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According to the Federal Government, the Suburbs Don't Exist

The federal government has no official definition of suburban, even though a majority of Americans say they live in suburban communities.
November 21, 2018, 11am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Suburban Arizona
Tim Roberts Photography

Shawn Bucholtz and Jed Kolko describe one of the facts of American life: most U.S. residents live in suburbs, but the federal government doesn't actually categorize communities as suburban. The federal government makes a distinction between urban and rural, but not for suburban.

"The lack of an official federal definition of suburban means that government data are not reported separately for suburban areas. That makes it hard to measure the reach and impact of federal programs and to produce vital statistics about Americans and their communities," according to the article.

In a small step in the right direction, the 2017 American Housing Survey (by the Office of Policy Development and Research) recently released data finding "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." That's a majority, and it echoes previous surveys undertaken by outside the government.

In addition to advocating for the federal government o gather data in a way that reflects the way Americans view their communities, the article also tries a few other angles of approach for revealing more about the statistical realities of the suburbs in the United States.

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Published on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 in CityLab
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