Cities Journal
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Big Cities Are Taking Over Suburbia

Big Cities are Taking Over Suburbia
Photo credit: urbanfeel / Flickr

It is clear that suburbia is undergoing a monumental shift. While in times past the suburbs were considered the best place to live and raise a family, this is no longer the case.

Time magazine notes that the rate of urban population growth has been steadily outpacing suburban growth since 2011. What is more, the very nature of the suburbs are changing; while these areas of town used to house wealthy and middle class individuals and families, they are now often home to those who are lower middle class and/or struggling financially.

Why the Suburbs are Dying

There are several reasons why the suburbs are dying out. The Daily Beast notes that the fact that young people are having children later in life than their parents has reduced demand for suburban housing, as most singles naturally do not need or even want a large, expensive home.

At the same time, those who are getting on in years and no longer have young children living with them are moving out of their suburban homes into smaller, more manageable housing.

What is more, the rising cost of gas has made the prospect of car ownership less than attractive for many millennials. Naturally, those who cannot afford to purchase a car want to live in the city, where public transportation is easily accessible and the need for one’s own vehicle is significantly diminished.

How are the Suburbs “Home to the Poor”

Salon magazine has found that there are a few key reasons why suburban residents are more likely to be struggling financially than their city-dwelling counterparts. In some cases, suburban residents were poor even before they moved out to the suburbs.

As the home construction industry boomed in the 1990s and early 2000s, poor families who worked in this industry moved out to the suburbs to be closer to their place of work.

When the economic downturn of 2008 came along, suburban residents who were previously well-off began to face financial hardship. Many such individuals lost their jobs and in numerous cases their pensions as well. The rapid decline in the value of real estate left many homeowners with underwater mortgages.

As many formerly well-off suburban residents have been unable to find steady, lucrative work, charitable organizations are frequently finding that the people they are now helping are their former donors.

What the Future Holds

As the reasons behind suburbia’s decline are not likely to change anytime soon, it is not unrealistic to speculate that the concept of living out of town and commuting to work and/or school may one day be a distant memory.

Sadly, the economic state of those who are presently living in suburbia is also unlikely to change for the better in the near future. The New York Times’ economic blog notes that while the country is technically not in recession, the slack labor market makes it very difficult for many people to find work.

What is more, those who do have a steady job often do not have the prospect of earning a wage increase, and the cost of living is steadily rising.

It is clear that the suburbs are no longer as attractive to most people as they once were. Whether or not this is a good thing is up for discussion; while the Daily Beast notes that some city-dwellers are happy to see the suburbs fade into oblivion, others have mixed feelings about this trend.

Even so, what can be said for certain is that the suburbs have drastically changed over the years and this trend is not likely to be reversed anytime in the near future.

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