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The 'Suburban Decline' Narrative Is Overstated

While suburbs are changing, that doesn't mean they are declining, according to recently published research.
February 7, 2019, 6am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Robert Couse-Baker

Whitney Airgood-Obrycki writes that "recent patterns of increasing poverty, greater racial diversity, widespread foreclosures, and fiscal distress" is changing the 20th century narrative about U.S. suburbs. Gone are the days of idyllic WASP homes.

But does that mean that suburbs are in decline? Airgood-Obrycki thinks narratives of decline are overstated—laying out that case in a new paper, "Suburban Status and Neighborhood Change," published online by the Urban Studies journal.

Airgood-Obrycki "examined status changes from 1970 to 2010 for city and suburban neighborhoods in the nation’s 100 most populous metros," using Census tracts as the unit of measure as a proxy for neighborhoods.

As for findings, Airgood-Obrycki explains: "While there was some evidence of suburban status decline over the study period, I found that high-status neighborhoods were and continue to be disproportionately located in suburban communities. The share of top quartile neighborhoods located in the suburbs rose from 68 percent in 1970 to 75 percent in 2000 before falling slightly to 74 percent in 2010."

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Published on Monday, February 4, 2019 in Joint Center for Housing Studies
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