The city or the suburbs? It’s a debate that’s been raging for some time now, and over the past five years or so, it appeared the scales were tipping back toward urban-living proponents. But something funny happened on the way to the city. Urban population growth is slowing, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Sure, urban growth still outpaces growth in the suburbs – but not quite as quickly as in previous years. Census Bureau statistics show that “of the 51 largest metropolitan regions in the U.S. in 2013, just 18 of them saw faster growth in cities than suburbs…compared with 25 in 2012,” reported Time’s Josh Sanburn.
Most of the folks moving back to the ‘burbs live in the nation’s Southern and Western regions. In fact, Texas saw the largest migration of its urban core to the suburbs.
So, what’s the big attraction of an area that causes you to practically live in your car as you get to and from work? There are still many reasons to love suburban life.
When Two Becomes Three (Or More)
Children. The desire to start a family is one of the biggest drivers of migration from the city to the suburbs. “Our analyses of cities around the world have shown definitively that people with children tend to avoid urban cores, even in the most gentrified environments,” writes demographics expert Joel Kotkin at Forbes.
Safety is an often-cited reason for leaving the city, alongside the desire for more space for a growing family.
Visions of a Single-Family Home
The biggest attraction to life in the suburbs is the desire to own a single-family home. Almost non-existent in our country’s urban cores, the single-family home with a yard for the kids dominates the suburban landscape.
It can be fun to live in hip urban neighborhoods, but after having that second or third kid, it can get crowded in a condo, townhome, or other small urban living space that lacks the room for kids to run around in.
It’s not just the extra room that folks are itching for, ditching the landlord is a big incentive too. After all, being a tenant in a cramped apartment doesn’t exactly allow you the freedom to paint the walls whatever color strikes your fancy, or to get that puppy the kids have been begging for.
The Quality of Life Shift
While perspectives on quality of life change as we age, the suburbs provide what many young families crave: comfort, privacy, good schools and life at a slower pace. Priorities change as well. Living in walking distance of the hottest new restaurant takes a backseat to living in walking distance of a quality school.
And as Millennials migrate to the suburbs, they may find that they have more in common with their neighbors, and friendships are easier to forge.
Baffled by Boomers
Baby Boomers, the country’s second largest demographic group, are, as usual, confounding demographers. As many sources claim that Boomers are moving to cities as that say they are moving to the suburbs.
A recent Harvard University/AARP study shows the latter to be true. Most Boomers currently live in the suburbs, and those who say they’ll move won’t be moving to the city, according to the Washington Post. The study found that more than two-thirds of Boomers want a yard and/or a garden, something hard to come by in the dense urban core.
As confusing as the varied reports are, we can take away a few lessons. Some consider the suburbs “conformist and stultifying,” as social critic William Whyte stated back in the 1960s, while others think of them as an idyllic, peaceful refuge. Which side of the white-picket fence you fall on seems to have a lot to do with your stage in life.
When you’re young and unencumbered, it only makes sense to live life where the action is. But as we get older and the more our families grow, the more other things take priority.
One thing is certain, however. The single-family home is still the cornerstone of the American Dream.