The Triumph of Suburbia


The “silver lining” in our five-years-and-running Great Recession, we’re told, is that Americans have finally taken heed of their betters and are finally rejecting the empty allure of suburban space and returning to the urban core.

“We’ve reached the limits of suburban development,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan declared in 2010. “People are beginning to vote with their feet and come back to the central cities.” Ed Glaeser’s Triumph of the City and Alan Ehrenhalt’s The Great Inversion—widely praised and accepted by the highest echelons of academia, press, business, and government—have advanced much the same claim, and just last week a report on jobs during the downturn garnered headlines like “City Centers in U.S. Gain Share of Jobs as Suburbs Lose.”

There’s just one problem with this narrative: none of it is true. A funny thing happened on the way to the long-trumpeted triumph of the city: the suburbs not only survived but have begun to regain their allure as Americans have continued aspiring to single-family homes.

Read the actual Brookings report that led to the “Suburbs Lose” headline: it shows that in 91 of America’s 100 biggest metro areas, the share of jobs located within three miles of downtown declined over the 2000s. Only Washington, D.C., saw significant growth.

To be sure, our ongoing Great Recession slowed the rate of outward expansion but it didn’t stop it—and it certainly didn’t lead to a jobs boom in the urban core.

“Absent policy changes as the economy starts to gain steam,” report author and urban booster Elizabeth Kneebone warned Bloomberg, “there’s every reason to believe that trend [of what she calls “jobs sprawl”] will continue.”

The Hate Affair With Suburbia

Suburbs have never been popular with the chattering classes, whose members tend to cluster in a handful of denser, urban communities—and who tend to assume that place shapes behavior, so that if others are pushed to live in these communities they will also behave in a more enlightened fashion, like the chatterers. This is a fallacy with a long pedigree in planning circles, going back to the housing projects of the 1940s, which were built in no small part on the evidently absurd, and eventually discredited, assumption that if the poor had the same sort of housing stock as the rich, they would behave in the same ways.

Today’s planning class has adopted what I call a retro-urbanist position, essentially identifying city life with the dense, highly centralized and transit-dependent form that emerged with the industrial revolution. When the city—a protean form that is always changing, and usually expands as it grows—takes a different form, they simply can’t see it as urban growth.

In his masterwork A Planet of Cities, NYU economist Solly Angel explains that virtually all major cities in the U.S. and the world grow outward and become less dense in the process. Suburbs are expanding relative to urban cores in every one of the world’s 28 megacities, including New York and Los Angeles.  Far from a perversion of urbanism, Angel suggests, this is the process by which cities have grown since men first established them.

In the U.S., the hate affair with suburbs and single-family housing, even in the city, dates to their rapid growth in the American boom after the first World War. In 1921 historian and literary criticic Lewis Mumford described the expansion of New York’s outer boroughs as a “dissolute landscape,” “a no-man’s land which was neither town or country.” Decades later, Robert Caro described the new rows of small, mostly attached houses—still the heart of the city’s housing stock—built in the post-war years as “blossoming hideously” as New Yorkers fled venerable, and congested, parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan for more spacious, tree-lined streets farther east, south, and north.

In the 1950s, the rise of mass-produced suburbs like Levittown, New York, and Lakewood, California, sparked even more extreme criticism. Not everyone benefited from the innovation that allowed the Levitts to pioneer homes costing on average just $8,000—African-Americans were excluded from the original development—but for many middle- and working-class American whites, the housing and suburban booms represented an enormous step forward. The new low-cost suburbia, wrote Robert Bruegmann in his compact history of sprawl, “provided the surest way to obtain some of the privacy, mobility and choice that once were available only to the wealthiest and most powerful members of society.”

The urban gentry and intelligentsia, though, disdained this voluntary migration. Perhaps the most bitter critic was the great urbanist Jane Jacobs. An aficionado of the old, highly diverse urban districts of Manhattan, Jacobs not only hated trendsetter Los Angeles but dismissed the bedroom communities of Queens and Staten Island with the memorable phrase, “The Great Blight of Dullness.” The 1960s social critic William Whyte, who, unlike Jacobs, at least bothered to study suburbs close up, denounced them as hopelessly conformist and stultifying. Like many later critics, he predicted in Fortune that people and companies would tire of them and return to the city core.

