "B" as a place to live, but ratings varied widely based on home location, race, education and poverty level.

The study is based on the results of the 2015 VoiceGR survey conducted by the Johnson Center last fall. The survey asked area residents questions about the city, safety, work, health care, economy, ability to meet basic needs and more.

Fifty-four percent of survey respondents said they felt racism was "very much" an issue in the U.S. as a whole, but only 15 percent felt it was "very much" an issue in their neighborhood.

The study also showed that a slightly lower percentage of city residents reported not being able to meet their basic needs (21 percent) compared to 2014 (24 percent). Of those who indicated not being able to meet basic needs, 14 percent were employed full time, 21 percent were employed part time, and 29 percent were unemployed.

Other findings from the study include:

  • 15 percent of respondents reported feeling discriminated against in the greater Grand Rapids area monthly, weekly or daily in the last year (down from 33 percent last year). Of those, 52 percent indicated they felt their race/ethnicity was the main reason they felt discriminated against.
  • Residents noted top issues of their neighborhoods as crime/safety, infrastructure (such as traffic and poor road conditions), and lack of community cohesion (such as homelessness/poverty, lack of diversity, and issues with neighbors).
  • Residents noted top strengths of their neighborhoods were the community or people (such as sense of community, people being friendly, welcoming, inclusive, and diverse), and location and infrastructure (such as accessibility to business/commerce, public/social services, parks/recreation, good schools, development, and transportation).
  • 63 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that schools in the community are committed to building each child's strengths.
  • Residents near or below the poverty line were more likely to report having chronic health conditions (anxiety, depression, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, lead poisoning and ADD/ADHD).

The 2015 VoiceGR survey was conducted both through paper and online administration from June 20 - November 15, 2015. Surveys were collected at community events and in conjunction with community organizations.