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A Suburban Nation

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A Suburban Nation

Some experts are forecasting 'infinite suburbia'


March 6, 2018
Suburban fence and yard
Photo: Unsplash
This article first appeared in the March 2018 issue of Pro Builder.

Urbanists have pointed out that over the 70 years since the 1947 opening of New York’s Levittown, one of America’s original models of suburban development, the nation has suburbanized. Within the last decade, more than three-quarters of the population in the 53 major metros lived in the suburbs or exurbs, based on demographic analysis at the ZIP code level by NewGeography.com, using Census data.

According to survey data, among the 53 major metropolitan areas, the New York metro had the lowest share of population living in the suburbs, at 46.7 percent. The metro with the next-lowest share of suburban population was Boston, with 64.3 percent. San Francisco’s suburban population accounts for 73 percent, and in Chicago, ranked 47th of 53 metros, 74.2 percent of the population lives in suburban areas rather than in its central business districts. Almost 20 percent of the 53 metros had a 100 percent share of their population living in suburban areas.

“Global urbanization is heading toward infinite suburbia,” wrote editors Alan M. Berger, Joel Kotkin, and Celina Balderas Guzman in an excerpt from their 2017 book Infinite Suburbia. Most people around the world are moving to cities’ peripheries, rather than their centers, they explained. In the U.S., the editors said, 85,000 square miles of rural land will be urbanized over the 27 years between 2003 and 2030; currently, 69 percent of the U.S. population lives in suburbs. They point out that in 2010, more than 75 percent of American jobs were not located in urban cores. “The sheer magnitude of land conversion taking place, coupled with the fact that the majority of the world’s population already lives in suburbs, demands that new attention and creative energy be devoted to the imminent suburban expansion,” the editors said.

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