OPINION: New research finds economic stress and optimism in Minnesota
Tuesday, May 14, 2013 6:00 AM
Economic recovery is reaching Minnesotans unequally, according to a statewide survey released by the Blandin Foundation.
The real-time snapshot of community issues, perceptions and priorities among rural Minnesota residents, called Rural Pulse, demonstrated that demand for living-wage jobs far outweighs all other concerns.
While residents note that the economy has improved somewhat, 58 percent of rural Minnesotans and 41 percent of urban Minnesotans say there are insufficient local job opportunities.
Urban residents are nearly twice as likely as rural residents to say that their economy has improved over the past year.
Optimism, however, is alive and well. Nearly four in five Minnesotans believe their community is a vibrant place to live and work and 75 percent feel that people like themselves are able to make a positive impact.
Both rural and urban Minnesotans believe quality of life will improve over the next five years.
Urban perspective research is new to the Rural Pulse study and made possible through a partnership with Minnesota Community Foundation, an affiliate of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners.
"Minnesotans across the state remain very optimistic about their futures," said Dr. Kathleen Annette, president of the Blandin Foundation. "They also share a belief that rural communities offer tremendous quality of life and that Minnesota is stronger when rural voices are heard and differences are appreciated. We cannot ignore, however, that economic recovery still is out of reach for too many Minnesotans.
Other Rural Pulse 2013 highlights include the following:
A third (34 percent) of rural Minnesotans and 26 percent of urban residents do not believe the needs and wellbeing of rural Minnesota communities are as important to legislators and policymakers as those of metropolitan cities.
Further, 90 percent of Minnesotans (both urban and rural) say it is important to support political candidates who actively address rural issues.
Minnesotans give their community relatively good grades for addressing environmental stewardship, crime control, services for the elderly, education, improving access to technology and residential housing.
Minnesota residents rate their communities' performance lowest for attracting new businesses that provide ample living-wage jobs.
Minnesotans see the responsibility for ensuring quality educational opportunities falling primarily to parents and government.
Only about 28 percent - across all age groups - feel local residents without school-age children should also be responsible.
More than half of rural Minnesotans and a third of urban area residents believe that their community does not do enough to attract new businesses.
A total of 15 percent of rural Minnesotans and 17 percent of their urban neighbors have considered leaving their community for a different locale within the past two years.
Why? About half of rural residents say it would be to pursue job opportunities, while a desire for greater quality of life is the main factor for urban residents contemplating such a move.
Many Minnesotans (37 percent rural, 21 percent urban) feel local community leadership is not inclusive and representative of people from different backgrounds.
Nearly half of Minnesotans have not served in any type of community leadership role (e.g. government, church, civic group), largely due to lack of time or because they have not been invited to do so.
About half of those, however, say that they would at least consider serving in a leadership role if invited to do so.
Rural Pulse is a research study that has been commissioned by the Blandin Foundation since 1998 to foster deeper understanding of how Minnesotans experience their communities.
It focuses on important issues such as healthcare, education, attracting and retaining household supporting jobs, and ethnic diversity.
This year's study - the largest and most comprehensive Rural Pulse ever undertaken - included information gathered from more than 1,000 surveys conducted in March with those living in communities of fewer than 35,000 residents and a companion survey of urban residents (communities greater than 35,000 residents).
New for 2013, research was conducted within rural Minnesota racial and cultural groups to gain deeper insights about their perspectives on the issues.
To view the full report, go to www.ruralpulse.org or visit the Blandin Foundation website wat www.blandinfoundation.org.
Based in Grand Rapids, Minn., the Blandin Foundation is one of only a handful of foundations in the United States focused exclusively on rural communities and is the largest rural-based private foundation in Minnesota.