Trust Magazine

Insights on What Communities Need to Thrive

Notes from the president

En este número:

  • Spring 2024
  • A Change to Federal Methadone Regulations
  • A Journey to Earth’s Last Great Wilderness
  • Art With a View on History
  • Expanded Protections for a Biological Hot Spot
  • Honduras’ Coastal Wetlands
  • Insights on What Communities Need to Thrive
  • Majorities Say Social Media Is Good for Democracy
  • Americans Say Officials Should Avoid Heated or Aggressive Speech
  • Return on Investment
  • The Digital Divide
  • The High Cost of Putting a Roof Over Your Head
  • The Pantanal in South America
  • Tribal Nations First Ocean and Coastal Protections in U.S.
  • What Does Being Spiritual Mean?
  • View All Other Issues
Insights on What Communities Need to Thrive

For more than 75 years, The Pew Charitable Trusts has worked to understand what communities need to thrive, who is missing out and why, and how to lower barriers that keep success out of reach. This issue of Trust takes a close look at some of these essentials: safe and affordable housing, access to high-speed internet, and, for many people, a sense of spirituality.

Few things are more essential than having a roof over our heads. Housing provides stability and safety and is often linked to other quality-of-life issues, including being able to live close to work and send children to a good school. But today, housing has become unaffordable for many families. Between 2019 and 2022, the median price of a house jumped 25% in the United States. And over the last seven years, rents have skyrocketed 30%. As Alex Horowitz, a project director for Pew’s housing policy initiative, notes in this issue of Trust, “Americans are struggling to afford housing because housing costs are rising to the highest levels we’ve ever seen.”

Analyses by Pew and others have found that strict land-use regulations have limited the availability of housing, and burdensome financial policies have prevented many creditworthy homebuyers—including Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous people, and those in rural areas— from obtaining mortgages. This has led more than 35 million Americans to turn to risky forms of financing. As for rents, the higher they go, the more difficult it becomes to save for a down payment on a house.

But some cities and states are finding real solutions. Houston, for example, added 10.2% to its housing stock between 2015 and 2023 by reducing its minimum lot size, and Minneapolis reformed its zoning policies, including allowing more apartments as well as duplex and triplex construction on all residential lots. This increased new housing stock helped hold rents steady, and decreased homelessness.

Housing has always been one of life’s essentials, but other elements of our basic civic infrastructure are relatively new, like high-speed internet. Today, 24 million Americans still don’t have this modern necessity—either because no broadband network reaches them, or they can’t afford the cost. High-speed internet is more than a convenience—it’s essential to understanding and addressing health issues, succeeding in school and work, responding to local and national emergencies, and staying in contact with friends and family. Kathryn de Wit, who leads Pew’s broadband access initiative, explains that “this is really an equity issue. Affordable broadband democratizes opportunity.” She cites Pew Research Center data showing that 43% of adults making less than $30,000 annually lack broadband, and 49% of households earning less than $50,000 a year have trouble affording internet service.

Pew has played an active role in helping expand access to high-speed internet, bringing together state and federal broadband officials, digital equity advocates, industry experts, and academic researchers to discuss how to better deliver internet services. The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 includes $42 billion to expand high-speed internet networks, with subsidies to help low-income households pay for broadband. Pew has conducted education and training programs—at no cost—to 35 states and territories to help them make good use of the new federal funding.

Broadband brings people closer to each other and helps us understand each other. And as Pew Research Center reports in “Spirituality Among Americans,” many in this country also feel an essential need to connect to a larger spiritual world. Based on a survey of 11,201 respondents in the nationally representative American Trends Panel, the Center found that 7 in 10 U.S. adults call themselves spiritual—including 22% who say they aren’t religious. The findings come as the share of the Christian population in America is shrinking, and the number of people without a religious affiliation is growing. The survey asked a range of new questions to better learn about how people define and view spirituality, which will form the basis for additional Center research on this subject in the coming years.

That research illustrates a particular essential for Pew: data. It is the foundation of everything we do. It keeps us nonpartisan. It keeps us accurate. It keeps us humble. And as this issue of Trust demonstrates, it keeps us informed about the ever-changing trends in American life—and how we can make lives better for our communities.

The Pantanal in South America What Does Being Spiritual Mean?
Black Students Leaving Howard University, An Institution Only For Afro-Americans In Washington, 1962.
Black Students Leaving Howard University, An Institution Only For Afro-Americans In Washington, 1962.
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An illustration of a couple holding hands walking away from an outline of houses behind them
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