June 23, 2024
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A 5-Step Guide

How To Move To The Suburbs

Quitting the city has never been more fashionable or plausible. Here’s how to do it successfully.

You’ve heard of The Great Resignation, but what about The Great Relocation? During the pandemic, more than 7 million households moved to a different county, with many of them seeking larger lawns and longer leases outside of the city. Counter to expectations, older adults or people with children weren’t the only ones making the move; many young people actually led the charge.

So Long, City Living

“The initial thought among urban economists was that the agglomeration economies of the big cities were going to hold and that young people would want to be seen, but what we’re seeing in the data is that this is not completely so,” says Susan Wachter, professor of real estate and finance at The Wharton School and co-director at the Penn Institute for Urban Research. “Young people are redesigning their future in ways that are surprising. They don’t always need to be at the large centers of activity and seen by the boss.”

U.S. Postal Service data shows that New York and San Francisco were home to two of the biggest exoduses, with young people opting for suburban splendor in the less expensive communities of what Wachter calls “second-, third-, fourth-tier cities.” Others moved within a 100- to 150-mile radius of their old locale, and many moved home. “For the first time in 50 years, 50% of 25- to 34-year-olds were living with their parents,” she says of 2020. “Historically those numbers are more like 30%.”

What’s New And What Isn’t

This movement away from cities has roots beyond the pandemic, says Richard Fry, senior researcher in demographics and social trends at PEW Research Center. “2012 was the peak year for 25- to 34-year-olds to move back to the city,” he says. (For context: Girls premiered in April 2012, and the original Gossip Girl ended its run in December of the same year.) “But since 2012, the growth of the 25- to 34-year-old population in urban core counties has markedly slowed but picked up in suburbia.” In fact, the most recent round of Census data in 2018 showed that “most age groups increasingly reside in the suburbs compared to 2000.”

What has changed is our understanding of what getting out of the city can look like and mean. “It’s a new era for suburbs,” says Wachter, citing the viability of towns a couple of hours outside of a major city. “If you’re doing that commute once every two weeks, that’s not a problem.” The even bigger shift is one of perception. “These are now suburbs that are linked in,” Wachter says, noting the influx of remote-working creatives once irrevocably bound to the city. “They’re not metaphorically distant in either who lives there and in what people do who live there.”

How To Join Them

The goal of this package is to help you navigate the challenges of relocating to a suburb, be that a traditional single-family unit on the outskirts of a metro area, or a small town close enough for occasional commuting to a city. The stories that follow were written by 16 writers who live in the suburbs in 10 different states. They’re designed to not only give you the basic facts about moving to suburbia, but to help you build a fun, meaningful life once you get there. Enjoy!

Charlotte Owen, Editor in Chief

1. Research

If you’re considering a move, you need to do your research. For example, did you know that since the pandemic traffic congestion has declined in dense areas — but grown in suburbia, where people are running errands during the day? Unpacking myths from reality is essential, as is deciding exactly what kind of suburban experience you want to have. Are you moving home or somewhere new, and are you renting or buying? Finally, if you’re planning on working remotely full-time, that’s something you probably need to talk to your boss about. Here’s how to do it and get the response you want.

Get Off The Fence

Leaving The City? Great! Here Are 4 More Big Decisions Ahead

The choice to leave comes with a buffet of sides. Here's how to pick what's best for you. By Kaitlyn Wylde

By Kaitlyn Wylde
Stepford Lies

Myths About The Suburbs As Outdated As The Mall

Everything you think you know about life on the edge of a city is wrong, reports Margaret Wheeler Johnson.

By Margaret Wheeler Johnson

How To Tell Your Boss You're Heading Out Of Town — For Good

You need to be open to compromise and show up with a watertight game plan, writes Mandi Woodruff-Santos.

