As recent census data, and a fascinating interactive map accompanying the article, illustrate, the economic downturn, rising gas prices and high unemployment rates have substantially affected how Americans consider where they live, with cities and older suburbs coming out ahead.
"This could be the end of the exurb as a place where people aspire to go when they're starting their families," says William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution. "So many people have been burned by this... First-time home buyers, immigrants and minorities took a real big hit."
The past five years have already witnessed a sizable shift toward greater population growth in metro and urban areas and away from the long commutes of suburbia. And according to John McIlwain, senior fellow for housing at the Urban Land Institute, this trend may have legs: "Aging Baby Boomers, who have begun to retire, and Millennials, who are mostly in their teens and 20s, are more inclined to live in urban areas."
However, as El Nasser and Overberg note, "During the '70s gas shortage and the '80s savings and loan industry crisis, some predicted the end of suburban sprawl." Only time will tell if suburban sprawl will live to die another day.