A new study has ranked Downers Grove among the friendliest communities in the United States.
Forbes Magazine recently teamed up with Nextdoor.com, a San Francisco-based social network for neighborhoods, to assess 500 small metro areas with populations between 5,500 and 150,000. Their findings, published Thursday on Forbes.com, ranked America's friendliest towns based on four data points: percentage of owner-occupied homes, crime rate, charitable giving and and the percentage of college graduates.
Downers Grove ranked No. 8, joining communities like Seal Beach, CA; Huntington Woods, MI; and Hamilton, NY.
"Located about 25 miles outside of Chicago, this Midwestern suburb peddles more than 140 community events and festivals," the article states. "About 80 percent of residents own their own homes and the population is highly educated."
Friendliness can mean different things to different people, but there are several measurable factors that are associated with a strong sense of community or that promote good-feeling among neighbors, according to Forbes.
For example, studies have shown a direct correlation between homeownership and neighborhood stability, and that college-educated people typically display more civic engagement, along with higher rates of voting and volunteering.
Using data from the U.S. Census, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and City-Data.com, Nextdoor.com and Forbes studied towns' housing statistics, crime rates, education and charitable history.
Qualitative surveys were conducted among residents in the towns that rated the highest, which helped finalize the top 15.
"Many of the towns that made our list have certain commonalities beyond the factors we rated them on," the article states. "Nearly all boast tracts of public open spaces (like parks, beaches and outdoor recreational trails) and a central downtown or main street hub that lends itself to town-sponsored events and parades. All of these places host a bevy of festivals, concert series, and street markets."
Downers Grove was strong in many of these categories, according to Forbes.
"In addition to a boutique and restaurant-filled downtown, this suburb has about 600 acres of parks and green space," the article states. "On Saturdays during the summer, neighbors partake in a farmers market and auto enthusiasts gather on Friday nights for an informal classic car show."
Downers Grove Mayor Martin Tully said founder Pierce Downer would be "quite proud" of recognition.
"Many in the community remark upon the importance of our efforts to keep Downers Grove a great place to live, learn, work and play," Tully said. "The honor of being recognized as one of the nation’s 'friendliest towns' demonstrates that those efforts not only are essential but have been very successful. It is also a tribute to our exceptionally knowledgeable, passionate and engaged volunteer residents and public servants, without whom achieving such a distinction would not be possible."
The top 15 friendliest towns included several Midwestern communities, but Downers Grove was the only one from Illinois to make the list. The top three towns were Sammamish, WA; Orinda, CA; and Finshers, IN—all of which were praised for their low crime rates, high homeownership and annual events.
What do you think of the ranking? Tell us why you think Downers Grove is the friendliest town in the U.S. in the comments below!
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