If you’re a millennial like myself, then you’ve become accustomed to the constant yammering from older generations claiming that we have single-handedly started killing off previous “necessities” such as department stores, diamonds, and get this, even napkins (sounds ridiculous, I know). Now, us millennials are even getting accused of killing the suburbs, and instead opting to head to the hustle and bustle of the city. Truth be told, I am one of those millennials who wouldn’t dare to live in the suburbs. Just the thought of not having that ease of mobility you get in the city absolutely terrifies me. Am I just speaking for myself when I say I prefer the city life? Or are we as a generation gravitating more towards the convenience and ease of city living?
According to John M. Levy in Contemporary Urban Planning, he refers to the statistics that give us clues about this generations’ living patterns as “straws in the wind.” One of these “straws” is that the percentage of teenagers and people in their early twenties with driver’s licenses has been on a steady decline (Levy 27). This shows that we aren’t depending as much on vehicles like previous generations. To further add onto this statement, a survey from The Rockefeller Foundation and Transportation for America found that the majority of millennials want low-cost transit and multiple options for getting around a city. More than half would even consider relocating to a different city if it had better access to public transportation (1).
While there is speculation of a second resurgence in cities, there are also many people who believe that the typical “American dream” of owning a house with a white picket fence, two car garage, and a dog to run across your front lawn is not dead. According to Jamie Peck from The Guardian, we millennials still, in fact, want the same things as our baby boomer parents or grandparents, it’s just taken us longer to get them due to a flagging economy, crushing student loan debts, and the difficulty of getting a mortgage in the years directly following the financial crisis (2).
John M. Levy also points out a future where the more affluent move to the central cities following gentrification and large-scale redevelopment. This will eventually push the lower-income residents out into the suburbs. He also notes that this is no surprise because it’s a re-occurring pattern in many European cities. Will this be the beginning of the suburbs characterized as the new “slums”? Are we on the verge of another form of “white flight?” At this point, only time will tell.
Levy, John M. Contemporary Urban Planning. 11th ed., New York, NY, Routledge, 2017.
1)Malcolm, Hadley. “Millennials prefer cities with good public transit.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 24 Apr. 2014, http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/04/24/millennials-prefer-public-transportation/8097555/. Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.
2) Peck, Jamie. “The miserable reason behind millennials’ slow march to the suburbs | Jamie Peck.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 25 Aug. 2017, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/25/suburban-homes-millennials-american-dream-cities. Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.