More recent critiques of suburbia have focused as well on their alleged vulnerability in an energy-constrained era. “The American way of life—which is now virtually synonymous with suburbia—can only run on reliable supplies of cheap oil and gas,” declares James Howard Kunstler in his 2005 peak oil jeremiad, The Long Emergency. “Even mild to moderate deviations in either price or supply will crush our economy and make the logistics of daily life impossible.”

Too often, the anti-surbanites seem to take a certain perverse comfort in any development, no matter how grim, that “helps” protect Americans from the “wrong choice” of aspiring to space of their own. The housing crash of 2007 was cheered on in some circles as the death knell of the suburban dream, as when theorist Chris Leinberger declared in the Atlantic that soon, poor families would be crowding into dilapidated McMansions in the “suburban wastelands.

For retro-urbanists such as Richard Florida the reports, however premature, of the death of the suburbs, confirmed deeply held notions about the superiority of dense, urban living.  He summarily declared the single-family house archaic, and the quest for homeownership one of the “countless forms of over-consumption that have a horribly distorting affect on the economy."

The Real Geography of America

But the simple fact remains that the single-family home has remained the American dream, with sales outpacing those of condominiums  and co-ops despite the downturn.

Florida has suggested that simply stating the numbers makes me a sprawl lover While he and other urban nostalgists see the city only in its dense urban core, and the city’s role as intimately tied with the amenities that are supposed to attract the relatively wealthy members of the so-called “creative class,” I see the urban form as ever changing, and consider a city’s primary mission not aesthetic or simply economic but to serve the interests and aspirations of all of its residents.

Clearly the data supports a long-term preference for suburbs. Even as some core cities rebounded from the nadir of the 1970s, the suburban share of overall share of growth in America’s 51 major metropolitan areas (those with populations  of at least one million) has accelerated—rising from 85 percent in the ’90s to 91 percent in the ’00s. There’s more than a tinge of elitism animating the urban theorists who think that urban destiny rides mostly with the remaining nine percent matters. Overall, over 70 percent of residents in the major metropolitan areas now live in suburbs.

Surveys, including those sponsored by the National Association of Realtors, suggest roughly 80 percent of Americans prefer a single family house to an apartment or a townhouse. Only 8 percent would prefer to live in an apartment. Yet just 70 percent of households live in a single-family house, while 17 percent live in apartments—suggesting the demand for single-family houses is still not being met. Such housing may be unaffordable, particularly in high-cost urban cores, but there is a fundamental market demand for it.

To be sure, the Great Recession did slow the growth of suburbs and particularly exurbs—but recent indicators suggest a resurgence. An analysis last October by Jed Kolko, chief economist at the real estate website Trulia, reports that between 2011 and 2012 less-dense-than-average ZIP codes grew at double the rate of more-dense-than-average ZIP codes in the 50 largest metropolitan areas. Americans, he wrote, “still love the suburbs.”

The Future Demographics of Suburbia

Ultimately the question of growth revolves around the preferences of consumers. Despite predictions that the rise of singles, an aging population and the changing preferences of millennials will create a glut of 22 million unwanted large-lot homes by 2025, it seems more likely that three critical groups will fuel demand for more suburban housing.

Between 2000 and 2011, there has been a net increase of 9.3 million in the foreign born population, largely from Asia and Latin America, with these newcomers accounting for about two out of every five new residents of the nation’s 51 largest metropolitan areas. And these immigrants show a growing preference for more “suburbanized” cities such as Nashville, Charlotte, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth. An analysis of census data shows only New York—with nearly four times the population—drew (barely) more foreign-born arrivals over the past decade than sprawling Houston. Overwhelmingly suburban Riverside–San Bernardino expanded its immigrant population by nearly three times as many people as the much larger and denser Los Angeles–Orange County metropolitan area.

Clearly, immigrants aren’t looking for the density and crowding of Mexico City, Seoul, Shanghai, or Mumbai. Since 2000, about two-thirds of Hispanic household growth was in detached housing. The share of Asian arrivals in detached housing is up 20 percent over the same span. Nearly half of all Hispanics and Asians now live in single-family homes, even in traditionally urban places like New York City, according to the census’s American Community Survey.

