I recently moved to the exurbs. Generally regarded as a conservative enclave, exurbs are pretty far physically and ideologically from where I thought I’d end up. I’ve been thinking about my outward progression through the eyes of a geographer. I love studying the movement of people and I find it fascinating to see these changes happening on the ground, rather than through census data from 10 years past. This has been my perspective and is by no means representative of everyone. To give you some background, my demographics are: I am white, married with two soon to be three kids, four year degree, upper-middle class, I lean left, and I consider myself to be an old millennial/young gen X’er. In the past three years, I have moved from the first ring suburbs of a small city to the suburbs of a large city to the exurbs of a huge metropolitan area. My political tendencies have not changed. My ideal neighborhood does not exist. Or I should say, I can’t afford it and nobody my age, that I know of, can either.

For me, living close to a city meant diversity, access to the global marketplace, and top-notch food/culture/art. In the small city, I was lucky to have all three and the cost of living was much lower. Midwest cities are pretty great. When I moved to the suburbs, diversity fell by the way-side (New England is not the most diverse region) but it was a short drive to the global marketplace and food/art/culture. Now, in the exurbs I don’t have any of those things. So if you are asking why -the biggest driving factors for me was quality of schools and number of bedrooms. This is not unlike the reason my parents moved to the suburbs in the late 70s, but I think the difference now is that people marry/cohabitate and start families later today than back then. Cities have become effectively a playground and jumping off point for my liberal-leaning generation, often shaping our identity. And by the way, cities are also becoming the playground for empty-nesters, eager to start their second act in gentrified neighborhoods. Both of these groups are essentially pushing prices up and pushing young families out.

So, where am I going with this? I am anticipating a shift as millennials start recognizing that the housing stock and city schools are not suitable for their family, and the few city neighborhoods that are, are not affordable. I am hoping we’ll see more diversity and food/art/culture in the ‘burbs in the years to come. Maybe all my empty-nester neighbors will move to the city and the former hipsters, too tired from parenting to keep fighting for the urban life of their yesteryear, will set down roots across the street. I will be waiting with open arms. I am here to tell you, it is not so bad. I am making the most of it: composting, gardening, and bat and bluebird boxes. Word of caution, kombucha and craft (anything) won’t be anywhere in sight…yet.

Do you see this happening around you? What demographic trends are you seeing?

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