Suburbs Rule

As reported in this article from New Geography, suburban living is still the choice of a majority of Americans.

An excerpt.

It’s time to put an end to the urban legend of the impending death of America’s suburbs. With the aging of the millennial generation, and growing interest from minorities and immigrants, these communities are getting a fresh infusion of residents looking for child-friendly, affordable, lower-density living.

We first noticed a takeoff in suburban growth in 2013, following a stall-out in the Great Recession. This year research from Brookings confirms that peripheral communities — the newly minted suburbs of the 1990s and early 2000s — are growing more rapidly than denser, inner ring areas.

Peripheral, recent suburbs accounted for roughly 43% of all U.S. residences in 2010. Between July 2013 and July 2014, core urban communities lost a net 363,000 people overall, Brookings demographer Bill Frey reports, as migration increased to suburban and exurban counties. The biggest growth was in exurban areas, or the “suburbiest” places on the periphery.

How could this be? If you read most major newspapers, or listened to NPR or PBS, you would think that the bulk of American job and housing growth was occurring closer to the inner core. Yet more than 80% of employment growth from 2007 to 2013 was in the newer suburbs and exurbs. Between 2012 and 2015, as the economy improved, occupied suburban office space rose from 75% of the market to 76.7%, according to the real estate consultancy Costar.

These same trends can be seen in older cities as well as the Sun Belt. Cities such as Indianapolis and Kansas City have seen stronger growth in the suburbs than in the core.

This pattern can even be seen in California, where suburban growth is discouraged by state planning policy but seems to be proceeding nevertheless. After getting shellacked in the recession, since 2012 the Inland Empire — long described as a basket case by urbanist pundits — has logged more rapid population growth than either Los Angeles and even generally healthy Orange County. Last year the metro area ranked third in California for job growth, behind suburban Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

To those who have been confidently promoting a massive “return to the city,” the resurgence of outer suburbs must be a bitter pill. In 2011, new urbanist pundit Chris Leinberger suggested outer ring suburbs were destined to become “wastelands” or, as another cheerily described them, “slumburbs” inhabited by the poor and struggling minorities chased out of the gentrifying city.

In this worldview, “peak oil” was among the things destined to drive people out of the exurbs . So convinced of the exurbs decline that some new urbanists were already fantasizing that suburban three-car garages would be “subdivided into rental units with street front cafés, shops, and other local businesses,” while abandoned pools would become skateboard parks.

This perspective naturally appeals to people who write most of our urban coverage from such high-density hot spots as Brooklyn, Manhattan, Washington, D.C., or San Francisco. And to be sure, all these places continue to attract bright people and money from around the world. Yet for the vast majority, particularly families, such places are too expensive, congested and often lack decent public schools. For those who can’t afford super-expensive houses and the cost of private education, the suburbs, particularly the exurbs, remain a better alternative.

Retrieved November 4, 2015 from

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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