Nowhere are these changes more marked than among Asians, who now make up the nation’s largest wave of new immigrants. Over the last decade, the Asian population in suburbs grew by about 2.8 million, or 53 percent, while that of core cities grew by 770,000, or 28 percent.

Aging boomers, too, continue to show a preference for space, despite the persistent urban legend that they will migrate back to the core city. Again, the numbers tell a very different story.

A National Association of Realtors survey last year of buyers over 65 found that the vast majority looked for suburban homes. Of the remaining seniors, only one in 10 looked for a place in the city—less than the share that wanted a rural home. When demographer Wendell Cox examined the cohort that was 54 to 65 in 2000 to see where they were a decade later, the share that lived in the suburbs was stable, while many had left the city—the real growth was people moving to the countryside. Within metropolitan areas, more than 99 percent of the increase in population among people aged 65 and over between 2000 and 2010 was in low-density counties with less than 2,500 people per square mile.

With the over-65 population expected to double by 2050, making it by far America’s fastest-growing age group, they appear poised to be a significant source of demand for suburban housing.

But arguably the most critical element to future housing demand is the rising millennial generation. It has been widely asserted by retro-urbanists that young people prefer urban living. Urban theorists such as Peter Katz have maintained that millennials (the generation born after 1983) have little interest in “returning to the cul-de-sacs of their teenage years.” 

To bolster their assertions, retro-urbanist point to stated-preference research showing that more than three quarters of millennials say they “want to live in urban cores.” But looking at where millenials actually live now—and where they see themselves living in the future—shows a very different story. In the nation's major metropolitan areas, only 8 percent of residents aged 20 to 24 (the only millennial adult age group for which census data is available) live in the highest-density counties—and that share has declined from a decade earlier. What’s more, 43 percent of millenials describe the suburbs as their “ideal place to live”—a greater share than their older peers—and 82 percent of adult millenials say it’s “important” to them to have an opportunity to own their home.

And, of course, as people get older and take on commitments and start families, they tend to look for more settled, and less dense, environments. A 2009 Pew study found that 45 percent of Americans 18 to 34 would like to live in New York City, compared with just 14 percent of those over 35. As about 7 million more millenials—a group the Pew surveys show desire children and place a premium on being good parents—hit their 30s by 2020, expect their remaining attachment to the city to wane.

This family connection has always eluded the retro-urbanists. “Suburbs,” Jane Jacobs once wrote, “must be difficult places to raise children.” Yet suburbs have served for three generation now as the nation’s nurseries. Jacobs’s treatment of the old core city—particularly her Greenwich Village in the early 1960s—lovingly portrayed these places as they once were, characterized by class, age, and some ethnic diversity along with strong parental networks, often based on ethnic solidarity.

To say the least, this is not what characterizes Greenwich Village or in Manhattan today. In fact, many of the most vibrant, and high-priced urban cores—including Manhattan, San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle—have remarkably few children living there. Certainly, the the 300-square-foot “micro-units” now all the rage among the retro-urbanist set seem unlikely to attract more families, or even married couples.

The Persistence of the Suburban Economy

As Americans have voted with their feet for the suburbs, employers have followed.

Despite the attention heaped on a handful of companies like United Airlines and Quicken Loans that have moved “back to the city,” the suburbanization of the overall American economy has continued apace. Historically, suburbs served largely as residential areas, so-called bedroom communities, but their share of steadily.

Job dispersion is now a reality in virtually every metropolitan area, with twice as many jobs located 10 miles from city centers as in those centers. Between 1998 and 2006, as 95 out of 98 metro areas saw a decrease in the share of jobs located within three miles of downtown, according to a Brookings report. The outermost parts of these metro areas saw employment increase by 17 percent, compared to a gain of less than 1 percent in the urban core. Overall, the report found, only 21 percent of employees in the top 98 metros in America live within three miles of the center of their city.

This decentralization of jobs was slowed somewhat by the Great Recession, which hit more dispersed industries like construction, manufacturing and retail particularly hard. Yet an analysis of jobs in 2010 by the Rudin Center for Transport Policy and Management found that dispersion had continued. Between 2002 and 2010 only two of the top 10 metropolitan regions (New York and San Francisco) saw a significant increase in employment in their urban core.

