The more time people spend in their city, the more they’ll be attached to the metro area. That is one finding of Community Ties: Understanding What Attaches People to the Place Where They Live, a survey of more than 11,000 Americans about their relationship to their cities.

Residents and frequent visitors to a city center tend to be more attached to the metro area, compared with suburbanites and less frequent visitors. Those who spend more time in a 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 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%)
  • K-12 schools (64%)
  • Highways and recreational areas (both 63%)
  • family amenities (59%)
  • colleges and universities (51%).

Quality of life makes a big difference in whether a person stays or leaves a metro area. One-third of those who stay and one-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 survey. “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 home ownership (54%) were significant.

Read the full report on the Knight Foundation’s website.