A new study conducted by Echelon Insights and commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation sought to understand how Gen Z’ers in Northwest Arkansas view opportunity in the region.
Results from the May focus groups involving teenagers aged 13 through 18 revealed a desire to live in vibrant communities where everyone could afford a home with a variety of jobs, good schools, local amenities and resources to obtain real-world skills. They also want to live in a community that promotes respect and inclusion, the survey concluded.
“Lifting up young people must be a priority for Northwest Arkansas to realize its full potential as one of the country’s most inclusive communities,” said Emma Pengelly, the Walton Family Foundation’s interim Home Region Program director. “The next generation celebrates respect and togetherness – values that will help build a region where everyone feels welcomed.”
In the focus group results, Northwest Arkansas youth cited available jobs in their chosen career fields and good public schools along with accessible housing as the three most important factors in selecting where to live. Respondents also prioritized walkability, bikeability and easy access to nature.
The project is a follow-up to studies that took place in the summer of 2020 and in January 2021. The foundation partnered with Echelon Insights to release a national report, “Millennials and Generation Z: Agents of Change,” that delved into young Americans’ thoughts about the future, including what factors may guide their decisions about where to live.
While the young people surveyed were largely positive about Northwest Arkansas’ future, many feel additional action is needed to promote inclusivity and maintain the region’s unique character. As the region grows, they believe increased gentrification, environmental challenges, a higher cost of living and overcrowding may be potential concerns.