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."

Read Time: 2 minutes

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

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