Penn's Meredith Broussard Measures Philadelphia’s Civic Health

Compared to the rest of the United States, Philadelphia’s civic life is very healthy. A team led by Meredith Broussard, a creative writing lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, draws that conclusion in an infographic that won honorable mention in the National Conference on Citizenship 2012 Civic Data Challenge.

The Challenge was launched last spring “to bring new eyes, minds, findings and skill sets to the field of civic health.” 

Applicants were tasked with turning raw data into beautiful, useful applications and visualizations to increase community understanding of civic health.

“Raw pools of data don’t tell you much,” explains Broussard, who is also a contributing editor of the online magazine Hidden City Philadelphia. The infographic, she created with her team -- designer Alyse Schulte, developer Lee Matos and cartographer Paul Statt -- highlights 10 areas of civic health.

“The great thing is that we are about on a par with the rest of the country,” Broussard, who lives in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia, says. “I was pleasantly surprised, because we have a reputation of being unfriendly, but people say hello to each other more [relative to the rest of the country], and people do know their neighbors.”

The team found that Philadelphia lives up to its City of Brotherly Love nickname, when compared to the rest of the country in several areas studied.  Philadelphians are more likely than the national average to have dinner with household members frequently, talk with neighbors frequently and use the Internet to talk to family and friends frequently. In the “do favors for neighbors” category, there’s room for improvement as Philadelphians are slightly below the national average. Residents of Philly are, however, more involved in social service, school and religious groups than the American average, and Philadelphia’s electorate has a higher percentage of registered voters than the country as a whole.

Philadelphians are a little less likely to buy or boycott a product or service for social or political reasons, and a slightly smaller percentage contacted public officials in the past year. Despite more than half of Philadelphians reporting that they’re thriving, Broussard’s team found that residents are less optimistic than the rest of the country.

Broussard’s conclusions were based on analysis of data from the 2010 Census and from the Knight Foundation Soul of the Community project, a national quality-of-life survey.