By Mandi Woodruff-Santos

2. Community

Being a good member of the community carries more weight in the suburbs. Recent data shows that police killings of Black and Latinx people are declining in cities, thanks largely to the introduction of more restrictive use-of-force policies, but the same figures are rising in the suburbs, as are racist hate crimes. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Daunte Wright, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown — they were all in suburban areas of the United States when they were killed. Advocating for criminal justice reform, an end to police brutality, and the abolition of racist zoning policies within your small town or suburb marks an opportunity to seed systemic change in some of the communities that need it most. Here’s how to do it.

Zoning Out

How To Not Be A Nimby (That's "Not In My Backyard")

You need to advocate for the end of exclusionary zoning policy, argues Tatiana Walk-Morris.

By Tatiana Walk-Morris
Speak Up

How To Advocate For Change In A Republican Suburb

It's not just mums drinking wine and talking about Donald Trump's tweets, says Fiza Pirani.

By Fiza Pirani
Case Study

The Suburbs Can Be Radical — These Restaurants Prove It

Immigrants have made L.A.'s Boyle Heights a hub of grassroots resistance, writes Esther Tseng.

By Esther Tseng

3. Social

Experts already know that many young people have been adversely impacted by the isolation of the pandemic. Throw in moving to a new neighborhood, and that can only make things worse — or better, depending on how you look at things. Building a satisfying social life takes time, effort, and determination. Focus on finding new friends and keeping your (good) old ones. Cultivate new hobbies while finding ways to keep your old ones alive (even the R-rated ones). And if you’re single, rest assured: Dating in smaller communities has plenty of advantages.

*Send Friend Request*

How To Make New Friends & Keep Your Old Ones

Science tells us proximity is the strongest predictor of friendship, so you'll need to play both sides when you leave town, writes Theresa Massony.

By Theresa Massony
The Good, The Bad, & The Boozy

Embrace The Chaos Of A Suburban Book Club

"I was hugging her and she was crying on my shoulder. I ran into her a week later at a coffee shop and she had no idea who I was." By Anna Davies

By Anna Davies
A Healthy App-etite

Meet The People Hacking Small-Town Dating

Your feed of matches is about to look a whole lot different, reports Nona Willis Aronowitz, but isn't that why you moved in the first place?

By Nona Willis Aronowitz
Read The Room

Meet The Neighbors: A Suburban Field Guide

Including Lawn Dad (note: this term is gender-neutral), the Block Party Curmudgeon, and the cursed Long Talker. By April Daniels Hussar

By April Daniels Hussar
Case Study

A Survey Of The New Jersey Social Scene

For many, the only remaining objection to the suburbs is not financial or logistical but social: Is there anything to do? Amy Sohn reports from the front lines.

By Amy Sohn
Sex & The Suburbs

Sex, Drugs, & Poker Games: Where To Find Them

You can tend to your vices just as well as you tend to your new backyard — if you know where to look. Michelle Toglia explains how to get your kicks out of town.

By Michelle Toglia

4. Space

Chances are you won’t be able to call a live-in super when something goes wrong, so it’s time to learn some basic DIY, as well as how to know when the safer option (usually where electricity or plumbing is concerned) is to call in the experts. For decorating, it’s very likely that your tiny city apartment furniture will look like something from The Borrowers in your new space, but fear not, because there are some excellent ways to make things work on a budget. The same goes for your new backyard, too.

Ms. Fix It

How To Be Handy — Or Pay For It

New homeowner Ayana Lage sorts the DIY skills you can acquire for yourself from the ones you should outsource to the professionals.

By Ayana Lage
Case Study

Same House, New Costume

The ubiquitous farmhouse aesthetic has nothing to do with the business of farming anything apart from Instagram likes, argues Kate Wagner.

By Kate Wagner
Ministry Of The Interior

RIP, Teeny-Tiny Apt. Furniture

How to furnish your new square-footage without (a) going broke, or (b) making everything you already own look weird. By Ashley Abramson

By Ashley Abramson

Gardening 101

Oh Sh*t, I Have A Yard

Leaving the city means no longer pretending to be satisfied with a solitary window box. But once you have more space, what do you even do with it?

by Kristine Fellizar
What To Read

5. FAQs

All the questions you maybe don’t want to ask out loud.

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