Suburbs Not Most Popular, But Suburbanites Most Content

  • February 26, 2009
  • By Richard Morin and Paul Taylor

Ever since there have been suburbs there have been harsh critiques of suburbs -- a common one being that they are suffocating places where people live lives of quiet desperation.

Well, most suburbanites apparently never got that memo.

Suburbanites are significantly more satisfied with their communities than are residents of cities, small towns or rural areas, according to a Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends survey that explores what Americans like -- and don't like -- about the places where they live.

The survey asks respondents to rate their community on eight characteristics: job opportunities; cost of living; a place to raise children; recreational and outdoor activities; shopping; the climate; cultural activities; and opportunities to meet people and make friends. It also asks for an overall rating.

Responses to all nine questions were aggregated into a single scale. Overall, 42% of suburban residents give their community high marks on this combined scale, compared with just 34% of city residents, 29% of rural residents and 25% of small town residents.

So let the critics bray. The suburban life is the good life, right? Well, yes, but ...

The same survey also asks people whether, if they could live anywhere, they would prefer to live in a city, a suburb, a rural area or a small town. On this measure, the suburban "good life" is a bit of a flop. Just 25% of the overall public says the suburb is their ideal community type. In fact, a higher share (30%) of the public says that small towns are their ideal community type -- this despite the fact that the people who live in small towns are much less satisfied with their communities than are residents of suburbs.

Read the full report Suburbs Not Most Popular, But Suburbanites Most Content on the Pew Research Center's Web site.