Across the country, fragile communities face barriers to opportunity, including high levels of poverty, low-performing schools, inequities in law enforcement and limited economic opportunities. These communities are in urban, rural and increasingly suburban areas, and they include people of all races and ethnicities. For years, researchers and policy-makers have debated the entrenched poverty and lack of social mobility that plague such communities.
Too often, this research has had a paternalistic or “ivory tower” feel in which those conducting the research see themselves as solving the problems of those they study rather than including them as active participants in the problem-solving. The Center for Advancing Opportunity (CAO) has partnered with Gallup to approach these issues in a different manner that begins with listening closely to the people who live in these communities. The idea is that there can be no conversation around removing the barriers to opportunity without including those who live in the communities that are most impacted.
To help the Center accomplish this vision, Gallup launched one of the most comprehensive efforts of its kind – a six-month qualitative and quantitative survey of residents in fragile communities in four metropolitan areas: Birmingham, AL; Cleveland, OH; Fresno, CA and Chicago, IL. Using these insights, Gallup mailed a questionnaire to 28,000 people in urban and rural fragile communities nationwide, with more than 6,230 responding to produce a rich collection of insights on their lives and experiences. This survey is unprecedented in its field, with an exceptionally large and diverse sample size yielding actionable and sometimes counter-intuitive insights.