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A newly released quality of life survey, the largest regional study done in nearly a century, has discovered both striking similarities and differences in how African- Americans and Whites feel about living here.

Covering topics ranging from employment and mass transit to public safety and Marcellus Shale development, PittsburghTODAY’s Quality of Life Survey asked 2,200 people in the greater western Pennsylvania region 120 questions covering 10 areas of study. It has also compiled an identical data set for Pittsburgh.

Jeffrey Fraser, senior editor for PittsburghTODAY, said the results are interesting in that while a majority of Blacks and Whites agree the region has few problems, among those who see major problems, the differences are stark.

“In areas where people reported a major problem, that problem disproportionally affects African-Americans,” said Fraser.

These results appear when examining a variety of issues including public safety, public amenities, infrastructure,  the economy and race relations.

With respect to public parks and recreational facilities, among those citing them as “poor,” African-Americans did so by a 2-1 margin.

“While clear majorities of Blacks and Whites say their neighborhoods are safer than others, for those who don’t, 18 percent of African-Americans said they have been victims of property crime compared to 5 percent in the non-African-American population,” said Fraser. “And the number of African-Americans saying their neighborhoods had more crime than a year earlier is twice that of non-Blacks.”

Again, in terms of violent crime, more than 90 percent of Blacks and Whites said they had not been victims of a violent assault, but among those who had, Blacks outpaced Whites by a 2-1 margin.

Fraser said one of the starkest differences he noted was in the area of personal finances, particularly the number of people who reported having difficulty paying for basic needs such as food, rent and utilities.

“Six times as many African-Americans answered ‘always,’ and 12 times as many answered ‘often,’” said Fraser. “So again while it may be a small number of people overall who are really struggling, that number is overwhelmingly Black.”

The same dichotomy arises again when looking at public transportation; twice as many African-Americans as Whites reported the availability of public transit was a “major problem.”

And again, the same phenomenon occurs when discussing race relations in general, with twice as many African-Americans saying it is a “major problem.”

The PittsburghTODAY project was first started by late Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editor John Craig, and by 2005 had grown significantly. It is now a project of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Social and Urban Research.

“It’s the most comprehensive look at the region ever done,” said Fraser. “It can be useful for nonprofits and policy makers, but also for journalism projects related to some of these issues (in the survey).”

All its reports are available at http://www.pittsburghtoday.org.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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