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Americans Identify Jobs, Infrastructure as Main Challenges Facing Cities

People in the United States perceive jobs becoming scarcer in their communities, but also look at renewing and rebuilding infrastructure as one of the key challenges facing American cities, new Vision Critical research has found.

The online survey of a representative national sample of 1,001 American adults was conducted for City Age America. The full findings will be discussed at The New American City, a summit to be held on Dec. 3 and 4 at the Kauffman Center in Kansas City. The summit will draw business and local government leaders from more than 50 North American cities.

Across the country, two-in-five respondents (39%) identify unemployment as the most important issue currently facing their city or town. Concerns about joblessness are more prevalent in the Midwest (42%) and the South (41%).

A majority respondents are satisfied with the way cities and towns are dealing with specific issues, such as providing good sanitation services (80%), ensuring public safety (68%), giving citizens an opportunity to have their say on issues that matter to them (57%), protecting the environment (56%), having proper public transit services (55%), and enhancing their overall quality of life (53%).

Fewer respondents give cities good marks on responding to the needs of the people (50%), renewing and rebuilding infrastructure (49%), dealing with homelessness and poverty (40%) and spending tax dollars wisely (38%).

Still, Americans maintain a positive view of their communities, with 48 per cent using the word “growing” to describe their city or town, 40 per cent calling it “clean” and 38 per cent saying it is “down to earth.” Three-in-ten (29%) also think their city is “open.”

Most Americans (54%) believe the availability of jobs in their city or town has worsened over the past five years, and two-in-five (41%) feel the same way about taxation. More than a third of respondents (36%) feel traffic congestion has worsened, and three-in-ten (31%) also express concerns about the quality of public schools. Respondents in the west are more likely to be worried about traffic congestion (45%) than the national average.

“Our findings will set the tone for discussion at The New American City summit in Kansas City,” said Shachi Kurl, Director of Communications at Vision Critical. “More than ever, citizens are showing us they are interested in sharing their views via social media. Local government must find ways to harness this openness as Americans seek to communicate what they need from their cities to their leadership. The technology exists.”

Vision Critical has recently launched Sparq Public, a tool designed to take citizen engagement beyond the “town hall” approach by relying on the same online technology that was used to power the most accurate prediction of the U.S. presidential election.

“It’s clear that the time is ripe for a national conversation on renewing American cities,” said Miro Cernetig, co-founder of CityAge. “How we build—and rebuild—our cities will shape the future of the economy and the environment.”


Unemployment is decidedly the main concern for Americans when they look at cities, with a large proportion of respondents admitting that the job market has worsened over the past five years. The issue of taxation seems to be affecting people in the West more than in other areas of the country.

Aside from these glaring economic concerns, Americans also perceive that more needs to be done to renew and rebuild infrastructure. This area of governance is less satisfactory for citizens than issues that usually dominate the headlines, such as public safety, government accountability and environmental protection.

Still, Americans hold very positive views of their own city, with less than one-in-four respondents (22%) suggesting that they are “in decline”, and practically half stating that they are “growing.”

Click here to access the data tables