In general, the more time you spend in your city, the more you will be attached to the metro area.

That is one finding of Community Ties: Understanding What Attaches People to the Place Where They Live, a report released by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Urban Institute in May. In it, the Urban Institute surveyed more than 11,000 Americans in areas around the country to learn about their relationship to their cities.

Residents and frequent visitors to the city center tend to be more attached to the metro area, compared with suburbanites and less frequent visitors. Those who spend more time in the city tend to invest more resources there, develop deeper connections across demographics, and are more likely to stay there if they were born there.

Those who spend a lot of time in the city describe themselves as satisfied with the city as a place to live and more aligned with the culture and lifestyle.

Those surveyed described the following city characteristics as very important: safe places to live and work (86%), health care facilities and services (77%), job opportunities (72%), affordable housing (70%), and K-12 schools (64%). Highways and recreational areas (both 63%), family amenities (59%), and colleges and universities (51%) were also very important.

Quality of life makes a big difference in whether a person stays or leaves a metro area. A third of those who stay and a third of those who move cite quality of life as their reasoning.

“Natives usually define quality of life in very general terms, saying that they just like the area, its vibrancy, its strong economy or its affordability,” according to the report. “People who move from other places are more likely to talk about quality of life in more particular terms like the quality and affordability of housing (24%) or particular neighborhood amenities (25%).”

Nationally, the most common way residents invest in their metro areas was through donating money or other goods, at 76%. After that, participating in local arts activities (58%), attending public meetings (54%), and homeownership (54%) were significant.

Access to arts and cultural activities can boost resident satisfaction and lifestyle fit and correlates with investing more time and resources locally.

You can read the full report at