Some observers claim that job growth is coming to the urban core in response to the changing preferences of younger workers, particularly in high-tech fields and as much media attention has been given to a few prominent social media start ups in New York and San Francisco. Similar pronouncements were  made during the great dot-com boom of the late 1990s, and burst along with the bubble. In fact, the number of urban core country tech jobs actually shrank over the past decade, according to an analysis of Science, Technology, Engineering and Management (STEM) jobs by Praxis Strategy Group.

While companies in walking distance of big-city reporters make news out of all proportion to their importance, virtually all the major tech concentrations in the country—including Silicon Valley—are suburban. San Jose is a postwar suburban core municipality, having experienced the vast bulk of its growth since 1940. Virtually all the nation’s top tech companies—Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Oracle and even Facebook—are located in suburban settings 45 minutes or more from San Francisco. Apple’s recent plans to construct its new corporate campus in bucolic Cupertino elicited anger from the Environment Defense Fund and other smart-growth advocates, but reflects the fact that the vast majority of the tech industry is located, along with the bulk of its workforce, in the suburbs.

Apple employs many experienced engineers, many of whom have families and prefer to live in suburbs. In 2012 San Francisco had a significantly lower share of STEM jobs per capita than Santa Clara County. And the new rising stars of the tech world—Austin and Raleigh-Cary—are even more dispersed and car-dependent than San Jose. 

What Really Matters

While they’ve weaved a compelling narrative, the numbers make it clear that the retro-urbanists only chance of prevailing is a disaster, say if the dynamics associated with the Great Recession—a rise in renting, declining home ownership and plunging birthrates—become our new, ongoing normal. Left to their own devices, Americans will continue to make the “wrong” choices about how to live.

And in the end, it boils down to where people choose to live. Despite the dystopian portrays of suburbs, suburbanites seem to win the argument over place and geography, with far higher percentages rating their communities as “excellent” compared to urban core dwellers.

Today’s suburban families, it should be stressed, are hardly replicas of 1950s normality; as Stephanie Coontz has noted, that period was itself an anomaly. But however they are constituted—as blended families, ones headed up by single parents or gay couples—they still tend to congregate in these kinds of dispersed cities, or in the suburban hinterlands of traditional cities. Ultimately life style, affordability and preference seem to trump social views when people decide where they would like to live.

We already see these preferences establishing themselves, again, among   Generation X and even millennials as some move, according to The New York Times,toward “hipsturbia,” with former Brooklynites migrating to places along the Hudson River. The Times, as could be expected, drew a picture of hipsters “re-creating urban core life” in the suburbs. While it may be seems incomprehensible to the paper’s Manhattan-centric world view by moving out, these new suburbanites are opting not to re-create the high-density city but to leave it for single-family homes, lawns, good schools, and spacious environments—things rarely available in places such as Brooklyn except to the very wealthiest. Like the original settlers of places like Levittown, they migrated to suburbia from the urban core as they get married, start families and otherwise find themselves staked in life. In an insightful critique, the New York Observerskewered the pretensions of these new suburbanites, pointing out that “despite their tattoos and gluten-free baked goods and their farm-to-table restaurants, they are following in the exact same footsteps as their forebears.”

So, rather than the “back to the cities” movement that’s been heralded for decades but never arrived, we’ve gone “back to the future,” as people age and arrive in America and opt for updated versions of the same lifestyle that have drawn previous generations to the much detested yet still-thriving peripheries of the metropolis.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of and a distinguished presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. He is author of The City: A Global History and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. His most recent study, The Rise of Postfamilialism, has been widely discussed and distributed internationally. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

This piece originally appeared in the The Daily Beast.

Suburbs photo by BigStock.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

I high appreciate this post.

I high appreciate this post. It’s hard to find the good from the bad sometimes, but I think you’ve nailed it! would you mind updating your blog with more information?
gfas v2 testimonials

Pretty good post. I just

Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. anti-wrinkle

Positive site, where did u

Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting? I'm pleased I discovered it though, ill be checking back soon to find out what additional posts you include.
am i too ugly to get a girlfriend

What a marvelous information

What a marvelous information from You on this post. I really agree with this consider that You have the power of evolving in that way, that soon Your blog will be the most read of all people. Now my friends admire Your work.

