The many ways to measure Vermont’s livability

April 30, 2019

“Livability,” “quality of life,” “sense of place”—these are all terms used to describe some of the less tangible but very important aspects of a town, city, or state that make it a good place to live. Vermont is well known for ranking high in many different criteria that measure these aspects. Here’s some recent findings:

Civic infrastructure

Vermont voters turned out at a significantly higher rate than much of the rest of the country during the 2018 midterm election, according to a recent study conducted by Nonprofit VOTE. The organization ranked Vermont 11th with a voter turnout rate of 56 percent, above the national average of 50 percent. Notably, the top 10 states have policies in place to encourage greater voter participation, including Same Day Registration and Vote at Home initiatives. (Courtesy of the Center for Research on Vermont)

Vermonters also know their US history. Recently a national civics test revealed that Vermonters correctly answered the most questions on the US citizenship test.

Community spirit

Volunteerism in general is high in Vermont, both locally and globally. St. Michael’s College, in Colchester, is among the top schools for producing Peace Corps volunteers. In state, neighbors come together in myriad ways to keep their communities vital. After the announcement that Green Mountain College would close its doors, residents of Poultney have galvanized an effort to repurpose the campus and boost their region’s economic vitality. While churches in some small towns are seeing less use, community groups are stepping in to find new ways to help their neighbors. General stores are an essential meeting place in most Vermont small towns, and when things get shaky, like they recently did in Monkton and Albany, people step up. With Vermont’s score of over 66 on the Opportunity Index (2017), it’s easy to see that to Vermonters, “community” is a verb.

Community development

Now that it’s spring, towns and villages across Vermont are embarking on projects to improve their physical infrastructure as well, kicking off road reconstructions and placemaking projects, and securing grants for new housing and clean water initiatives. Recently the National Life Group awarded eight Main Street Grants to communities from Newport to Rutland for projects as small as a downtown mural to as ambitious as transforming a downtown parcel into a river walk and trail system. And the Agency of Commerce & Community Development recently awarded Better Connections grants to the towns of Fairlee, Middlebury, and Northfield to begin transportation infrastructure projects that will also improve water quality.

Quality of Life

Vermont continues to rank highly on other criteria generally used to measure quality of life. In 2019 WalletHub ranked Vermont among the top 5 places to raise a family. And  Vermont continues to rank high among the safest states in the US according to the Safewise survey.


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