The Death of The Suburbs Has Been Greatly Exaggerated. Again.


Every time gas prices tick up or there’s some horribly written feature about how cool urban life is becoming in Dallas, the urban yokels crow about the death of the suburbs and how everyone — everyone! — will soon be living in prole-style density and walking to their creative, carbon-neutral jobs. The McMansions will be sitting empty and it’s DART cards for everyone.

The suburbanites are giving up their quiet streets and cookie-cutter houses and functioning schools and marching like war refugees back to the city center to enjoy overpriced bridges by overhyped architects, People’s Hotels, and loft living like we’re all back in college. Hallelujah, praise the Prius, and pass the Hope and Change bumper stickers!

The only problem? It’s not true.

510q7emw6pl_sl500Despite the gleeful yokel wishes, the people of The DFW are not, in fact, moving back to the city core and away from the safe, quiet, people-stay-off-my-lawns suburbs. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Have a look yourself.

  • From 2007 to 2008, the city of Dallas lost 18,847 people.
  • From 2007 to 2008, the ‘Burbs gained 62,022 people.
  • From 2000 to 2008, Dallas lost about 250,000 people, while the ‘Burbs gained more than 500,000.

Bottom line:

Spin can change perceptions, but not reality. People are not moving from the suburbs to the core cities. The reverse continues to be true, even in the worst of times.

I love Dallas — Dallas itself, not just The DFW — but propaganda about the death of the suburbs isn’t going to fix what’s wrong with it.


  1. Bob says:

    Tres, dear, pretend you’re a serious journalist for a minute and actually cite some of the “propaganda” you mention above.

  2. Matthew says:

    My only comment would be that the model of the City being urban and everything surrounding it being suburban might be outdated. I don’t know about Dallas, but where I’ve lived I’ve seen formerly suburban areas urbanize. It seems we have much more of a node system instead of the traditional hub and spoke. So while tons of people might not be flocking to Dallas itself, it could be possible that they are flocking to urban centers in the ‘suburbs’ and not to levittowns.

  3. Daniel says:

    So urban living is “prole-style”? Does that include the Upper East Side of NYC? Mayfair in London? Guess those folks just haven’t been exposed to The Villas at Plano Glen.

    Face it, every Frisco will be a Farmers Branch eventually. Ninety percent of the houses are built like crap whether you care to admit it or not.

    Furthermore, your bullet points are glaringly self-contradicting. I assume a native skeptic like yourself didn’t just swallow them wholesale from a dubious source. Right?

  4. Matthew says:

    Thinking out loud here, but it seems to be the best way to judge whether the suburban/sprawl development paradigm is on the up or down swing would be to measure the population density of a metropolitan area. The last half of the last century saw us spread out around urban cores, has that trend halted?

  5. Buckeye says:

    Sorry kids, but comparing Urban Dallas to the Upper East Side or Mayfair is kind of funny.

  6. Daniel says:

    Not my intention. But does Wick Allison live in a prole hovel? My not-so-well-made point was that the most expensive real-estate in the world is urban. And some of the most expensive real estate in Dallas, as well.

    And, BTW, I can understand why urban living is not for everyone. But the idea that it’s grimy prole-land is straight out of a late 1970s crime drama.

    And I would add that the last bullet point is flat-out wrong. From 2000 to present, the population of Dallas has gone from 1,188,000 to 1,306,000. At least if the census can be trusted. But then again, what is the government doing in the math business?

  7. Daniel says:

    Even following the link, the table shows Dallas going from 1,190,000 (2000)
    to 1,280,000 (2008). Allowing that they round to the nearest 10-thousand and that the latter figure is for 2008 rather than the up-to-the-minute estimate, their numbers track right along with the Census Bureau figures (I’m sure that’s where they got them).

    What’s with the quarter-mil net loss, Trey? If you’re going to excoriate propagandists, perhaps you should be at greater pains to distinguish yourself from them.

  8. Daniel says:

    Okay, I see Table 3. I assume the “core county” of DFW is Dallas; also likely it’s jointly Dallas and Taarant. No matter, the inescapable conclusion is the same: People are running like hell from inner-ring suburbs, with 2 in 3 heading for exurbs and 1 in 3 heading for the city (this assumes a static population, which of course we don’t have).

    So, Trey, what the numbers are telling us is that inner-ring suburbs are dying on the vine, even while the core city and the exurbs both thrive (see my comment above about Farmers Branch).

  9. amanda says:

    Daniel has a bug up his butt today.

    That was my only comment.

  10. James the P3 says:

    I don’t think anybody ever said suburbs were “dead.” On the contrary, as much as Trey speaks of lofts and such, at the root of the recent “urbanization” trend is the return of white folks to the inner-most belt of suburban neighborhoods–places like Lakewood, M-Streets, Preston Hollow, Oak Cliff, and Kessler Park. There’s not a damn thing urban about Lakewood, and the fact is that its more similar to Plano than it is to downtown.

    Some specific suburbs, however, are suffering. Places like Mesquite, Richardson, and Garland, that are overwhelmed with poorly-constructed thirty-year old homes, very mediocre schools, and increasing crime rates. And one has to wonder if Plano can be that far behind.

  11. Daniel says:

    Another factor is that today half of all households are childless. For singles, DINKYs and empty-nesters, the allure of city living should be obvious. For people with kids, the allure of the suburbs should be.

    And bug up my ass or no (hi Amanda!), Trey is willfully citing something that I have pointed out is wrong. He’s actually grossly misinterpreting the very source to which he links. Dallas has gained 118,000 people since 2000. Or, by his source’s numbers (I got mine from the Census Bureau itself), it gained 90,000 between 2000 and 2008. I’m too lazy to see whether it lost 18,800 from 2007 to 2008, but if so it’s a statistical blip. Once again, he’s probably referring to Dallas County, which – Dallas proper = inner-ring suburbs.

    I’m a bit of a wonk on this stuff, if I do say so.

  12. Mork from Ork says:

    The suburbs are not dieing. They are simply reversing demographics with urban areas. Good bye white and wealthy suburbs.