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Research Project Characterizes American Small Towns

In American culture, small towns are often held up as the bastion of American values. Not all towns embody that ideal, however—disinvestments and media portrayals paint a complex and conflicting image of small town America. A Sasaki research project, Townology, unpacks these nuances using demographic, economic, environmental, and place data to define a set of town types.

Led by former Sasaki urban planner Gretchen Keillor and joined by Justin Kollar, Kai Ying Lau, Patrick Murray, and Victoria Fisher, the Townology team collected data for over 150 metrics in towns across the United States. Based on analysis of this data, the team identified and defined seven types of small towns: Out West Outpost, Rustic Retreat, Shrinking Stead, Provincial Patch, Vibrant Village, Blue Collar Burg, and Bucolic Burb.

They then applied these profiles to a set of towns and mapped the results. On the project’s website, one can explore the map, learn about the characteristics of each town type, and dive into data metrics for hundreds of towns.

The project was funded by Sasaki’s internal research grant program in 2019. Read about the other 2019 research grant projects in Sasaki’s research retrospective, and see the 2020 grant recipients here.

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