Big Village Survey

Big Village Survey – Spotlight Quality of Life Nationwide

What really makes a small town thrive? Seeking insights to guide rural community development nationwide, researchers have launched an ambitious data collection effort called the Big Village Survey. Distributed across heartland regions, this quantitative poll asks residents to evaluate local governance, infrastructure, business landscape and more. The findings will ultimately shape policies supporting livability and growth for rural populations often overlooked in broader quality of life research.

What is the Big Village Survey?

The Big Village Survey aims to form the largest dataset capturing life satisfaction across small town America. Developed through a partnership between scholars at the American Rural Policy Institute and students at Land Grant University’s School of Agriculture, the survey will sample perceptions from over 50,000 residents living in rural areas with populations under 15,000.

Questions assess satisfaction levels around topics like access to healthcare, education and jobs plus confidence in elected leadership, law enforcement, and infrastructure maintenance in their hometowns. Participants also rank feelings of safety, sense of community and availability of amenities. Supplemental demographic data will allow for breakdowns illuminating disparities across race, age and income groups that could hinder inclusivity in development plans.

The Land Grant students, many hailing from tight-knit rural communities themselves, are particularly invested in the project. “So much research on quality of life focuses only on big cities,” says Alicia Chavez, a sophomore Agricultural Economics major from Montrose, Colorado (pop. 12,000) coordinating outreach efforts across Western counties. “Small towns face totally different challenges around aging populations, brain drain of young people moving away. We want data that speaks to realities in villages like mine so policymakers stop overlooking us.”

Why is the Big Village Survey Important?

By spotlighting how residents themselves evaluate local conditions, the rich insights derived can inform initiatives around issues troubling many rural outposts today, including:


Declining hospitals often gut rural access to essential care. Targeted survey data on this vital service helps leaders identify towns struggling most severely so regional infrastructure investments are equitable.


Questions around household financial security and job market perceptions assist officials tailoring workforce development and training programs suited for agricultural/manufacturing-based micro-economies.


Assessing satisfaction on roads, water systems and internet/utilities spotlights where upgrades are most needed to support businesses and attract families.

Youth Engagement

Metrics on how young residents view local career prospects and social offerings help pinpoint towns needing more youth-centered amenities and employment options to curb brain drain.

Civic Engagement

Understanding community member trust and confidence levels in public leadership is key so that rural revitalization plans embed inclusive governance structures.

Early Insights from Big Village Survey Testing

The research team conducted pilot tests of the survey in three Missouri towns under 5,000 residents over last summer. Initial results revealed a 17-point gap in healthcare satisfaction ratings between low-income and higher-income households, backing complaints that clinic closures hit disadvantaged families hardest by reducing medical access.

Several towns also showed concerningly low youth engagement markers, with 18-24 year olds three times more likely than elders to rate local career and social offerings as “limited” or “weak”. Such insights help leaders target solutions like telehealth investments and youth community center funding where impact would be greatest.

The State of Nebraska recently approved a grant to add their rural counties into the Big Village Survey’s sample area. “These small places are the soul of our state,” says Governor Mike Holm. “Understanding life quality challenges facing our rural citizens will mean policies nurturing the livability making villages not just survive, but thrive.”

Getting Involved in the Big Village Survey

The research team welcomes any small towns interested to participate in upcoming user survey waves, aiming to amass the largest national dataset on life in America’s many “big” heartland villages. Local leaders playing a role by encouraging resident participation helps assure their community secures a voice in rural development decisions ahead. Contact [email protected] for more details.


Beyond just collecting data, the ambitiously inclusive Big Village Survey represents a symbolic shift – dimming the bright lights ever-trained on bustling urban centers to illuminate rural realities hidden in plain sight. The tens of thousands of humble heartland communities stitching together America’s breadth have stories to tell of hardship and pride, frustration and resilience as old as the country’s fields and farms. Leaders now committed to listening inherit duty to respond with action: investment, resources and policies nurturing their unflagging spirit. The nation’s true strength has always sprouted from roots in her small towns. Hear them. The harvest ahead can feed many.


What is the Big Village Survey?

A large-scale questionnaire collecting and analyzing perceptions of governance, infrastructure, economy, healthcare etc. from rural U.S. residents to guide small town development policy.

Who conducts the Big Village Survey?

A research partnership between the American Rural Policy Institute think tank and Land Grant University’s School of Agriculture.

What is the survey’s goal?

To form the most comprehensive national dataset spotlighting quality of life realities and challenges in small towns to inform policies better supporting their sustainability.

What does the survey ask residents?

Questions assess confidence in local leadership, satisfaction levels around healthcare access, infrastructure, youth engagement, and overall livability metrics in their rural communities.

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