The Declining Demographics of Suburbanism

One thing that often comes up when I discuss policy shifts aimed at moving to a less car-dependent society is that someone will say that walkable urbanism may work for the callow and childless (like me!) but parents with children need their cars and suburbs. Since I was born and raised in Manhattan, that’s not a point I would completely concede*, but obviously there’s something to it. Only I think the force of the point militates in favor of a more urbanist policy dynamic. After all, the proportion of the population composed of families with children at home is on the decline:


Given that in 1950 there were very few existing communities oriented around the goal of drivable suburbanism, and most families had young children at home, and the proportion of families with children at home was on the rise, you can see the logic of the built environment shifting in a suburbanist direction. Now, though, our existing environment has been shaped by decades of suburbanist development and the number of people who fit the suburbanist core demographic is a minority and on the decline. That suggests the need for some rebalancing.

One should also recall that a large proportion of these families with children are quite poor, and auto-dependent lifestyles are very bad for poor people given that cars are expensive.

* In particular, I think walkable urbanism becomes a clearly superior choice for teenagers and their parents.