From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
A suburban land use pattern in the US

Suburbanization is a population shift from central urban areas into suburbs, resulting in formation of (sub)urban sprawl. Sub-urbanization is inversely related to urbanization, which denotes population shift from rural areas into urban centres.

Many residents of metropolitan regions work within the central urban area, and choose to live in satellite communities called suburbs and commute to work via automobile or mass transit. Others have taken advantage of technological advances to work from their homes. These processes often occur in more economically developed countries, especially in the United States, which is believed to be the first country in which the majority of the population lives in the suburbs, rather than in the cities or in rural areas. Proponents of containing urban sprawl argue that sprawl leads to urban decay and a concentration of lower income residents in the inner city.[1]

Causes and effects[edit]

Suburbanization can be linked to a number of different push and pull factors. Push factors include the congestion and population density of the cities, pollution caused by industry and high levels of traffic and a general perception of a lower quality of life in inner city areas. Pull factors include more open spaces and a perception of being closer to "nature", lower suburban house prices and property taxes in comparison to the city, and the increasing number of job opportunities in the suburban areas. Improvements in transportation infrastructure encourage suburbanization, as people become increasingly able to live in a suburb and commute into the nearby town or city to work. Developments in railways, bus routes and roads are the main improvements that make suburbanization more practical. The increase in the number and size of highways is a particularly significant part of this effect.

Government policies can have a significant effect on the process.

United States[edit]

Recent developments in communication technology, such as the spread of broadband services, the growth of e-mail and the advent of practical home video conferencing, has enabled more people to work from home rather than commuting. Although this can occur either in the city or in the suburbs, the effect is generally decentralizing, which works against the largest advantage of the centre city, which is easier access to information and supplies due to centralization. Similarly, the rise of efficient package express delivery systems, such as (in the United States) FedEx and UPS, which take advantage of computerization and the availability of an efficient air transportation system, also eliminates some of the advantages that were once to be had from having a business located in the city. Industrial, warehousing, and factory land uses have also moved to suburban areas. Cheap telecommunications removes the need for company headquarters to be within quick courier distance of the warehouses and ports. Urban areas suffer from traffic congestion, which creates costs in extra driver costs for the company which can be reduced if they were in a suburban area near a highway. As with residential, lower property taxes and low land prices encourage selling industrial land for profitable brownfield redevelopment.[2]

Suburban areas also offer more land to use as a buffer between industrial and residential and retail space to avoid NIMBY sentiments and gentrification pressure from the local community when residential and retail is adjacent to industrial space in an urban area. Suburban municipalities can offer tax breaks, specialized zoning, and regulatory incentives to attract industrial land users to their area, such as City of Industry, California. The overall effect of these developments is that businesses as well, and not just individuals, now see an advantage to locating in the suburbs, where the cost of buying land, renting space, and running their operations, is cheaper than in the city. This continuing dispersal from a single city center has led to other recent phenomena in American suburbs, the advent of edge cities and exurbs, arising out of clusters of office buildings built in suburban commercial centers on shopping malls and higher density developments. With more and more jobs for suburbanites being located in these areas rather than in the main city core that the suburbs grew out of, traffic patterns, which for decades centered on people commuting into the center city to work in the morning and then returning home in the evening, have become more complex, with the volume of intra-suburban traffic increasing tremendously. By 2000, half of the US population lived in suburban areas.[2]

Suburbanization in Eastern Europe[edit]

In many countries of Europe, sometimes cities became seen as dangerous or very expensive areas to live, while the suburbs were seen as safe places to live and raise a family. There are periods of opposite developments like urbanization.

During Communism, most socialist countries in the Eastern Bloc were characterized by under-urbanization,[3] which meant that industrial growth occurred well in advance of urban growth and was sustained by rural-urban commuting. City growth, residential mobility, land and housing development were under tight political control. Consequently, sub-urbanization in post-communist Europe is not only a recent but also a particular phenomenon. The creation of housing and land markets and state withdrawal from housing provision have led to the development of privatized modes of housing production and consumption, with an increasing role for private actors and, particularly, for households. Yet, the regulatory and institutional frameworks indispensable to a market-driven housing system – including housing finance – have remained underdeveloped, particularly in south-eastern Europe.[4] This environment has undoubtedly stimulated housing self-provision.[5] Clearly, different forces have shaped different outcomes.[6][7][8][9][10][11]

