52% of Americans say they live in a suburban neighborhood

A call for a more official definition of suburban areas starts with new data on the percent of Americans who say they live in a suburban neighborhood:

Much of America looks suburban, with neighborhoods of single-family homes connected by roads to retail centers and low-rise office buildings. For the first time, government data confirm this. According to the newly released 2017 American Housing Survey (of nearly 76,000 households nationwide), about 52 percent of people in the United States describe their neighborhood as suburban, while about 27 percent describe their neighborhood as urban, and 21 percent as rural.

This seems just about right based on data I have seen from the Census Bureau regarding the percent of Americans who live in suburbs. The 2002 report “Demographic Trends in the 20th Century” put 50.0% of Americans in suburbs, 30.3% in central cities, and the rest in rural areas. More recent figures I have seen put the percent of Americans in suburbs just over 50%.

I would guess the above figures are off a few percent for a few reasons:

1. Some urban neighborhoods feel suburban. If suburbs are marked by single-family homes and driving, plenty of urban neighborhoods in the United States would count. This is particularly true in more sprawling cities in the South and West.

2. Some rural neighborhoods marked by bigger lots and/or smaller population densities might officially be considered suburban neighborhoods by the Census even if they have a more rural feel.

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