From 1940 to 2000 the portion of U.S. population living in the suburbs went from 15.3% to 50.0% whereas the portion living in central cities was basically unchanged 32.5% to 30.3%. (see http://www.census.gov/prod/
2002pubs/censr-4.pdf). Thus the major transfer in population has not been from urban to suburban, as Drum somewhat infers, but from rural to suburban. Many people have actually chosen an overall increase in the density of their mode of living, not the other way around as Drum argues. The desire for urban living hasn't really changed, but people have clearly chosen to move away from rural living. That's the big cultural/societal/economic shift in America, and yet it gets completely overridden by debates between the pro urban development crowd and the smaller cadre of self-styled realists who believe suburban living will and perhaps should continue to be the normal mode of living in America, though perhaps in some slightly tweaked form.Another thing I'd like to point out is that Drum seems to be saying that suburbanites have made a conscious choice not to live in the suburbs, and I really don't think that holds water. First of all, Drum never brings up the cost aspect of living in a big city. It is expensive. He notes that the suburbs are cheap, but never notes that urban areas are almost always more expensive to live in for people of comparative means. Might that not suggest that people value urban living more than suburban living? Is it possible that the high cost of urban living suggests high unmet demand? Second of all, there are a lot of economic, social, and policy factors that helped to create the suburbs, but there is no guarantee they will continue into the future. A number of trends that helped to create the suburban boom that seem unlikely to continue are: low cost gasoline, massive tax payer funded road building projects, white flight from increasingly ethic urban cores, the single family living structure of post-war white America, the saving through your house system of American family investment.
The Suburbs, Cont'd Again
A reader makes the case that Americans actually prefer more dense living environments.