A New Geography analysis of 2010 U.S. Census data reveals that Americans prefer less dense suburban areas to crowded major cities. According to this report, 9% of population growth occurred in metropolitan areas with more than one million people during the 2000s, down from 15% growth in these areas during the 1990s. All remaining growth took place in the suburbs.
Single-family dwellings accounted for 80% of new households in the nation’s largest cities. Higher vacancy rates pervaded the inventory of multi-unit homes, comprised of condo units with significantly reduced prices. Additionally, automobile commuters increased by almost eight million across the nation within the past decade, a rate six times faster than the amount of transit riders.
A similar analysis of demographics shows retirees prefer small communities and rural areas to major cities, with Baby Boomers moving away from dense urban cores and into suburban homes. Meanwhile, members of Generation Y entering their 30s are increasingly interested in homeownership, resulting in their greater interest in more affordable suburban communities.
Permitting this analysis, suburbia’s future is not so bleak. With future increases in economic growth, cities will tend to expand outward. Subsequently, residents will require shorter commutes, as more work places and cultural amenities will be located within suburban sprawl.
first tuesday take: Nonsense! This analysis ignores the present and the future. The notion that suburbs will soon surpass metropolitan areas in terms of residential preference is unrealistic.
Even with the reported population growth, suburban communities are simply not sustainable. Residents looking to maximize their opportunity in the future will look no further than the standards that urban living has to offer.
Suburbia’s economic growth, the domain of the less educated and under-skilled, was hit especially hard post-Boom, with a lack of sufficient employment centers to drive employment growth. The joblessness accompanying the population growth of suburban areas has led to a decline in the standard of living for many suburbanites.
Now, record numbers of uneducated suburban residents are living below the poverty line, while society’s elite are moving to gentrified cities. [For more information on the prominence of poverty within the suburbs, see October 2011 first tuesday article, Poverty hits home with suburban poor.]
During this period of economic strife, suburban residents have not been able to sell their homes and relocate. Thus, occupants have been willing to put up with longer commutes and higher gas prices.
Such unsustainable and inconvenient habits will eventually convince Californian suburbanites to relocate closer to centers of employment in urban areas and abandon the long commutes required within sprawl itself. [For more information on the unsustainability of suburban living, see July 2011 first tuesday article, The fate of suburbia.]
As for demographics, California will continue to be shaped by its status as one of the youngest states in the nation. Gen Y, more educated than their Baby Boomer parents, will gravitate toward areas where they can work at their skill level while receiving a higher level of compensation than suburbia has to offer. Thus, they will be settling into urbanized cities.
At the same time, while low employment rates continue to interfere with homeownership, Gen Y will rent living spaces longer than their Baby Boomer parents did, replacing a settled suburban lifestyle with a more hip and urban way of life. The U.S. trend of moving to cities has been a one-way street for over 100 years, and for good reasons as we all become more global in our conduct – especially in California.
Following their children and grandchildren, as they instinctively will, the Baby Boomers will relocate to the city once sufficient retirement wealth has again accrued. [For more information on the coming depopulation of suburbia, see July 2011 first tuesday article, From city to suburbia then back.]
Re: “Is Suburbia Doomed? Not So Fast.” From New Geography