We’ve talked here recently about how inner city areas are growing more rapidly than the surrounding suburbs, and it turns out the exurbs, the areas outside the city and just beyond the suburban areas, have been growing at a similarly rapid pace.
According to research from the Urban Institute and U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. population grew from 281 million to 309 million between 2000 and 2010, and during that same time, the exurban population grew by more than 60 percent from 16 million to almost 26 million people. It’s not all pre-crash boom, either. Some exurban populations grew as much as 13 percent between 2007 and 2010, following the crash and throughout the recession.
I grew up in the exurbs, and from a sustainability standpoint it was absolutely dreadful. I am a city person, so commuting to school, work, and social activities was a drag and probably cost me as much in gas as my student loans currently cost me in interest rates. That’s exactly why I moved into the middle of the city as soon as I had the chance.
On the other hand, I can understand this shift. As the internet creeps into virtually every industry out there, fewer people are suffering the long daily commute. Living on a large plot of land in a cozy ranch home with no neighbors in sight (well, maybe that’s not the case anymore) sounds like a dream if you don’t have to drive 40+ minutes to work into the suburbs or inner-city during rush hour(s).
For the large population of baby boomers who are headed into retirement, this also sounds like a pretty great place to live if you don’t want to completely skip town. However, if numbers keep rising like this it won’t be long before the exurbs turn into suburbs as well. After all, it was the big baby boomer population that was responsible for the massive suburban sprawl during previous decades.
It’s interesting to see that research suggests both sides seem to be agreeing that living in the sprawling suburbs, in all their fast food, strip mall, car dealership, Wal Mart-building glory, is generally not a very appealing living situation these days.
Which would you prefer, the inner city or the exurbs?