IMPLICIT IN ALMOST EVERYTHING that small-town residents say about their communities is a comparison with big cities. According to people who live in small towns, their communities are friendlier, safer, more familiar, more neighborly, more caring, and better places to raise families than a large metropolitan area. Residents of cities and suburbs are naturally less inclined to agree with negative assessments of their own communities. Although the primary point of reference for residents of big cities seems to be other large metropolitan areas, part of what they say resembles the comments of people in small towns. It is the friendly, neighborly atmosphere they especially appreciate. A resident of a medium-size city, for example, talks ...

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