It’s where the majority of us wish to live and this new data from New Geography supports the wish with facts.
The pattern of suburban (and exurban) population growth in the suburbs and exurbs that has dominated the United States since World War II has returned and is intensifying. This is evident from the latest American Community Survey (ACS) data for the 53 major metropolitan areas (more than 1 million population) as analyzed by the City Sector Model (See Note: The City Sector Model).
Before World War II, US metropolitan areas were considerably less automobile oriented and had higher population densities. There had been considerable suburbanization in the 1920s, facilitated at first by transit and then by early automobile growth, but that was largely interrupted by the Great Depression of the 1930s. More rapid suburbanization took place following the war.
The result was that the United States became an overly suburban nation (as research by Professor David L. A. Gordon and colleagues have also found in Canada and Australia).
The Rising Share of Suburban and Exurban Population
City Sector Model analysis shows that by 2000, 83.5 percent of major metropolitan area residents lived in the automobile oriented, principally postwar suburbs and exurbs. The exurbs largely include both urban development and rural areas within the metropolitan area (which is both the labor market and housing market).
The share of residents living in the suburbs and exurbs increased to 85.3 percent in 2010. The share of growth in the Urban Core was so small between 2000 and 2010 that the exurbs passed the urban core in population. The exurban population now leads that of the Urban Cores by 3,000,000.
The most recent data, from the ACS 2012 to 2016 rolling survey (middle year: 2014) places the suburban and exurban share of major metropolitan area population at 85.5 percent. Since 2010, suburban and exurban growth has accounted for an even higher 90.5 percent of population growth (Figure 1). The share of growth in the Urban Core was 9.5 percent, well below its 14.5 percent share of the 2010 population. Even the prewar Central Business Districts, part of the urban core had growth that fell nearly one-third short of their 1.3 percent 2000 population (1.0 percent).
The overall growth in the suburbs and exurbs was 6.6 million from 2010. The Later Suburbs accounted for 3.4 million new residents, the Earlier Suburbs 2.0 million and the Exurbs 1.1 million. The Urban Core added 0.7 million, approximately 70,000 in the Central Business Districts and 610,000 in the Inner Ring (Figure 2). Overall suburban and exurban growth was nearly 10 times Urban Core growth.
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