The suburbs are not having a “surprise revival” as they never went away

A summary of several recent patterns involving the American suburbs starts with this:

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American suburbia— once marked by dying malls and empty office parks — is thriving.

But, given the already-existing love in the United States for the suburbs, are the suburbs back?

Take one of the pieces of evidence cited. A recent survey suggests a good portion of millennials want to settle in the suburbs:

For eight years now, as millennials have entered their thirties and forties, also known as “homebuying age,” Bank of America has surveyed over 1,000 members of the generation once a year for its Home Work series. And for 2023’s edition, it finds a “suburban nation” alive and well. Older millennials (age 31–41) are almost three times as likely to move into a house than an apartment, the survey found, and they’ve got a hunger for the Costco dog, so to speak. 

Migration patterns during the pandemic have clearly established that most homebuyers have wanted to flee big cities, with some “zoomtowns” such as Boise benefiting in particular. But the survey reveals something even more drastic. In a section called “suburban nation,” BofA reveals that 43% to 45% of millennials—of every age—expect to buy a house in the suburbs…

The interest is pervasive across the generation, and maybe means that the suburb is in for a new and better revival. And a 2021 study from Pew Research Center found that one in five adults preferred city life, compared to one quarter of adults in 2018, those who favored the suburbs increased post COVID-19 as well. One of suburbia’s worst qualities or stereotypes was its pervasive whiteness, now with the surge in interest the suburbs are starting to grow to reflect the diversity of the country at large. Big suburbs are actually now more racially diverse than the nation, according to a Brookings analysis

I take this less of millennials now really want to go to the suburbs and more of millennials are following the patterns of previous generations of Americans. What exactly the suburbs are today is different – they are more complex – but they are still structured around single-family homes, family life, and attaining the American Dream.

All places go through some fluctuations in conditions and appeal. It will take longer than just a few years to doom the suburbs as Americans have now devoted decades to celebrating and pursuing them.

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