Demographically, Cities Will 'Always' Lose to Suburbs


I often check in on, a website led by southern California-based urban studies professor and famed suburbanist Joel Kotkin. If you’ve checked out the site, you may have noticed I’ve had some posts from this blog featured there. I don’t agree with everything on the site, which definitely has a sprawl-development lean, but I am interested in suburban maturation as much as urban revitalization. Hey, I live in one of the suburbiest of suburbs, Naperville, IL.

Some recent headlines there really struck me as efforts to demonstrate the enduring and everlasting appeal of suburbs over cities. Check these out:

And those are just from the last ten days.

My takeaway from pieces like these? Cities were the past, suburbs are the present and future. Young people prefer them. The rise of the work-from-home phenomenon has boosted them. They are the answer to our housing affordability crisis. They are the solution for all that ails America.

Suburbs have won. Get over it. Resistance is futile.

Urbanists try to counter this by demonstrating the efficiency of city living, especially when served by effective public transit. Cities are places where people connect, where ideas are born, and today’s modern economy, based on knowledge and creativity, is firmly rooted. Cities have become the nation's economic engine. But none of that matters to suburbanists.


I had the most amazing revelation the other day. When it comes to the kind of places people choose to live, the places people prefer, and the places that are growing in absolute if not relative terms, cities will always lose out to suburbs. The way we define cities and suburbs in America – cities are fixed constants while suburbs are ever-expanding variables – simply isn't comparable. Unless our definitions change somehow, it will always be that way.

Read the rest of this piece at Corner Side Yard Blog

Pete Saunders is a writer and researcher whose work focuses on urbanism and public policy. Pete has been the editor/publisher of the Corner Side Yard, an urbanist blog, since 2012. Pete is also an urban affairs contributor to Forbes Magazine's online platform. Pete's writings have been published widely in traditional and internet media outlets, including the feature article in the December 2018 issue of Planning Magazine. Pete has more than twenty years' experience in planning, economic development, and community development, with stops in the public, private and non-profit sectors. He lives in Chicago.

Photo: courtesy Corner Side Yard Blog.


Comment viewing options

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

Suburban always wins

I've been designing suburban development since 1968 and since then the 'urbanists' have celebrated the soon 'death' of the suburbs. Yet clearly about 80% of the nations growth has been suburban - not urban. The urbanists claim he suburbs are plain and the people are plastic car hugging instead of tree hugging. We'll those ugly 5 story+ apartments all looking the same sprouting in our cities are about as mundane as one could possibly design - how is that better? Why in the world would someone want a three car garage when you have busses and bikes to ride instead. I'm actually typing this with my broken arm with 7 screws holding my bones together because I drove my 20MPH capable electric bike to work (a few weeks ago) and when flying over a speed bump. Instead I'll be driving from now on! While insurance is paying the medical bills, the loss of income being productive would be equivalent to a nice new Mercedes. Anyone interested in buying my Honbike? Anyways, the suburbs are designed by engineers for the most part, not artistic land planners. The engineers simply follow the regulatory minimums to squeeze every possible unit on the site - the same minimums that have their basis from the 1930's. For the most part suburban homes have not evolved like other industry product lines. Yet as bad as that situation is - people will desire the suburban promise of space, even if it does not actually exist.