Thursday, May 22, 2014

Is suburban living a normal good?

As the economy improves, the WSJ has an article documenting slowing growth of urban centers, and faster growth in the suburbs.

This reverses the trend in the great recession, where urban areas, which have denser and lower-cost housing, grew faster.

On its face, it seems as if surburban living is something that higher income people want.  However, the sluggish growth in the economy makes it unlikely that we see anything like the migrations that occurred during the 1950's:

Anything resembling the post-World War II trend of Americans streaming to the suburbs appears unlikely given the difficulties many debt-strapped young Americans face in buying a home. Still, the Census numbers show a cooling off in the growth rate of urban dwellers.


  1. Urban living is a common trend of many young Americans. They like the setting, they like the atmosphere, and they like the independence that being on their own provides. Most young people chose to leave the comfort of their parents dwelling in favor of independent living.

    The post recession migration to the suburbs has become increasingly more difficult for young Americans as saving up to by a home has become increasingly more difficult due to low paying jobs, increased difficult obtaining a job in their degree of study, decreased job growth, and growing student loan debt. The Wall Street Journal reported that about 50,000 young adults were leaving New York and Los Angeles every year between 2004 and 2007. Between 2010 and 2013, that number dropped below 23,000 for New York and to about 12,000 for Los Angeles. One reason this group is staying in cities might be that they can't afford to leave.

    While urban living may see like the obvious choice for young Americans, it may be that they have no other alternative due to the cost factor of what moving to the suburbs would ultimately cost.

    Pinsker, J. (2015, January 27). Young americans: Yearning for the suburbs, stuck in the city. website:

  2. In short, the answer is yes. Suburban living has become a normal good.

    While the WSJ article goes on to compare housing trends between the current post recession period, and a similar time post World War II, the simple fact remains is that current housing trends have less to do with the recession and more to do with personal tastes, and personal preferences of this generation's homebuyers.

    If you live in or around the New York City area, it is very clear to see that the urban housing market continues to gain popularity amongst newer and younger homebuyers. Areas outside of the more popular Manhattan neighborhoods once inundated with crime and less than attractive landscapes have become new nesting places for those who want to live in an urban setting, but cannot afford the higher prices of those most sought-after Manhattan neighborhoods.

    Areas like; Brooklyn Heights, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg were just a few years back all undesirable and rundown areas of the city. Because of their proximity, and a convenient train ride to the more costly midtown Manhattan areas, these neighborhoods have seen an abundantly large amount of popularity, growth and improvement. Property values have skyrocketed in these areas, and many property owners are reaping the benefits of such trends and improvements.

    Probably the most popular and significant example of this trend in our local housing market is New York City's Harlem area. Just about a decade ago, Harlem was one of the city's poorest and most violent neighborhoods to live or work. Most likely sparked by former President Clinton's move to the area, Harlem neighborhoods have undergone a complete and total transformation. Now populated with high-end stores, beautiful office buildings and parks, and a substantial facelift too many of the homes in the area, I become more and more impressed as I recall back to a time in which you could not even walk the streets of that same neighborhood.

    Gallagher, L (July 31, 2013). The end of the suburbs: the country is resettling along more urbanized lines, and the American Dream is moving with it. Time Magazine. Retrieved from:

  3. As some have mentioned previously, there seems to be a distinction between what populations we are discussing and where that population is moving.

    I agree in that many young people are moving into urban living spaces, such as New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco while older populations and families have stayed in the suburbs. However, due to the affordability of popular locations like San Francisco proper or Manhattan, young people choose to live just outside of the center of the city.

    Another thing we need to distinguish is the socioeconomic level of populations we are discussing. True, young people are moving to urban locations and families are suburban, but the poor populations are being pushed out of their homes in areas like Harlem and Williamsburg, to name a few in New York City. This is true as well in parts of San Francisco, where gentrification is becoming a huge issue. Hordes of young, eager professionals are flooding the urban areas, but they are choosing to dwell in the slightly cheaper surrounding areas. This influx of yuppies is pushing out the original poorer population and bringing in more and more luxury buildings, organic supermarkets, and small dogs.