We all remember being a child on what seemed like an endless journey to grandma’s house or the grand canyon and asking “Are we there yet?” In America’s cities and towns, we are having one of those “Are we there yet?” moments — although it seems the GPS is malfunctioning and we have lost the ability to chart a course toward our future.
What does “there” look like? how will we know when we are “there”? What are the critical investments we need to make in order to strengthen our regional economies and ensure that America remains globally competitive? What are the attributes of communities and regions that help the people who live and work there succeed? how can we ensure that every child – regardless of what zip code they are born into or the color of their skin — has access to opportunities to improve their lives and contribute to America’s prosperity?
America is confronting serious issues in this second decade of the 21st century: The gap between rich and poor continues to widen, the middle class is shrinking, and nearly one in four children live in poverty. At the same time, the U.S. is in a transitional period in our economy and our demographics are changing, presenting profound possibilities for creating a 21st century America that offers opportunities for all.
Reconnecting America believes that when communities — urban, suburban or rural — offer what people need, we begin to get closer to “there.” We see higher high school graduation rates, reduced rates of obesity and diabetes, and reduced traffic congestion and cleaner air. We see more people walking and biking and engaging in their communities and we see a reduction in crime. Our children live in safe and affordable housing, and we see citizens getting active in the democratic process and the creation of civic environments that foster more economic activity and jobs — which gives the U.S. an economic competitive advantage.
Some of these are measurable outcomes, some we only know when we see and experience them.
In the following chapters we lay out some fundamentals of daily life – how we live, how we work, how we move and how we thrive as individuals, as families, and as a part of communities. We have collected and analyzed data to develop original metrics, and we have studied the metrics others have developed, to come up with an analysis we believe can be useful for helping leaders in cities and regions track how close they are to “there.” We want to highlight some key features that will be described in greater detail throughout this report.
About Reconnecting America
“Reconnecting America is a national nonprofit that advises civic and community leaders on how to overcome community development challenges to create better communities for all. Reconnecting America develops research and innovative public policy, while also building on-the-ground partnerships and convening players needed to accelerate decision-making. The community where we live holds a special place in our hearts. Some of us still live in the same neighborhood where our family has had roots for generations. Some of us choose a community with an eye toward a new beginning. Where we live matters.”