What we measure matters, and measuring quality of life and well-being is essential for understanding rural communities. Our Northwoods Quality of Life (NWQoL) Database brings together a comprehensive list of data on rural, northern communities across the north woods of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Utilizing a variety of original, proprietary data collected by the Center for Rural Communities and data gathered from governmental, nonprofit, and print sources, this initiative supports a public database of quality of life metrics for rural, northern communities and examines the various factors and characteristics that describe quality of life in the north woods region.
The NWQoL database emerged from work with local stakeholders in the Chequamegon Bay region of northern Wisconsin in the development of the City of Ashland Assets & Amenities report. This project uncovered a pressing need for valid and reliable data and models and solutions appropriate for rural communities.
The NWQoL database is made up of a comprehensive set of quality of life metrics for rural communities of the north woods region of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. These rural communities share common characteristics, stories, experiences, opportunities, and challenges.
The NWQoL database organizes data into three broad categories of quality of life: (1) natural and built environment; (2) community characteristics and services; and (3) people.
Each broad category is made up of multiple domains with specific indicators gathers from existing data sources or collected by the CRC and are intended to capture part of quality of life important to rural communities – for more information about the framework, see Research Handbook on Community Development edited by Phillips and Trevan (2019).
By placing these categories into a single framework of quality of life and well-being, the CRC allows community leaders, practitioners, and academics to better understand and examine how to create thriving, resilient communities with the best possible quality of life for local community members.
The NWQoL database is funded in part by the Otto Bremer Trust.
We want to understand the things that make a rural community a good place to live, work, and play. We also want to provide baseline data and track changes over time related to important characteristics of rural communities in the north woods region (northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan). This information is intended for use by leaders and decision-makers within these local communities and counties and for academics, practitioners, and student researchers interested in rural communities.
The Center for Rural Communities at Northland College is responsible for collecting data, housing data, and completing analysis. The work is funded in part by the Otto Bremer Trust.
Categories, indicators, and data are selected and organized through both top-down (e.g., informed from community of science, academic literature, and science research) and bottom-up (e.g., informed from experience and feedback from community residents and leaders) approaches. Categories, indicators, and data for this project are neither static nor immutable; rather, they are dynamic, responsive, and changing based on the needs, wants, and interests of rural communities in the north woods and influenced by best practices. It is our intention to collect the same information overtime; however, we have set the database up as a “living” project meant to adapt and change as new data sources become available, as more information is learned about best practices, and as we learn from our community partners what information is most useful and relevant for making and informing local decisions.
The database is made up of both county and community level indicators, but our focus is primarily on rural communities.
County level data are intended to help situate smaller rural communities in a broader regional context. For example, when examining tourism and recreation trends, the database tracks individual community trends but situates these trends in a broader county or regional context of natural resources, recreational infrastructure, and demographic and economic activity.
We define rural communities by their relative location to metropolitan areas, overall population size, and municipal boundaries. Only rural communities from across the north woods region that are at or above 1,000 and below 30,000 in population are included in the NWQoL database. Additionally, these rural communities must be at least 10 miles from mid-size cities and their metro areas (i.e., <350,000 people) or 30 miles away from large cities and their metro areas (i.e., >350,000 population).
We recommend citing data from our data visualizations with the following information: Center for Rural Communities, name/title of data visualization, and the URL.
Center for Rural Communities. (n.d.). Northwoods database: Your quality of life. Retrieved from https://www.northland.edu/sustainability/crc/north-woods-database/
Yes. Most data visualizations found on our website can be downloaded as an image, pdf, PowerPoint, or Tableau Workbook. If you are interested in additional data or specific data, please contact the CRC via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (715-682-1282)