Oct. 5, 2022
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

What To Read

5. FAQs

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

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