Pew: More Americans Prefer Big Homes, Longer Distances to Retail and Amenities

The pandemic has resulted in an an increasing preference for sprawl among Americans, according to the findings of a recent Pew Research Center "American Trends Panel."

2 minute read

August 29, 2021, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Suburban Neighborhood

Alan Sheldon / Shutterstock

Vianney Gomez shares the findings of an "American Trends Panel" survey conducted this summer by the Pew Research Center.

"Americans today are more likely than they were in the fall of 2019 to express a preference for living in a community where 'houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores and restaurants are several miles away,'" writes Gomez to summarize those findings.

"There has been a corresponding drop in the share saying they would prefer to live somewhere with smaller houses that are 'closer to each other, but schools, stores and restaurants are within walking distance,'" according to Gomez.

The article provides additional insight into the demographic breakdown of the trend in U.S. housing preference. Previous trends in political preference only increased, according to the survey, but with both Republicans and Democrats increasing their preference for large homes and dispersed development:

As in the past, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to say they want to live in a community with larger houses even if there are greater distances to schools, shops and restaurants. Today, 73% of Republicans say this, up from 65% in September 2019. About half of Democrats (49%) now say they would prefer to live in a more widely spaced community, up from 42%. 

Additional breakdowns for race, where respondents currently live, and by age are also included in the article.

The news about American housing preferences seems to be working at odds with the changes that will be necessary to prevent the worst outcomes of climate change, according to the Sixth Assessment Report published this summer by the International Panel on Climate Change. A 2019 IPCC report explicitly named U.S. land use and driving habits as a significant contributor to climate change.

The survey findings also seem counterintuitive in context of the obvious demand for city living in the United States, as evidenced by housing prices in cities and a housing affordability crisis that has only picked up pace since the pandemic began.

Thursday, August 26, 2021 in Pew Research Center

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

Aerial view of Vail, Colorado in winter with multi-story buildings in foregorund and snowy mountains in background.

Opinion: Resort Towns Must Take Action to Keep Housing Affordable

The workers that keep many popular tourist destinations running find it more difficult to find affordable housing near their jobs as more remote workers move to scenic resort areas.

56 minutes ago - Governing

Aerial view of downtown San Antonio, Texas.

Commentary: San Antonio Needs ‘Thoughtful Reforms’ to Improve Affordability

The growing Texas city needs a new approach to meet its residents’ housing and mobility needs.

1 hour ago - San Antonio Report

Aerial view of glass high-rise buildings on waterfront in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Video: How Tall Should Buildings Be?

Is there an ideal height — or should buildings be as tall as they need to be to fulfill housing needs?

2 hours ago - Next City

Senior Planner

Heyer Gruel Associates

Regional Transportation Planner

Crater Planning District Commission

Senior Planner- Long range

Prince William County Planning Office

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.