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The death of the suburbs turns out to be a total myth

One of my bold predictions for 2015 was that we would see the comeback of suburban sprawl, not so much as a phenomenon but as a cultural trope, as people gradually came to realize that what felt to them like a de-suburbanization trend was a mirage.

Jed Kolko at Trulia has a bunch of charts that make this point — most forward-looking housing growth in the United States is going to come in the suburbs — but this one is my favorite:

This shows that at almost every age level, the country continued to de-urbanize from 2000 to 2013. Various trend pieces about empty nesters moving to the big city simply aren't reflected in the data.

So does this all mean that cities are terrible and everyone hates them?

Not at all. For one thing, the national population is growing so it is possible for urban areas to experience population growth even as the urban share of the population declines. For another thing, prices matter. If people hated city living, then Manhattan apartments would be cheap rather than expensive. In reality, they are expensive. But most expensive downtowns make it relatively difficult to secure permission to add more housing units. And expensive inner-ring suburbs generally make it illegal to transform detached house neighborhoods into more urban townhouse neighborhoods even when market conditions and geography suggest that would be smart.

But the facts are what they are — cities aren't necessarily losing people the way they were in the 1970s and 1980s, but the trajectory of American housing growth is still all about the suburbs, driven by a mix of consumer tastes and entrenched policies that favor suburbanization.

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