Thanks very much for this

Thanks very much for this great article;this is the stuff that keeps me going through out these day.
free xbox live codes

You have raised an important

You have raised an important issue..Thanks for sharing..I would like to read more current affairs from this blog..keep posting..
free xbox live codes

I've just decided to create

I've just decided to create a blog, which I have been wanting to do for a while. Thanks for this post, it's really useful!
מבזקי חדשות

Great Article it its really

Great Article it its really informative and innovative keep us posted with new updates. its was really valuable. thanks a lot.

effective ways to get your ex back

Thanks for writing such a

Thanks for writing such a good article, I stumbled onto your blog and read a few post. I like your style of writing...
wordpress directory theme

Should there be another

Should there be another persuasive post you can share next time, I’ll be surely waiting for it.

Interesting post. I Have

Interesting post. I Have Been wondering about this issue, so thanks for posting. Pretty cool post.It 's really very nice and Useful post.Thanks
best way of getting your ex back

Urban Issues

well I don't have much to say about economics and the great recession, what i can do is this just live my life the fullest and continue to look for a better life for my family.\

buy soundcloud plays

Thanks for sharing the info,

Thanks for sharing the info, keep up the good work going.... I really enjoyed exploring your site. good resource...
gfas activation system

Thank you again for all the

Thank you again for all the knowledge you distribute,Good post. I was very interested in the article, it's quite inspiring I should admit. I like visiting you site since I always come across interesting articles like this one.Great Job, I greatly appreciate that.Do Keep sharing! Regards,
how can i get a girlfriend when im fat

I found that site very

I found that site very usefull and this survey is very cirious, I ' ve never seen a blog that demand a survey for this actions, very curious...

I found that site very

I found that site very usefull and this survey is very cirious, I ' ve never seen a blog that demand a survey for this actions, very curious...

What a fantabulous post this

What a fantabulous post this has been. Never seen this kind of useful post. I am grateful to you and expect more number of posts like these. Thank you very much.
erase herpes dr. christiane buehlern video review

Positive site, where did u

Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting? I'm pleased I discovered it though, ill be checking back soon to find out what additional posts you include.
best ways to get a hot girl interested in you

I'm glad I found this web

I'm glad I found this web site, I couldn't find any knowledge on this matter prior to.Also operate a site and if you are ever interested in doing some visitor writing for me if possible feel free to let me know, im always look for people to check out my web site.
Puestos más populares

This is such a great

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free.

girlfriend activation system full video

Thanks for writing such a

Thanks for writing such a good article, I stumbled onto your blog and read a few post. I like your style of writing...
Beijing air quality

Thanks for the valuable

Thanks for the valuable information and insights you have so provided here...
3 steps to make any man fall in love with you

Thanks for the nice blog. It

Thanks for the nice blog. It was very useful for me. I'm happy I found this blog. Thank you for sharing with us,I too always learn something new from your post.
fixing vision without surgery

I found that site very

I found that site very usefull and this survey is very cirious, I ' ve never seen a blog that demand a survey for this actions, very curious...
klick mich

I high appreciate this post.

I high appreciate this post. It’s hard to find the good from the bad sometimes, but I think you’ve nailed it! would you mind updating your blog with more information?
visit user's homepage

I can see that you are an

I can see that you are an expert at your field! I am launching a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success in your business.
text your ex back michael fiore download review

This type of message always

This type of message always inspiring and I prefer to read quality content, so happy to find good place to many here in the post, the writing is just great, thanks for the post.
Edward Bass Producer

Thanks for a wonderful

Thanks for a wonderful share. Your article has proved your hard work and experience you have got in this field. Brilliant .i love it reading.
should i buy the desire system

This is a great inspiring

This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information. Keep it up. Keep blogging. Looking to reading your next post.
modern wonen

Hey what a brilliant post I

Hey what a brilliant post I have come across and believe me I have been searching out for this similar kind of post for past a week and hardly came across this. Thank you very much and will look for more postings from you.
chaussures de travail

