North shore residents reveal satisfactions, dissatisfactions with quality of life in area
Contact: Rene Abadie
HAMMOND – Nearly seven out of 10 respondents to a survey conducted in five north shore parishes indicate they are satisfied or very satisfied with the overall quality of life in the area, according to a report released by Southeastern Louisiana University.
However, the results differ widely when examined on a parish-by-parish level, with Livingston Parish respondents registering the highest levels of satisfaction (74.5 percent) compared to Washington Parish, where less than half -- approximately 44 percent -- say they are satisfied or very satisfied. About 71 percent of St. Tammany respondents and 68.5 percent in Tangipahoa expressed satisfaction with their quality of life. Responses from St. Helena Parish were too small to be compared individually, but were included in overall totals.
The quality of life survey was conducted by the Southeastern Social Science Research Center (SSSRC). Responses were solicited from 5,000 randomly selected residents in the five north shore parishes of Livingston, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington. The mail survey had a response of 1,150 completed questionnaires, a 23 percent response rate.
Copies of the report are being distributed to area governing bodies and organizations such as chambers of commerce and economic development agencies. The report is also available online at www.selu.edu/sssrc.
“The intent of the study is to provide decision makers and the general public with valuable social science data that can be used in efforts to build stronger, safer and more economically viable communities in our region,” said Southeastern President John L. Crain.
“This area has seen some of the state’s fastest growth ,,so we anticipate the findings will be valuable to the communities in the area,” said Crain. “We are all focused on growth and economic development, but it’s important that we preserve those features of our culture that contribute to our overall quality of life, while identifying those areas that need greater attention.”
Sociology professor Bonnie Lewis, director of the SSSRC and one of the authors of the study, said the survey was also designed to explore whether residents thought quality of life had improved or deteriorated over the last three years, and whether they thought their communities would become a better or worse place to live in the next three years. Contributing to the study were Kurt Corbello, associate professor of political science and director of the Southeastern Poll; John Boulahanis, assistant professor of criminal justice; and Molly McGraw, assistant professor of geography.
The report indicates that respondents in Livingston (50 percent), St. Tammany (43 percent) and Tangipahoa (40 percent) parishes are the most positive.
In addition to an overall evaluation of quality of life, respondents were asked to rate various types of services, the effects of rapid growth and change in their communities, environmental conditions and their perceptions on levels of crime in their areas.
Overall, a majority of respondents in the four parishes rate education, child care, health care, parks and recreation areas, and youth recreation services as excellent or good.
“However, similar majorities rate affordable housing, care for the elderly and public transportation as only fair or poor,” Lewis added.
When addressing government services, a majority of respondents as a whole rated as “excellent” or “good” five out of 14 service areas: fire protection, police protection, emergency preparedness, parks and recreation and government services in general.
Lewis said that majorities in these parishes overall rate as “fair” or “poor” a number of other government-provided services, including planning for business development, attracting jobs, building inspections, traffic safety and management, street and roads, services for the poor, planning for residential development, drainage and citizen involvement in planning.
“Residents anticipate that the quality of life in their specific parish will get better or much better over the next three years than think it will get worse,” Lewis said. “In all the parishes combined, about 42 percent of the respondents expect quality of life to improve, while 29 percent say it will stay the same and another 29 percent predict it will continue to get worse or much worse.”
However, reflecting on the past three years, nearly 50 percent of respondents overall indicated that their parish had become a worse or much worse place to live, while only 30 percent said their parish had become a better or much better place to live. The biggest negatives came from Washington and St. Tammany parishes where more than 61 percent and 55 percent respectively feel their parish has become a worse or much worse place to live over that period. In Livingston Parish, slightly more than 37 percent of respondents said the parish had become a worse or much worse place to live.
Other findings in the study include:
-- Overall, a vast majority of respondents – 84 percent – say they feel safe or very safe walking in their neighborhood during the day, with a parish-by-parish breakdown showing the highest level of security among St. Tammany residents (91 percent) compared to Washington Parish (61 percent).
-- Approximately only 16 percent of respondents in these parishes report going “outside less often.” On the other hand, 69 percent of all respondents in the parishes surveyed report having become “less trusting of strangers” over the previous three years.
-- In rating certain potential problem areas in their parishes, majorities of the respondents indicated that road traffic, population growth and loss of forested areas pose a moderate-to-major problem for the quality of life in their parish.
-- Areas considered no more than “somewhat of a problem” in the parishes included parish planning, waterway pollution, employment opportunities, poverty, government leadership, crime, sewage treatment, insufficient government revenue, race relations and air pollution.
-- Perception on the quality of education showed that overall public elementary, junior high and high school education is rated as good-to-excellent by a super majority of respondents, primarily because of the high ratings given to those schools by residents in St. Tammany and Livingston parishes, which rank among the top performing school systems in the state. Public education ratings of respondents in Tangipahoa and Washington parishes are more negative. Private education at all levels in rated overwhelmingly good-to-excellent across the board.
Lewis said that in analyzing the responses, some variables proved to be significant predictors of quality of life.
“Annual family income seems to be a significant factor,” she said. “Individuals who reported earning less money annually were more likely to report dissatisfaction with their overall quality of life. A negative association was also revealed when the number of years in residence was evaluated. As the length of time at an address increased so did satisfaction in perceived quality of life.”
The Southeastern Social Science Research Center provides research, education and support for regional and local development. The center specializes in survey research and conducts periodic studies include regular political polls, fear of crime surveys and other reports.
The complete Quality of Life study, along with charts for individual parishes, is available online at www.selu.edu/sssrc.