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Suburbs Still Have an Advantage Over Cities, Study Shows

Suburban neighborhoods are faring better than neighborhoods in cities when it comes to a range of economic status indicators.
March 24, 2019, 1pm PDT | Camille Fink
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Alita Xander

A recent paper in the journal Urban Studies looks at the status of urban and suburban neighborhoods in metropolitan areas throughout the United States to better understand their trajectories. The findings show that the perception of cities on the rebound and suburbs in decline does not match what is happening on the ground, writes Richard Florida:

In contrast to the idea of a Great Inversion—a shift of affluence back to the cities and poverty out to the suburbs—[Whitney] Airgood-Obrycki finds that suburban neighborhoods overwhelmingly outperformed their urban counterparts during the four-decade period spanning 1970 to 2010.

Incomes, home values, and education levels are higher in suburban neighborhoods compared to urban ones. Urban neighborhoods also were less stable over time when considering both types of neighborhoods in the same quartiles. Urban neighborhoods with lower economic status were more likely to stay at those lower levels and high-status ones more often saw declines.

Florida notes that the dynamics of suburbs still remain complicated, with newer suburbs showing most of the economic gains. But the patterns identified in this study challenge popular assumptions about suburbs and cities. "Many urban centers have gentrified, and poverty and economic dislocation have spread into the suburbs. Despite all of this change, the most affluent places in America largely remain in its more recently developed suburbia," says Florida.

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Published on Thursday, March 7, 2019 in CityLab
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