Millennials say suburbs are their ideal place to live

by Joe Zekas on 2/26/13

Anyone who wants to make an intelligent case for the “death of the suburbs” needs to confront the fact that more people, including young people, prefer suburban to city living, and act in accordance with their preferences.

According to a study by Frank N. Magid Associates, 43 percent of Millennials describe suburbs as their “ideal place to live,” compared to just 31 percent of older generations. Even though big cities are often thought of as the place where young people prefer to live and work, only 17 percent of Millennials say they want to settle in one. This was the same percentage of members of this generation that expressed a preference for living in either rural or small town America. Nor are Millennials particularly anxious to spend their lives as renters. A full 64 percent of Millennials surveyed, said it was “very important” to have an opportunity to own their own home.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

PosterBoy February 26, 2013 at 8:02 AM

Oh Joe…Please stop linking back to New Geography which is nothing more than a shill operation for Koch and Cato.

We know that you want to pimp the suburbs. It’s just not going to happen.

Move on….

Reply

Joe Zekas February 26, 2013 at 8:27 AM

PosterBoy

The only thing I’m “pimping” is information.

Magid is a widely-respected survey organization. You’re attacking the place one of its surveys was reported? Really? How bizarre.

Care to supply any facts that contradict what’s in the post? Or do you want to just keep spewing your lame attitude?

Reply

Small Potatoes February 26, 2013 at 9:41 AM

PosterBoy

My firm relocated 3 families from north side to north shore in the past 6 months. I think there is a trend. Crime, Taxes, etc. Plus the schools are fantastic and the private schools downtown are packed. Granted I am focusing on the more affluent segment.

Be receptive to this notion so you don’t lose out on opportunity.

SP

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PosterBoy February 26, 2013 at 10:08 AM

“Or do you want to just keep spewing your lame attitude?”

The fact that your are using New Geography as support of your narrative…now that’s lame.

Please review their main contributors:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendell_Cox

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joel_Kotkin

And then you have Kotkin, a Koch toady.

I realize that change is difficult for someone of your age, but you might want to be receptive to this notion so you don’t lose out on an opportunity.

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PosterBoy February 26, 2013 at 10:09 AM

“The only thing I’m “pimping” is information.”

Are you the new Dick Morris of Chicago real estate?

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Joe Zekas February 26, 2013 at 10:38 AM

PosterBoy,

Everyone already knows you have nothing intelligent to offer. Why do you keep reinforcing that point and wasting people’s time?

I’ll delete future comments from you that are nothing but insults and mischaracterizations – thus far that’s virtually all of your comments.

ADDED: As promised, I’ve deleted your most recent comments.

Reply

Small Potatoes February 26, 2013 at 5:08 PM

PosterBoy,

The notion that young families should live in suburban a community with a house with a yard and garden, a few solar panels and a private well sounds awfully appealing to me. Why should anyone be dependent on a broken urban system?

Our City (and I am a native) sucks. I say that with love. The schools suck. The red line is disgusting. The homelessness and filth are on the rise. Not to mention the murder rate. And the top cop wants to ban guns which is absurd.

If you come out as a supporter of the City of Chicago you should come strong with more that criticism. Otherwise you’re another LIBERAL hack.

SP

Reply

PosterBoy February 27, 2013 at 8:10 AM
PosterBoy February 27, 2013 at 8:10 AM

Hey Joe,

Does being called a liberal hack warrant a deletion?

Just asking.

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Joe Zekas February 27, 2013 at 8:59 AM

PosterBoy,

There are other sites where your approach to comments is more welcome than it is here. I’d suggest spending your time elsewhere.

Or better yet, spend some time actually reading the Brookings studies referenced in the HuffPo’s article. You’ll learn that the HuffPo headline and lede aren’t justified by the studies.

Reply

Ben L February 27, 2013 at 9:17 AM

I clicked on the link and did a little link-hopping, but I couldn’t find any info on the actual questions Magid asked. It’s a shame, because the results of a preference study can be wildly distorted by the nature of the questions asked.

