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2018 Was the Year of the Complicated Suburb

The old narrative of city and suburb is dead; in 2018, the spaces outside of cities were revealed in their full complexity.
People wait in line to cast their ballots in Takoma Park, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C.
People wait in line to cast their ballots in Takoma Park, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C.Jose Luis Magana/AP

Ah, suburbia, land of the bland. White-picket-fenced realm of white-bread people and cookie-cutter housing. That’s still the stereotype that persists in how many of us think about and portray these much-maligned spaces surrounding cities. But if there was once some truth to it, there certainly isn’t today.

In the past several years, a much more complex picture has emerged—one of Asian and Latino “ethnoburbs,” rising suburban poverty, and Baby Boomers stuck in their split-levels. And 2018 really drove home the lesson that, when Americans say they live in the suburbs (as most do), the suburbias they describe are vastly different kinds of places, where people of every stripe live, work, pray, vote, and vie to control their communities’ future.