Post-communist suburbanization in Pitesti, Romania

Long-suppressed urbanization and a dramatic housing backlog resulted in extensive peri-urban growth in Tirana (Albania), which during the 1990s doubled the size of the city whereas war refugees put pressure on cities of former Yugoslavia. Elsewhere processes of suburbanization seemed dominant, but their pace differed according to housing shortages, available finance, preferences and the degree of ‘permitted’ informality. The process was slow in Prague during the 1990s and more apparent after 2000, when housing affordability improved. Conversely, Slovenian and Romanian suburban developments visibly surrounded cities/towns during the 1990s. Nonetheless, socialist legacies of underdeveloped infrastructure and the affordability crisis of transition differentiate post-socialist suburbs from their Western counterparts.[5]

Various degrees of informality characterized suburban housing from illegal occupation of public land (Tirana), illegal construction on agricultural private land (Belgrade) to the unauthorized but later legalized developments in Romania. Suburban housing displayed a chaotic/unplanned character, especially in south-eastern Europe where the state retains a degree of illegitimacy. Excepting scattered for-profit housing, much of the new detached suburban houses seem self-developed. Allegedly, owner-building has become a household strategy to adapt to recession, high and volatile inflation, to cut construction costs and, finally, to bridge access to housing. The predominantly owner-built feature of most suburban housing, with the land often obtained at no cost through restitution policies or illegal occupation, allowed a mix of low-/middle-income households within these developments.[5]


Tijuana has experienced a strong wave of suburbanization from its urban core beginning in 2006. Historically, Tijuana city, with 1/4 the area covering 80 square miles, contained well over 95% of the total population of the municipality, and it was the poor relegated to living outside the city. Despite good highways, however, there was little incentive to move out of the city. However, with a huge escalation of the Mexico drug war violence, middle class city residents and property developers along with retail chains began building suburban communities and sold them as way to isolate themselves and their children from the negative effects. This led to a historic movement to communities outside the urban core, as evidenced by both the type of middle class housing developments and 2010 INEGI census figures.

Effects on psychological health[edit]

Historically it was believed that living in highly urban areas resulted in social isolation, social disorganization, and psychological problems, and that living in suburbs would be more conducive to overall happiness, due to lower population density, lower crime, and a more stable population. A study based on data from 1974, however, found this not to be the case, finding that people living in suburbs had neither greater satisfaction with their neighborhood nor greater satisfaction with the quality of their lives as compared to people living in urban areas.[12]

Economic impacts[edit]

The economic impacts of suburbanization have become very evident since the trend began in the 1950s. Changes in infrastructure, industry, real estate development costs, fiscal policies, and diversity of cities have been easily apparent, as “making it to the suburbs”, mainly in order to own a home and escape the chaos of urban centers, have become the goals of many American citizens. These impacts have many benefits as well as side effects and are becoming increasingly important in the planning and revitalization of modern cities.

Impact on urban industry[edit]

Sprawling Freeway near Toronto, Canada with a suburbanized industry area in the background. Note the far distances from office buildings compared to a downtown. Many office buildings in suburban industry areas are set up on large irrigated campus, versus downtowns that have close buildings and very little greenery.

The days of industry dominating the urban cores of cities are gone. Companies are increasingly looking to build industrial parks in less populated areas, largely for more modern buildings and ample parking, as well as appease the popular of desire to work in more open and pleasant areas. Also contributing to the flight of industry from the city are government economic policies that provide incentives for companies to build new structures, as well as the lack of incentives to build on “brownfield” land (previously used industrial land). As companies continue to build on pieces of land in less populated areas, it will become increasingly difficult to build in high-density areas. The main factor that causes this is that if any of the side effects of industry (noise, excessive lights, heavy traffic) affect residential areas, there is resistance from the homeowners. Another potential impact of industry leaving the city is that generally, when industry is separated from an urban area by some open space, as well as infrastructure, the open space between the city and the company becomes more intensely used. As this land becomes used more and more, the value of properties very often increases, causing many landowners in that open space to sell their land.[13]

Consequences on infrastructure[edit]