Were respondents given any guideposts in comparing these different urban forms? Presumably, Magid would see different results for the question “Do you prefer to live in a city or a suburb?” and the question “Assuming you spend the same amount of money on housing in either place, do you prefer to live in a city or a suburb?” I also don’t how how Magid defined suburb, if at all. Did they actively draw a distinction between Evanston-type suburbs and Lake Zurich-type suburbs, or did they leave it up to the respondents to define what “suburb” means to them? For that matter, did Magid draw a distinction between big city neighborhoods such as the South Loop and Avondale, or were those left undefined too? My sense is that this survey was constructed with lazy and ill-defined parameters, and therefore doesn’t shed much light on anything useful.

A more general problem is that asking people what they would like in their dream world doesn’t do a good job of revealing what their actual preferences are in the real world. Christopher Leinberger, Ryan Avent, and others have done wonderful analysis on revealed preferences of homebuyers and renters. By considering the interaction of price, supply, and migration dynamics, we can often get a fuller picture of what housing consumers value. Deciding where to live is all about making dozens of trade-offs (between housing cost, transportation cost, transportation time, schools, safety, etc.), and how people actually respond to those trade-offs is a very difficult thing to capture in a preference survey.

The folks at marketurbanism.com have done a bang-up job detailing newgeography.com’s persistent methodological flaws, among them conflating metro areas and cities, failing to consider housing prices when assessing supply and demand, and lumping disparate types of neighborhoods together simply because they share a political boundary. I would be grateful if somebody could point me to the Magid questionnaire, and I hope its designers took some care to define what they were actually asking, but newgeography’s presentation of the data leaves me with little hope that this is anything other than useless white noise.

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PosterBoy February 27, 2013 at 9:18 AM

“There are other sites where your approach to comments is more welcome than it is here. I’d suggest spending your time elsewhere.”

Well, I guess you will go back to your typical zero comments on all your posts.

Furthermore,

You might want to actually read the Brookings findings:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/01/poverty-moves-to-the-subu_n_1312759.html

Adios!

Reply

Joe Zekas February 27, 2013 at 9:29 AM

Ben L,

Would you agree that the best index of what people’s “actual preferences are in the real world” and “how people actually respond” to trade-offs is where they actually move to and from? US cities in general, and Chicago in particular, are not performing well on that index.

Reply

PosterBoy February 27, 2013 at 9:32 AM

“newgeography.com’s persistent methodological flaws”

Those are a feature, not a flaw.

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PosterBoy February 27, 2013 at 9:36 AM

“US cities in general, and Chicago in particular, are not performing well on that index.”

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2012/09/its-official-downtowns-are-booming/3429/

BTW, that was a YoChicago link.

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Ben L February 27, 2013 at 9:41 AM

@Joe,

Where people move is an important metric, but its not the only important metric. Housing prices play an important role in assessing actual preferences as well, as does the total supply of housing units. If a city loses population as housing prices rise, we should draw very different inferences about its desirability than we should for a city that loses the same amount of population as housing prices fall.

It’s also important to look at these things on the appropriate scale. For instance, saying that “Chicago is losing population” is almost completely meaningless in the context of determining housing consumer preferences, because Chicago has many different types of neighborhoods. As I have commented on this site before, the last census period saw an increase in both the population and housing prices of Chicago’s most walkable and urban neighorhoods, while its most suburban and least walkable neighborhoods lost population.

I suppose I will take this as yet another opportunity to remind you that the price of housing, the occupancy rate of housing, and the supply of housing are fairly useless pieces of information when used in isolation to determine where people want to live. You need to look at all three of them together.

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Ben L February 27, 2013 at 9:46 AM

@Joe,

So I guess to answer your question more directly: No, I do not agree that “where people move” is the “best index of actual preferences” because it’s a very incomplete index.

It’s like saying that more people prefer upper deck seats at U.S. Cellular than home-plate seats at Wrigley simply because more people sit there.

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Joe Zekas February 27, 2013 at 10:06 AM

Rogers Park and Uptown lost 13.4% and 11.3% of their population, respectively, between 2000 and 2010. Are they not on your list of “Chicago’s most walkable and urban neighborhoods?” Lake View and Lincoln Park had modest population losses over the decade.

