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Of Course the Suburbs Aren't Dying—They're Not All the Same

What recent stories about where Americans want to live get wrong.
Highly walkable Pasadena, California, a "suburb" of Los Angeles.
Highly walkable Pasadena, California, a "suburb" of Los Angeles.AP Photo/Nick Ut

The end of this week saw a mini-flurry of weirdly misleading news about where Americans are living now and where they say they want to be living in the future. "Generation Y Prefers Suburban Home Over City Condo" was the Wall Street Journal's take on some interesting but nevertheless flawed new survey results compiled by the National Association of Home Builders. And over at, Matt Yglesias looks at the latest numbers from Trulia's Jed Kolko and declares that "The death of the suburbs turns out to be a total myth."

This is all pretty silly stuff. It's true that demographers and urban theorists have been keeping an eye on whether America's "suburbs" or "cities" are growing faster (answer: in the biggest metros, what the Census Bureau has classified as "urban" areas were indeed growing faster than the "suburbs" in recent years, but the numbers have flattened out since then). But this scoreboard approach isn't a very helpful way to think about and measure housing type and community style preferences.