Thanks for a wonderful

Thanks for a wonderful share. Your article has proved your hard work and experience you have got in this field. Brilliant .i love it reading.
visit user's homepage

Excellent and very exciting

Excellent and very exciting site. Love to watch. Keep Rocking.
pdf format

This is such a great

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing blog that understand the value. Im glad to have found this post as its such an interesting one! I am always on the lookout for quality posts and articles so i suppose im lucky to have found this! I hope you will be adding more in the future...
gfas website

Thanks for taking the time

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly that love and read more on this topic. If possible, such as gain knowledge, would you mind updating your blog with additional information? It is very useful for me.
besøg brugerens webside

Thanks For sharing this

Thanks For sharing this Superb article.I use this Article to show my assignment in is useful For me Great Work.
should i buy the girlfriend activation system

You know your projects stand

You know your projects stand out of the herd. There is something special about them. It seems to me all of them are really brilliant!
easy method

I am very enjoyed for this

I am very enjoyed for this blog. Its an informative topic. It help me very much to solve some problems. Its opportunity are so fantastic and working style so speedy.
key lock sequence bobby rio program reviews

I wanted to thank you for

I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

Please let me know if

Please let me know if you’re looking for a article writer for your site. You have some really great posts and I feel I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d absolutely love to write some material for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please send me an email if interested. Thank you!
jason capital how to make women want you ebook reviews

I just couldn't leave your

I just couldn't leave your website before telling you that I truly enjoyed the top quality info you present to your visitors? Will be back again frequently to check up on new posts.
tips to help get your ex back

Awesome article! I want

Awesome article! I want people to know just how good this information is in your article. It’s interesting, compelling content. Your views are much like my own concerning this subject.

its really fantastic blog .

its really fantastic blog . its realy informational and a such a good job. i love this girlsdoporn

Excellent website you have

Excellent website you have here, so much cool information!..
how do i get a girl to want to date me

Nice to read your article! I

Nice to read your article! I am looking forward to sharing your adventures and experiences.
50 amazing ways to use coconut oil

Nice knowledge gaining

Nice knowledge gaining article. This post is really the best on this valuable topic.

This is my first time i

This is my first time i visit here and I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially it's discussion, thank you.

I have bookmarked your blog,

I have bookmarked your blog, the articles are way better than other similar blogs.. thanks for a great blog!
indoor trick photography

I really loved reading your

I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to undertand. Unlike additional blogs I have read which are really not tht good. I also found your posts very interesting. In fact after reading, I had to go show it to my friend and he ejoyed it as well!

I havent any word to

I havent any word to appreciate this post.....Really i am impressed from this post....the person who create this post it was a great human..thanks for shared this with us.
Dark Post Profits

Excellent information on

Excellent information on your blog, thank you for taking the time to share with us. Amazing insight you have on this, it's nice to find a website that details so much information about different artists.
dfw truck accessories

Thank you so much for the

Thank you so much for the post you do. I like your post and all you share with us is up to date and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job.
what to do if you get sick a lot

Great survey, I'm sure

Great survey, I'm sure you're getting a great response.
avatrol monthly reviews

Great Article it its really

Great Article it its really informative and innovative keep us posted with new updates. its was really valuable. thanks a lot.

Love to be a farmer

Thanks for share. While companies in walking distance of big-city reporters make news out of all proportion to their importance, virtually all the major tech concentrations in the country—including Silicon Valley—are suburban. synthetic winch ropes are one of the best things to happen to winches in the past 40 years – lighter, potentially stronger and much easier on the hands.

I was looking at some of

I was looking at some of your posts on this website and I conceive this web site is really instructive! Keep putting up..

Thanks for sharing the info,

Thanks for sharing the info, keep up the good work going.... I really enjoyed exploring your site. good resource... tapijten bestellen

Socialism Engineering

As others have likely mentioned already, much of the animus towards suburbs and other modes of empowered living stems from their association with social and fiscal conservatism.

Middle class, church-going, "white" Americans live in the suburbs, where they work hard, raise their families and in general carry on with the social and cultural traditions that the sophomoric nihilistic faux intelligentsia spend so much of their emotional capital despising and disparaging.

