American suburbs continue to grow

A Bloomberg analysis of recently released Census data shows suburbs continue to grow:

After a five-year slump spurred by the collapse of the U.S. housing bubble, record gasoline prices and deepening poverty, the nation’s largest suburbs showed increasing signs of life in 2012. More than half of the 20 municipalities with the fastest-growing populations between 2010 and 2012 were suburbs, according to U.S. census data compiled by Bloomberg.

That means growing suburban communities will continue to get their share of the approximately $400 billion in funds the federal government annually spends based on population data provided by the Census Bureau. It also points to the durability of the suburban experiment, begun six decades ago on Long Island, New York, even after millions of home foreclosures, greater numbers of single-person households and delays by young adults in starting families.

“Suburbia has become so deeply embedded in the cultural DNA of our nation that it is nearly impossible for us to organize our life on the landscape otherwise,” James Howard Kunstler, author of “The Geography of Nowhere,” a 1994 history of suburbia, said in an e-mail. “We’re just too deep into it to change.”…

“In fast-growing regions, there are signs of suburban revival,” said William Frey, senior demographer at the Washington-based Brookings Institution. “Las Vegas is an example where the suburbs are leading the way back — though well below the heyday of the past.”…

John Logan, a Brown University sociologist, said suburbs remain attractive because “concerns about school quality and crime levels still affect cities more.”

This is an article with an interesting narrative. It begins with the idea that people who thought suburbs would decline were mistaken: they continue to grow. Then, it goes into the idea of the “suburban experiment.” I haven’t seen it quite phrased this way before and it suggests America’s suburbs are unique – and they generally are compared to most countries around the world. But, the term experiment also suggests it could still fail down the road as conditions change. Yet, the context of the article is that even after an economic crisis where gas became more expensive, Americans started driving less, and housing starts dropped quite a bit, the suburbs are still growing. James Howard Kunstler, a well-known critic of suburbs and featured in the film Radiant City, seems resigned to the idea that suburbs are the default in the United States. Does this suggest the social experiment is over? There are also some other odd bits thrown in including a short comparison to population changes in big cities, the idea that suburbs will also get federal funding, the number of poor residents in the suburbs is increasing, and higher rates of growth in the suburbs is linked to growth in the American economy as a whole.

In the end, I’m not sure about how people will respond to this article: the suburbs are growing despite critics and economic issues in the United States…and we should be happy? Disappointed? Intrigued by this great American experiment?

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