Back To The Burbs
The Suburbs Are Growing Faster Than Cities

Don’t count the suburbs out. That’s the lesson of a new study from the Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Housing. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Property developers and urban-policy experts have trumpeted the influx of young, affluent professionals into big central cities in recent years. The shift has transformed downtown areas, sparking a historic boom in luxury-apartment construction and retail development.

That, in turn, has fueled affordability concerns in cities as diverse as Cleveland and Dallas. Median home values in the urban areas studied were $365,000, compared with $305,000 in the suburbs.

But research shows that suburbs are continuing to outstrip downtowns in overall population growth, diversity and even younger residents.

The suburban areas surrounding the 50 largest metropolitan areas make up 79% of the population of those areas but accounted for 91% of population growth over the past 15 years, according to the study. What’s more, three-quarters of people age 25 to 34 in these metro areas live in suburbs.

Conventional wisdom among the intelligentsia is that cities are the future; the big house, big car lifestyle is a relic of a time when people ate jello and poured ranch dressing on everything. Journalists and academics have cheered on this “New Urbanism,” penning rapturous essays about old warehouses repurposed as indoor markets, and the communal vibrance and eco-friendliness of urban density. Meanwhile, millions of Americans have been doing exactly the opposite of what the urbanists predicted: moving to the suburbs.

This news underscores the argument WRM made in his essay on Monday morning about the big opportunity awaiting President-elect Trump. The suburbs get a bad rap, and worries about the environmental impact of a suburban lifestyle should lessen as self-driving cars come online and telecommuting becomes easier. But even without much help from the government, it’s clear that Americans still choose to avoid cities. Suburbs have been driving more job growth in recent years than have cities, reversing the post-recession urban success story (one which was partly driven by the stimulus bill and low interest rates). WRM argues that President-elect Trump could capitalize on this trend. Read the whole thing if you haven’t already.

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