When you look at electoral maps, an interesting pattern emerges. Nominally blue states are not solid blue. For every deep blue urban center there are geographically large regions surrounding it that are purple at best, and often quite red. Even in indigo Massachusetts, there are red counties.

The converse is also true. The urban areas in virtually every red state tend towards purple and even blue.

The leftists look at this and see an electoral strategy.

They foolishly believe that if people can be made to come and live in urban areas, their politics will change and mirror that of the people who already live there.

This isn't so much wrong as it is ridiculous.


sieu thi mevabe , sua bot Dumex , sua tuoi vinamilk , sua Nestle cho tre em

Municipal governments of big cities need to accept that ...

... most families (and especially families with children) need a private automobile, even if the adult members of the household use transit for all commute purposes.

A "carfree" lifestyle probably works for hip singles and couples without children, but if there are kids in the family, then a car probably becomes part of the mix.

Aggressive efforts to inhibit auto ownership (including apartment homes with no garage parking and no parking allowed on area streets, or a severely constrained parking supply with aggressive parking enforcement) are going to drive many such families to other neighborhoods - frequently in those dreaded suburbs.

"Demand" for bread is "falling" in North Korea, too

The half-truth that “demand” in the housing market is “increasingly for smaller and smaller units” is becoming tiresome, especially in the markets where this is a self-fulfilling prophecy of tyrannical urban planning and grossly inflated urban land costs.

This is like saying that “demand” in North Korea is for less and less slices of bread per person. Of course, some people have to go without completely - just as in these unaffordable housing markets, more and more young people are growing up without the prospect of owning a home of their own.

The so called “demand for smaller and smaller housing units” is mostly the result of the obscene racket in urban land that is being enabled by incompetent and bloody-minded “urban planners”, which results in the price of land per square foot rising faster than everyone can try to down-size to what they can afford. These urban planners with their fandangled computer models, and the Greenie politicians who sell the racket to the gullible public, are denying all the real world evidence when they claim that low density sprawl is “too expensive”.

Any fool can investigate the following data set of cities for a comparison of urban density, housing affordability, housing size and quality, efficiency of commute times, local fiscal sustainability, and household discretionary income. Houston, Dallas, Austin, Charlotte, Raleigh, Des Moines, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Omaha, Kansas City, and other “growth uninhibited” cities absolutely slaughter hands down on every measure, the heavily-planned, high density cities such as Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Luton, Coventry and Glasgow. Cities in land-rich Canada, Australia and New Zealand are another disgraceful data set that gives the lie to suggestions that actual lack of land (eg for food security) is "the" underlying problem in the UK.

It is true that some elderly people eventually move into smaller accommodation, but most stay in their familiar family home for as long as possible. In the UK there is such a desperate shortage of houses and so many young people priced out of the market, the government is talking about imposing a tax on older people still living in homes with “too much space”.

Agreed but I think you missed the point of Glaeser's book

I agree with this piece but I think it does a disservice to Glaeser's arguments. In the book he notes that HE moved to the suburbs and gives a pretty cogent defense of why those preferences manifest themselves in many people as they grow older and start families(which is actually a lot like your own writing). His treatment of "The Woods" in Houston is anything but a criticism.

I think he rightly notes, however, that the planet is going to be in trouble if everyone wants this suburban lifestyle - we just have not figured out (yet) how to live in such a land form in a sustainable way.

"Sustainability", urban density, and post-modern unreason

Your last point is the crux of this. There is nil reason whatsoever to assume that low density living is less "sustainable" on balance than high density.

Consider the following; is high density or low density urban living more compatible with these initiatives?

1) Geothermal heat pumps
2) Passive and active solar heating
3) household wind turbines
4) burning biomass for heating and cooking
5) household collection of rainwater
6) household production of food
7) fresh air ventilation and clothes drying
8) on site waste disposal, recycling, and composting.

Back in the 1970's, the environmental movement was more interested in solutions like the above, and opposed to concrete jungles. Since then they seem to have morphed into a movement that essentially hates humans and wants to punish them, including imprisoning them in concrete jungles and, ironically, depriving them of contact with nature.