I don’t find the city vs suburban discussion very interesting, regardless of the level of sophistication on which it’s conducted. I’d prefer to continue doing what I have been doing – linking to and quoting from studies and voices that present differing views on the relevant issues.

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Ben L February 27, 2013 at 10:21 AM

@Joe,

You continue to harp on the population point without addressing housing prices and housing supply. Why? None of the three potential reasons I can come up with–You find them irrelevant? The data are too difficult to find and manage? Including price and supply would undercut the point you try to make in your original post?–reflect very well on you, but it’s entirely possible I’m missing some other reason that you’re reducing the housing consumer market to a single incomplete metric.

Reply

Joe Zekas February 27, 2013 at 10:56 AM

What point do you think I tried to make in my original post? You seem to be addressing a different point than the simple one I made, to wit:

Anyone who wants to make an intelligent case for the “death of the suburbs” needs to confront the fact that more people, including young people, prefer suburban to city living, and act in accordance with their preferences.

Aurora’s population grew more between 2000 and 2010 than did downtown Chicago’s – 55k vs 48K. Chicago’s suburban population grew by more than 350K while city population shrank by 200K over the same period.

Throw in as many variables as you want. Where’s the “death of the suburbs?”

Reply

Ben L February 27, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Anyone who wants to make an intelligent case for the “death or vitality of any particular urban form” needs to confront the fact that relying on population numbers alone makes for a really weak argument.

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Joe Zekas February 27, 2013 at 11:47 AM

Ben L,

I didn’t say “death or vitality” – just “death.”

Population growth alone is a powerful argument against “death.”

I hope you’re not going to the argument that some make: cancers grow, and anyone who would live in the suburbs is a cancer on the body politic.

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Ben L February 27, 2013 at 11:54 AM

No, I’m not going to make that argument, but thanks for the strawman by preterition. That’s a new one for me.

If I were going to make an argument about the suburbs, it would be along the lines of the Christopher Leinberger’s, which is that many people dream of living in auto-oriented suburbs (and good for them!) but many others living in those same suburbs are priced out of their dream of walkable urbanism due to supply constraints.

PosterBoy February 27, 2013 at 10:26 AM

“regardless of the level of sophistication on which it’s conducted.”

That’s because when you actually drill down into the details, you find that it doesn’t support your narrative.

Reply

Al February 27, 2013 at 11:14 AM

Joe,

I think it’s perfectly valid to question newgeography’s credentials. If a study was released by Fox News, would you not instantly question its validity?

Reply

Joe Zekas February 27, 2013 at 11:40 AM

Al,

Should I question a Brookings study solely because Fox or MSNBC reported on it?

That’s what’s going on here, where newgeography reported a Magid study.

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Ben L February 27, 2013 at 11:48 AM

@Joe,

Do you have access to the Magid study? I’m interested in seeing how they structured their questions, but I can’t find anything about it on the Magid site or newgeography. Also, do you know if a client commissioned this study from Magid (and if so, who?), or was it on Magid’s own initiative?

I realize the answer to all of these may be “no” but I’m hoping that maybe you (or some other commenter) found info on newgeography that I missed.

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Joe Zekas February 27, 2013 at 12:29 PM

Ben L,

I can’t find the original study. It appears to have been commissioned by NDN, an organization I’m unfamiliar with.

I’m also unfamiliar with how Magid operates these days. Thirty years ago a principal of one of my clients was director of radio research for Magid. He was a serious, accomplished, independent individual, and Magid was a highly-regarded source of objective research for the broadcast industry. At that time Magid’s research was commissioned by organizations that acted on it to competitive advantage and the actual reports themselves were considered confidential. No idea whether that’s relevant here.

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Ben L February 27, 2013 at 12:47 PM

Thanks for the info, Joe. I appreciate it.

the urban politician March 2, 2013 at 3:12 PM

Most Americans prefer suburbs.

Why can’t urbanists accept this? There is still a place for center cities, and certainly still a strong market for them. But the reality is, suburbs are here to stay. Why not enjoy the qualities that both environments have to offer?

Right now, however, Chicago’s core truly is booming.

But despite this, most people will still choose the suburbs, and there is no chance of that ever changing in our lifetimes, if ever.

Reply

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