Friday, October 27, 2006

Sprawl Beyond Sprawl?

Joel Kotkin is high on suburbs and on America’s population growth:

Despite the desires of some new urbanists and "smart growth" activists to cram people into dense cities and regions, the America of 2050 — contrary to the contention of some demographers — also will likely be far more dispersed. A combination of new telecommunications technologies and rising land prices will accelerate the shift of population beyond the current suburban fringes and into the countryside. The demographer Wendell Cox calls this "sprawl beyond sprawl." It is driven by the simple fact, according to most recent surveys, that the vast majority of Americans — upward of 80% — still prefer single-family homes over apartments, while no more than 10% to 15% want to live near the central core.

Unless there is some sort of cultural revolution, most people, particularly families, are likely to continue migrating to places where they can acquire a spot of land and a little privacy. And despite the much ballyhooed "return to the city" by aging boomers, most experts suggest that most are either staying in the suburbs or moving to towns farther out in the hinterland. At least 30% of Americans, according to surveys by the National Association of Realtors and the Fannie Mae Foundation, express the desire to move to the country or a small environment, far more than live there now. The scale of this dispersion depends largely on urban governance. If cities cannot, due to economic or regulatory constraints, provide sufficient job opportunities, people and businesses naturally will flee elsewhere. Other factors, such as preserving family-friendly neighborhoods and stamping out a nascent resurgence in crime, will also be critical.

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