Are We There Yet?
Creating Complete Communities for 21st Century America
Introduction Indicators Living Working Moving Thriving Conclusion Grades Methodology
Introduction We all remember being a child on what seemed like an end-
housing, and we see citizens getting active in the democratic process and
less journey to Grandma’s house or the Grand Canyon and asking “Are we
the creation of civic environments that foster more economic activity and
there yet?” In America’s cities and towns, we are having one of those
jobs — which gives the U.S. an economic competitive advantage.
“Are we there yet?” moments — although it seems the GPS is malfuntioning and we have lost the ability to chart a course toward our future. What does “there” look like? How will we know when we are “there”?
Some of these are measurable outcomes, some we only know when we see and experience them. In the following chapters we lay out some fundamentals of daily life –
What are the critical investments we need to make in order to strengthen
how we live, how we work, how we move and how we thrive as individu-
our regional economies and ensure that America remains globally com-
als, as families, and as a part of communities. We have collected and ana-
petitive? What are the attributes of communities and regions that help
lyzed data to develop original metrics, and we have studied the metrics
the people who live and work there succeed? How can we ensure that
others have developed, to come up with an analysis we believe can be
every child – regardless of what zip code they are born into or the color
useful for helping leaders in cities and regions track how close they are
of their skin — has access to opportunities to improve their lives and
to “there.” We want to highlight some key features that will be described
contribute to America’s prosperity?
in greater detail throughout this report.
America is confronting serious issues in this second decade of the
First, we are introducing two key terms: We envision creating
21st century: The gap between rich and poor continues to widen, the
“complete communities” across the country, places where people can
middle class is shrinking, and nearly one in four children live in poverty.
live, work, move, and thrive in a healthier, more equitable, and more
At the same time, the U.S. is in a transitional period in our economy and
economically competitive way. We also write about “opportunity areas,”
our demographics are changing, presenting profound possibilities for
the places within our cities and regions where we can get a jumpstart
creating a 21st century America that offers opportunities for all.
on this vision.
Reconnecting America believes that when communities — urban,
Second, Reconnecting America has collected data to help all of us
suburban or rural — offer what people need, we begin to get closer to
understand the existing conditions of our regions and to track progress at
“there.” We see higher high schoo