University of Pittsburgh
July 31, 2012

Pitt, PittsburghTODAY Release Results of Extensive Quality of Life Survey for 32-County Greater Pittsburgh Region

Residents give high rating to overall quality of regional life
African Americans less positive about schools, safety, and race relations, but optimistic about economic prospects
Contact:  412-624-4147


PITTSBURGH— The Pittsburgh Regional Quality of Life Survey, a just-released comprehensive survey of residents of the 32-county region on 10 areas that constitute quality of life—arts and culture, economy, education, environment, government, health, housing and neighborhoods, public safety, transportation, and overall quality of life—reveals a citizenry that gives high marks to regional quality of life and their own happiness.

Despite this, the region has significant problems, including high levels of obesity, glaring quality of life differences between African Americans and the overall population, and concerns about public transit and transportation infrastructure. Regarding the Marcellus Shale, while there is considerable environmental concern about it, a greater percentage of people support drilling than oppose it. 

“This new survey from PittsburghTODAY and the University of Pittsburgh is offered with the hope that it will help the Pittsburgh region to have a stronger fact-based understanding of the behaviors and attitudes of the people in our region,” said Paul H. O’Neill, former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury and chairman of the advisory board of PittsburghTODAY, an in-depth journalism program that compares Pittsburgh with other regions at “We hope this information will be used to set goals for a continued improvement of where we all live.”

Quality of life—“When asked to rate their lives on a scale of one to 10 for happiness, the mean score was 7.8 for our region, surpassing the national average of 7.4,” said Scott Beach, associate director at Pitt’s University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR), which, with PittsburghTODAY, conducted the survey. 

• When asked to rate the region in overall quality of life, a total of 81 percent of residents rated it as either good (29 percent), very good (38 percent), or excellent (14 percent). Fewer than 5 percent overall rated regional quality of life as poor. 

* About 80 percent have been residents of the region for 20 or more years and 90 percent have spent at least 10 years here. And if they plan on moving, it will likely be within the area, where most (84 percent) expect to remain for the next five years. 

* The social fabric is strong. About 74 percent of residents speak with their neighbors at least several times a month, and 38 percent do so every day. Fewer than 7 percent say they never do. And more than 90 percent of residents agree to some degree that their neighbors are willing to help others.

* Nearly 70 percent of residents give their children’s education a rating of either very good or excellent.

Marcellus Shale—A strong majority believe the Marcellus Shale natural gas reserves represent an economic opportunity for the region—seven in 10 non-African Americans and six in 10 African Americans see it as either a significant or moderate economic opportunity, while only one in 10 non-African Americans and one in 6 African Americans feel it offers very little or no economic opportunity. 

* At the same time, Marcellus Shale drilling is viewed as an environmental and public health threat to some degree by all but 17 percent of residents. More than half (55 percent) say drilling is either a significant or moderate environmental and public health threat. And the majority of residents (57.6 percent) support state government assuming greater environmental oversight.

* Extracting the gas is supported by more than 44 percent of residents overall, while one in 4 opposes the practice. 

African American Disparities—Only 26.5 percent of African Americans rate regional quality of life as excellent or very good, compared to nearly 54 percent of other races. More than 45 percent of African Americans rate the regional quality of life as fair or poor, while 17 percent of other races feel the same way.

* Only 14.9 percent of African Americans consider their schools to be very safe— compared to 51.4 percent of residents of other races. 

* Nearly 5.5 percent of African Americans report having been a victim of violent crime—almost three times the victimization rate of other races. And African Americans are twice as likely as other races to say local police do a poor job protecting them. 

* Nearly 18 percent of African Americans say they often or always have trouble paying for housing and other basic necessities—more than twice the hardship rate of other races.  

* Still, African Americans are more optimistic economically. More than 39 percent feel the national economy will improve, compared with only 23 percent of other races. And 37 percent of African Americans expect the regional economy to get better, compared to 23 percent of residents of other races. More than 41 percent of African Americans overall say their financial situation has improved somewhat or significantly over the past three years, compared with 23.6 percent of residents of other races. Also, 46.7 percent of African Americans living in the city of Pittsburgh reported that their financial situation improved over that time versus 32.6 percent of non-African Americans living in Pittsburgh.

Health—Nearly two-thirds of regional residents are obese or overweight as determined by their Body Mass Index.  

* Most residents experienced some level of stress during the month prior to being interviewed. Nearly 52 percent of residents overall experienced moderate to severe stress, while only one in 10 reported having a stress-free month.

* Though there are significant disparities between African Americans and non-African Americans, a preponderant percentage of African Americans reported having health care coverage [84.3 percent versus 90.5 percent for non-African Americans] and nearly the same high percentage stated they did not fail to see a doctor because of the cost [80.7 percent versus 86.4 percent of non-African Americans].

Transportation—More than two-thirds of residents consider the availability of public transportation a problem to some degree. More than half consider it to be a severe or moderate problem, with 73 percent of African Americans seeing it as severe or moderate problem, versus 49 percent of non-African Americans.

* Nearly 67 percent of residents consider the quality of roads and bridges to be either a severe or moderate problem. 

* More than 60 percent of residents consider the availability of nonstop destinations from Pittsburgh International Airport to be a problem to some degree. 

The Pittsburgh Regional Quality of Life Survey examines the behaviors and attitudes of more than 1,800 residents, sampling nearly 500 residents of Allegheny County and similar numbers of residents of both the remaining six counties of the Metropolitan Statistical Area and the remaining 25 counties of the greater 32-county region, including counties in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The survey also includes nearly 400 African American responses. The numbers allow valid geographic and racial comparisons. 

In the future, PittsburghTODAY and UCSUR plan to continue such surveys to stimulate and inform future decision makers. 

The survey may be downloaded by visiting

Print copies may be requested by contacting Emily Craig at 




University Units