More Houston residents want to move from suburbs to city than vice versa

Data from the most recent Houston Area Survey suggests that more Houston area residents would prefer to move from the suburbs to the city than vice versa:

Thirteen years ago, the Houston Area Survey started asking people who lived in urban areas if they’d prefer to live in the suburbs.  It also asked people in the suburbs if they’d like to move into the city one day. Survey founder Stephen Klineberg, a Rice University sociology professor, says the survey has revealed a clear shift in opinion.

“In 1999, twice as many people in the city said ‘I want to move to the suburbs,’ than people in the suburbs saying ‘I want to move to the city.’ Those lines have crossed now. And in this year’s survey, significantly more people in the suburbs said ‘I would be interested in, someday, moving to the city,’ than people in the city saying, ‘I want to move to the suburbs.'”

The most obvious reason is the rise in gasoline prices. But Klineberg says shifting demographics are also at play...

And that change in the makeup of households is also reflected in the type of houses people in Houston aspire to own.  The percentage of people who say they’d like a traditional house with a yard in the suburbs has dropped from 59% four years ago, to 47% today. While the proportion who would like a smaller home in a more walkable neighborhood has risen dramatically over the same period of time — from about a third, to more than half.

These findings mirror larger rumblings about where Americans would prefer to live: more people appear to be interested in moving to walkable, denser communities. Are these sentiments primarily coming from those of middle age and above plus young adults?

Two methodological questions:

1. Should we expect that the findings from Houston would be similar to what would be found in other metropolitan regions? Would the sentiments be the same for non-Sunbelt (i.e. Rust Belt) cities?

2. Additionally, how many of those who express an interest in moving from the suburbs to the city will actually follow through on this? Of course, these perceptions matter and could help shape future policy decisions such as building denser developments within the suburbs so that there are pockets of walkability. At the same time, does this indicate long-term behaviorial changes or simply attitudinal shifts at this point of time?


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