Allegheny County residents generally perceive that the quality of life in the region has improved in recent years, according to a new University of Pittsburgh survey. But that perception differs based on who was asked.
The Pittsburgh Regional Quality of Life Survey was last released in 2011.
Since then, results indicate that the overall perception of quality of life has gone up. Now, the web-based survey shows that 68 percent of residents believe the area is a “very good” or “excellent” place to live. That’s an 8 percent increase over 2011’s results.
But opinions drastically diverge when the data is broken down by demographic. Only 29 percent of African Americans gave the region such a favorable overall rating. There was also a sizeable gap in 2011’s responses.
This year’s survey also shows that African Americans are more than twice as likely to say that quality of life has declined, and were more likely than white residents to rate their neighborhood as “poor.”
That racial gap was consistent throughout other aspects of the survey.
“You see lots of differences in overall perceived quality of life in aspects of the economy, economic, financial hardships. Economic optimism is lower for African Americans,” said Scott Beach, interim director of The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Social and Urban Research.
According to the survey, nearly twice the rate of white and non-white residents believe race relations are a problem in the area, compared to the results seven years ago. Twenty-seven percent of responders said that it’s a “moderate” or “severe” problem.
“I think some of this is contextualized by some of the things we’ve seen in the news around race relations, social justice, police shootings,” said Beach.
Several other aspects of life in the region were also rated more poorly than in 2011, such as the perception of air and water quality, and road and bridge quality. Beach said this could be a good sign for the area, as more people are aware of challenges that the county faces. He said it could also be indicative of greater media coverage and efforts to improve those challenges.
Beach said the survey is meant to be a broad overview of the perception of life in the region, and that it is difficult to understand the stories behind basic survey results. He said a deeper dive is needed, and that he hopes as the data is disseminated among academics and policy makers next year, and that it can be used as a jumping off point for change and understanding.
WESA receives funding from the University of Pittsburgh.