The definitions of suburban chosen by researchers tend to fall into three categories—and each has a significant impact and the results of academic inquiry.
Whitney Airgood-Obrycki shares recent research from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University that describes the consequences of having so many different definitions for the suburban.
The problem originates with the U.S. Census’s 15-chapter long compendium of geographic terms and concepts, which does not include any definition of “suburb” or “suburban,” according to Airgood-Obrycki. "As a result, in recent years, researchers have created their own methodologies for defining suburban neighborhoods."
"In our new working paper (which will be featured in a lunchtime Research Seminar this Friday, February 22), Shannon Rieger and I explore varying approaches to defining suburbs and investigate whether (and how) different definitions might affect researchers’ findings about the characteristics of America’s suburbs."
There's the census-convenient definition, the suburbanisms definition, and typology definition—each of which produce different results in given metro areas, according to Airgood-Obrycki. The analysis presented later today analyzed 1) whether these different definitions produce substantial differences in key housing and demographic variables, 2) the extent of a given characteristic within suburbs, and 3) the geographic split of a characteristic between city and suburban neighborhoods.
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Tufts University Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning
City of Grand Forks, North Dakota
HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research
City of Birmingham, Alabama
City of Laramie, Wyoming
Colorado Department of Local Affairs
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