5.07.2009

What the Suburbs Might Learn From Their Urban Neighbors



A nice report by the Brookings Institution on recent demographic trends in metropolitan America entitled "Getting Current" (warning: large pdf). It highlights some of the convergence of suburban trends with what were previously seen as more urban characteristics:

* More racial and ethnic minorities moving from cities to suburbs, or in the case of some immigrants, straight to the suburbs, means suburbs are dealing with unprecedented diversity of tongues and skin colors.

* More and more poverty, particularly in older communities, means suburbs are dealing with fiscal and mechanical challenges in providing social services and affordable housing.

* Suburbs have more of certain populations - yuppies, the elderly, the working poor - whose housing and transportation needs may be mismatched with current inventory and infrastructure.

* The long global transformation to a more knowledge-based economy puts institutions of higher learning at the forefront, but suburbs often lack the density to attract such entities, impairing residents' ability to tap into ongoing educational and training needs.

Of course, some of these trends are just urban issues creeping outward to inner ring suburbs. But there's some pullback from the outer bound as well, as heightened energy considerations and tapped out transportation infrastructure funding sources make far-flung suburban areas less attractive.

In other words, cities and suburbs may not be so different tomorrow as they were yesterday, with implications for residents, employers, and government. Perhaps we ought to learn a little from each other, and help each other out, more so than we're currently doing, rather than trying to distance ourselves from each other.
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