Nobody Likes the Burbs

Don’t tell Joel Kotkin!

Last week, Pew Research Center released a report about U.S. attitudes towards, well, everything. One of the widely discussed findings is that liberals would like to live in cities, while conservatives like small towns and the country. What I find absolutely fascinating is the views towards suburbs: only 20 – 25% of almost every demographic group only prefers the suburbs. Bipartisanship! By comparison, 46% of liberals prefer cities, while 54% of conservatives prefer small towns or rural areas.

From what I’ve been able to dig up on the Intertoobz, a little over half of all U.S.-ians live in suburbs. Sounds like there are a lot of unhappy people in terms of where they live.

Not sure what to make of this, but it seems this should be more discussed than it has been (as best as I can tell, that’s not all).

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8 Responses to Nobody Likes the Burbs

  1. NewEnglandBob says:

    Well, the rural areas contain conservatives. The cities contain liberals. They live where they like to live. The causation here is reversed. Liberals are more social and they get along with, and cooperate with others. Conservatives are more loners who look out only for themselves. They have poor social skills.

  2. ImmunoNinja says:

    Likely related to the inverse correlation between happiness and commute length:

  3. Jay says:

    As a liberal living in the burbs, part of this is affordability. Would I prefer to live in NYC? Sure! Can I afford NYC? No way.

    Other part is quality of public schools – easier to get into a good school district in the burbs, by-and-large.

  4. anthrosciguy says:

    I think it’s just that they’d like to live somewhere they’re not, because that somewhere would just be awesome. Hardly no downside, nosiree.

    In other words the question was, would you prefer to live where you live, or in a wonderland you dredge up from your imagination?

  5. Irit Rubin says:

    I actually like living in the suburbs. Perhaps because I can commute by bus and read along the way. I’d probably hate it if I had to drive.

  6. TheBrummell says:

    The definition of “suburb” seems vague and fluid. I’ve been in areas refered to as “urban” that fit my mental image of suburb perfectly, and in areas named “suburb” that looked rather rural to me. “Small town” is an archetype that the developers who design and build new subdivisions near cities seem to be desperately chasing, so I suspect many people who live in what a geographer or sociologist would call a suburb think they live in a comfortable town. And lots of other people will surely insist that because of some municipal boundary that they’re *clearly* inside of, their home is not suburban, it’s quite urban.
    Just play with the definitions of these words (and other words like “city”, “town”, and “community”) and you can define your living space any way you like. Then, as has been mentioned, when some survey asks you about where you’d like to live, you compare today to what you might like for tomorrow, and the survey doesn’t include a space to write about the flying cars.

    Presumably the Pew Research Center, and whoever categorizes residences for the census, understand very well the technical definitions. But the survey respondents perhaps did not.

  7. Bottanybuff says:

    Well, I live in a small city that is also a suburb, so I suspect that people are thinking of an archetype of a suburb- like what you’d see in an early Tim Burton movie. Also, I grew up in the actual country, and there are wonderful things about it, but it’s a terrible place to be young and single, and even worse if you’re a nerdy teenager.

    On the other hand, if you live in a city and don’t have money, that can suck pretty hard, too. But at least you can read on the train instead of driving.

  8. Certainly the idea of suburbs is fluid. In the DC area (where I once lived and hope to relocate to) such “suburbs” as Bethesda and Rockville are basically as urban as anywhere (and are functionally, if not legally, part of DC itself). However I grew up in a traditional suburb (a developed cornfield outside Madison, WI) and it really sucked. I get why a large number of people don’t like those. They are neither urban (with the cultural and shopping advantages of that) nor rural (with the contact with nature of that).

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