Urban growth containment is more about depriving people of disposable income (via inflated housing costs) and space with which to breed and raise children. Actual performance on resource consumption and environmental impact would be superior with Frank Lloyd Wright “landscape urbanism” style low density solutions, especially given that dispersed employment is the norm in modern cities, and vehicles get more and more efficient. Higher urban density is everywhere associated with more severe traffic congestion and lower speeds of travel, which means that petrol consumption and emissions "gains" are negated. "Mode shift" is always far too slight to compensate.

The connection between restrictive urban and transport policy, and reduced consumption of petrol and energy, is via reduced household discretionary income due to inflated housing costs (and in some countries, higher taxes on energy as well); not due to “more efficient urban form” at all.

In fact it is the height of absurdity to think that in an allegedly post-energy future, living in apartments and catching trains will be the "surviving" lifestyle. At least the proponents of "back to nature survivalism" like that Kunstler guy are not this stupid. But 1 acre is actually sufficient for a subsistence lifestyle; so there you have a great reason to support low density suburbia if you sincerely believe in a post-energy future. (I don't, but that doesn't stop me noting the insanity of the preferred "solutions" of most of the post-energy doomsaying crowd).


Since Van Persie dock Theatre of Dreams, m88bet
Dutch players were gradually eclipsed position of Rooney. Even Ferguson also incumbent, Rooney also no longer hold the position M88 seemingly impregnable on his attack. Therefore, under new coach Van Gaal, whether the role of M88 Rooney will be shown how the fan is "Red Devils" very concerned.

Ok -- my last comment, I promise

Even if transportation becomes much more expensive, there is a better alternative than moving back to the big city urban corps. Policies could favor the development of more compact, small towns in the exurban fringe -- places where people would live closer to the places where they work and shop.

[full disclosure: This is a pet idea of mine to which I've devoted most of my life: ]

Luke Lea

Chaos of the free market actually achieves this best

Luke, one of the things I have been slow to grasp, myself, is the way that the US's dispersed amorphous-blob cities are so successfully allowing households and businesses and amenities to "mix" so that specifically planned "nodes" are a redundancy.

I think the crucial thing is that the cost of land, and low economic land rent, and lack of concentration of economic land rent anywhere, allows the location decisions of all actors in the urban economy to be decided much more by pure efficiency criteria.

The higher that economic land rent is, and the more concentrated it is on centrally located nodes, the more "sorting" there is in the locations of households and businesses based on "ability to pay" and a perverse "pricing out" effect.

Peter Hall et al noted way back in 1973 in their report, "The Containment of Urban England", that these effects subsequent to the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, had had the effect of INCREASING commuting distances.


I agree with you on almost everything, except that the US is successfully implementing it. I see strict zoning that ensures a lack of mixing among households and businesses being the norm here.

It's all relative - you are ahead of everyone else

Perhaps I should say you are way ahead of everybody else. Your jobs-housing balance and the flatness of the land rent curve in many of your cities (minimising the "pricing out" effect on households and businesses) is a unique exhibit in the history of economics that should be getting far more attention from the economics profession and urban planners. This results in lower congestion, faster commute times, and amazingly affordable housing of higher average quality.

I know there are some US cities where the policies are just as misguided as Europe, but all I am saying is that the traditional US unconstrained-growth city is the best model, not the "copy the Europeans" model.

The biggest draw of all

The biggest draw of all is a safe neighborhood environment for children to play in. Central cities can rarely provide that even in the most heavily policed areas. You don't see youngsters roaming the sidewalks on the Upper East Side for example.

Luke Lea

American families

"Today’s suburban families, it should be stressed, are hardly replicas of 1950s normality; as Stephanie Coontz has noted, that period was itself an anomaly. But however they are constituted—as blended families, ones headed up by single parents or gay couples . . ."

Aw, come on, Joel. Political correctness notwithstanding, the intact biological family of a man and a woman will never become "an anomaly" anymore than suburbia itself. News of its death are greatly exaggerated. Meanwhile there is this:

Luke Lea

“The Great Blight of Dullness.”

I have a theory. High verbal IQ is such a rarity that the people who have it cluster in cities for company. They then conclude that every place else is dullsville, which it is for them. The internet may change all that.

Luke Lea