Suburbs Are Graying Faster Than Cities As Boomers Stay Put And Kids Move Downtown

mother in law street view

People think of the suburbs as a place full of kids, soccer games and minivans, but this is changing fast. People like to stay in the places they know, and as the kids move away the parents are staying. The density of people per acre is dropping fast, as is the need for schools and soccer pitches, while the need for senior services is going to dramatically increase. My mother in law lives on the cul-de-sac shown above; it used to be full of kids. Now, she is not the only person living on in the house she has been in for forty years.

According to the Washington Post, they either don't want to leave, or can't.

seniorpopulation graph image
Carol Morello writes:

The nation's baby boomers -- 76 million people born between 1946 and 1964 -- were the first generation to grow up in suburbia, and the suburbs is where many chose to rear their own children. Now, as the oldest boomers turn 65, demographers and local planners predict that most of them will not move to retirement areas such as Florida and Arizona. They will stay put.

While this may be a good thing for our energy consumption, since there will be fewer suburbanites driving minivans to hockey practice, it encourages sprawl as those who really want a suburban lifestyle will have to leapfrog the existing inner suburbs. It will be hugely expensive, providing social services at such low density in such a car-oriented environment.
More in the Washington Post

At the Sustainable Cities Collective, Jim Russell considers it even more dire. He writes:

My take is that this will make the suburbs less attractive to families. How will the outlying communities pay for the senior infrastructure? Public transportation will be a nightmare. Services are diffuse. The geographically isolated tend to be poor. Suburbs will have to shrink with ballooning dependency ratios (the other way). Schools will close. The fiscal crisis will extend decades into the future with high energy prices serving to exacerbate the problem.

He concludes that the whole dynamic will change, and that our rust belt cities will reap the benefits, as " legacy costs are shifting from traditional brownfields (urban centers) to greenfields (suburbs)." His conclusion?

What a mess. Given all the constraints on federal, state, and municipal budgets, I don't see how we will pay for the adaptations. Stay ahead of the curve. Move to Pittsburgh.

More on the move back to the City:
New Study Says Young People Want Apartments, Not Houses; iPhones, Not Cars
Are Young People Giving Up On The Suburbs?
If You Really Want To Get Off Oil, Move To Buffalo

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