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New Cities
America Ditches the Suburbs, Kind Of

Though the world as a whole is quickly going suburban, a new piece in Time Magazine argues that America is going the opposite direction:

A major change is underway in where and how we are choosing to live. In 2011, for the first time in nearly a hundred years, the rate of urban population growth outpaced suburban growth, reversing a trend that held steady for every decade since the invention of the automobile. In several metropolitan areas, building activity that was once concentrated in the suburban fringe has now shifted to what planners call the “urban core,” while demand for large single-family homes that characterize our modern suburbs is dwindling. This isn’t just a result of the recession. Rather, the housing crisis of recent years has concealed something deeper and more profound happening to what we have come to know as American suburbia. Simply speaking, more and more Americans don’t want to live there anymore.

The piece does really offer much evidence for the claim in the last sentence, besides referencing some TV shows and a personal anecdote. But the first part of the paragraph stands on its own. One thing that is, however, compatible with that statistic is the kind of growth patterns outlined by Joel Kotkin, demographer and suburban enthusiast. Kotkin has argued that cities like Houston—more sprawly and spread-out than dense urban enclaves like New York or DC—are the future of urban development. A nice piece in the Upshot digging into post-college settlement patterns recently confirmed Kotkin’s basic point by showing that recent graduates are increasingly moving to ‘non-traditional’ cities like Houston and Pittsburgh. If he’s right, the urbanization of America might result in something that still looks a lot like the suburbs.

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  • Anthony

    Countervailing data: “yet desperate as life in the burbs is said to be, the majority of Americans – and roughly 85% of those in metropolitan areas – still live in the classic, tree-lined, single-family house and auto-dominated communities that…are essentially suburban communities.” (Joel Kotkin)

    • Corlyss

      Even if yuppies and dinks would rather live in the hustle and bustle of a vibrant city, they don’t once the kids come along. Most cities aren’t that vibrant or wholesome for kids. Cities okay apparently for minorities, who need a high level of services but can’t pay for them, but not for the people who have to pay for them.

  • George Gamble

    The media has been trying to bury the suburbs since the 50s. I live in NY, and it seems to me that 75% of people I know through work or play have moved or are looking to move to the suburbs (or further). Of course, this is one small section based on people who can work remotely as I am in the tech industry. But I find it hard to believe as cities continue to become more expensive, that our financially burdened young people will continue the migration urban planners so wish for.

  • Corlyss

    Geez! Can’t you kids do any better than Time? Who reads Time any more for trenchant insights into anything?

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    The problem is the number of renters vs. home owners, it is cheaper to rent an apartment than a home. For several reasons student loans, tightened lending, high unemployment, falling wages, home ownership is in decline and won’t recover until the economy comes out of Great Depression 2.0.

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