Belonging and Civic Muscle: Community Vitality

What makes a community vital? Community vitality is about whether people feel a sense of belonging to the place where they live and whether they feel connected to one another. Do they trust their leaders? Do they engage in community life and participate in decision-making? Do all groups in the community—across racial / ethnic, language, or other social or demographic differences—feel like they belong? These all contribute to whether people want to live in a place. That sense of belonging can, in turn, affect the community’s tax base and resources to support schools, roads, parks, etc. In addition, social isolation has profound effects on the health of people. Some estimate it is the equivalent of smoking one quarter of a pack of cigarettes every day.

Other Interesting Measures


  • Percent of people living in a different house than 1 year ago. Source: American Community Survey (ACS).
  • Percent of people responding yes to “People around here are willing to help their neighbors”. Source: Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods: Community Involvement and Collective Efficacy.


  • Aggregate score on two subscales: emotional connection (to community) and membership (sense of belonging to community). Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) National Survey of Health Attitudes.
  • Evenness with which racial/ethnic groups are distributed across Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) (index of dissimilarity). Source: ACS.


  • Percent of residents (16+) who volunteered in past year. Source: Minnesota (MN) Compass, Current Population Survey, Volunteer Supplement, Corporation for National and Community Service.


  • Percent of adults responding “just about always” or “most of the time” to the question “How much of the time do you think you can trust the government in Washington/ national government to do what is right?”. Source: Pew Research Center.