'Smart shrinkage' in small towns driven by strong social infrastructure, research shows

phys.org | 11/1/2018 | Staff
shankay (Posted by) Level 3
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As small Iowa towns continue to lose population, a strong social infrastructure – rather than economic or physical factors – determines whether residents report greater quality of life, according to new research out of Iowa State University.

Over the past year, an Iowa State research team studied the 99 communities in the Iowa Small Town Poll to figure out why some towns losing population are "shrinking smart," while others are not.

Iowa - Small - Town - Poll - Data

The Iowa Small Town Poll collects data on 99 towns across Iowa that had populations between 500 and 10,000 in 1990. The research team applied different frameworks to the data to determine whether smart shrinking towns have higher levels of "entrepreneurial social infrastructure," which describes a town's collective action, ability to mobilize resources and diverse, inclusive networks.

The team includes Kimberly Zarecor, associate professor of architecture; David Peters, associate professor of sociology; Sara Hamideh, assistant professor of community and regional planning; Eric Davis, assistant professor of computer science; and Marwan Ghandour, professor of architecture at Louisiana State University. The results of the first phase of their research are published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Rural Studies.

National - Science - Foundation - Grant - Summer

Their National Science Foundation grant has been extended through next summer to complete work on the second and third phases of the project, which focus on using data science and visualization strategies to understand more about smart shrinkage and developing strategies to share with small communities.

Through their research, the team defines towns in four ways:

Towns - Population - Quality - Life

Adverse growing towns are gaining in population but losing in quality of life.

"Instead of seeing population loss as a problem, we need to start looking at it as a process that needs to be managed," Peters said.

Survey - Data - Iowa - Interviews - Site

After analyzing survey data collected since 1994 and traveling Iowa to do interviews and site visits in small towns, the team's research shows several key qualities of...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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