Pushing Back on 'Suburban Triumphalism'

Interested observers have been predicting a crest of the American "back to the city" movement for years now—the idea that as Millennials come of age they will lose interest in urban lifestyles and seek the comfort of the suburbs.

1 minute read

April 17, 2018, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Suburban School Crossing

rSnapshotPhotos / Shutterstock

Joe Cortright pushed back on the narrative of "suburban triumphalism" that has been emerging in the national media lately—i.e., that "the era of the city is over, and that Americans, including young adults, are ready to decamp to the suburbs." Cortright identifies recent appearances by Jed Kolko, Joel Kotkin, Conor Sen, and Joel Garreau as evidence of this narrative.

Cortright offers a list of counter-arguments to that viewpoint, including critiques of the total numbers, the geographic units used to measure the trends, the numbers used to measure the trends, and other points about development capacity in cities.

Cortright digs in greater detail into the specifics of each counter-argument, but one big point is that prices—much higher in cities—tell a story of high demand and constrained supply. If cities weren't so popular, they'd be cheaper.

Cortright also looks at Chicago as a case study of an urban core outperforming its suburban communities relative to historic trends. Cortright also offers this conclusion: "When you look city-by-city at the data, its apparent that urban centers are extremely robust, are attracting more talented young workers, and the firms who want to employ them." 

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