More Americans are showing a preference for living closer into the city than the outer suburbs, according to newly released U.S. Census data. The annual rate of growth in American cities and surrounding urban areas recently surpassed exurbs for the first time in two decades. Residential exurbs on the edge of metro areas once were a popular place for city dwellers to flock for bigger and more affordable housing options, but the trend is reversing.
“The heyday of exurbs may well be behind us,” Robert J. Shiller, a Yale University economist, told the Associated Press.
Rising gas prices are certainly one factor behind the shift, economists note, but demographic changes are also playing a part. More young singles are delaying marriage and having children, and thus find they don’t need the extra roominess the exurbs tend to offer in housing. Older populations are also showing greater preferences for living in walkable urban centers.
Many outer suburbs that had been experiencing booming growth just a few years ago are now seeing growth stall. In fact, 99 of the 100 fastest-growing exurbs and outer suburbs of 2006 experienced small or no growth at all in 2011, according to Census data. (Spotsylvania County, Va., south of the Washington, D.C., metro area, was the only exception.)
“The sting of this experience may very well put the damper on the long-held view among young families and new immigrants that building a home in the outer suburbs is a quick way to achieve the American dream,” William H. Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer, told the Associated Press.
Source: “An End to America’s Exurbia? For First Time, City, Urban Growth Outpaces that of Outer Suburbs,” Associated Press (April 6, 2012)