Los Angeles suburbanization continues and America continues to sprawl, the cost of the required water lines, sewer lines, and roads could cost more than $21,000 per residential and non residential development unit, costing the American government $1.12 trillion over the next twenty five years. Along with the costs of infrastructure, existing infrastructure suffers, as most of the government’s money that is dedicated to improving infrastructure goes to paying for the new necessities in areas further out from the urban core. As a result, the government will often forgo maintenance on previously built infrastructure.[14]

Impact on real estate development costs[edit]

For residential properties, suburbanization allows for home prices to decrease, so people can drive until they can find an area in which they can afford to buy a home. However, these homes may lack certain things such as parks and access to public transit. Also, the prices of homes in downtown center usually decreases as well to compete with the inexpensive homes in the suburbs. One of the main benefits of living in the suburbs is that one gets a much larger piece of land than one would in the city. Therefore, as the size of lots increases, the supply of housing is more limited.[15] This is to mean that as city growth patterns increase the population increases leading to suburbanisation which hence leads to the under development of real estate since it is a business.

Fiscal impact[edit]

The fiscal deficit grows as a result of suburbanization, mainly because in less densely populated areas, property taxes tend to be lower. Also, because of the typical spread pattern of suburban housing, the lack of variety of housing types, and the greater distance between homes, real estate development and public service costs increase, which in turn increase the deficit of upper levels of government.[16]

Effect on urban diversity[edit]

As the trend of suburbanization took hold, many of the people who left the city for the suburbs were white. As a result, there was a rise in black home ownership in central cities. As white households left for the suburbs, housing prices in transition neighborhoods fell, which often lowered the cost of home ownership for black households. This trend was stronger in older and denser cities, especially in the northeast and Midwest, because new construction was generally more difficult. As of the 2010 Census, minorities like African Americans, Asian Americans and Indo-Americans have become an increasing large factor in recent suburbanization. Many suburbs now have since 1990 large minority communities in suburban and commuter cities.[17]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Slow Growth and Urban Sprawl: Support for a New Regional Agenda?," Juliet F. Gainsborough, Urban Affairs Review, vol. 37, no. 5 (2002): 728-744.
  2. ^ a b US Census Bureau (2002). Demographic Trends in the 20th Century
  3. ^ Murray, P., & Szelenyi, I. (1984). The city in the transition to socialism. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 8(10), 90-107
  4. ^ Tsenkova, S. (2009). Housing Policy Reforms in Post-Socialist Europe: Lost in Transition. Heidelberg: Physica-Verlag
  5. ^ a b c Soaita, A. M. (2013). Romanian suburban housing: home improvement through owner-building. Urban Studies, 50(10), 2084-2101. doi: 10.1177/0042098012471980
  6. ^ Stanilov, K. (Ed.). (2007). The Post-Socialist City. Urban Form and Space Transformations in Central and Eastern Europe after Socialism. Dordrecht: Springer
  7. ^ Hirt, S. A. (2012). Iron Curtains: Gates, Suburbs and Privatization of Space in the Post-Socialist City Pondicherry: Wiley-Blackwell
  8. ^ Hirt, S., & Petrovic, M. (2011). The Belgrade wall: The proliferation of gated housing in the Serbian capital after socialism. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 35(4), 753–777
  9. ^ Kahrik, A., & Tammaru, T. (2008). Population composition in new suburban settlements of the Tallinn metropolitan area. Urban Studies, 45(5/6), 1055–1078
  10. ^ Krisjane, Z., & Berzins, M. (2012). Post-socialist Urban Trends: New Patterns and Motivations for Migration in the Suburban Areas of Rīga, Latvia. Urban Studies, 49(2), 289-306. doi:10.1177/0042098011402232
  11. ^ Sykora, L., & Ourednicek, M. (2007). Sprawling post-communist metropolis: Commercial and residential suburbanisation in Prague and Brno, the Czech Republic. In E. Razin, M. Dijst & C. Vazquez (Eds.), Employment Deconcentration in European Metropolitan Areas. Market Forces versus Planning (pp. 209-233). Dordrecht: Springer
  12. ^ Richard E. Adams, "Is happiness a home in the suburbs?: The influence of urban versus suburban neighborhoods on psychological health", Journal of Community Psychology, Vol. 20, No. 4, pp. 353-372.
  13. ^ Soule, David (2006). Urban Sprawl: A Comprehensive Reference Guide. London: Greenwood Press. pp. 88–89. 
  14. ^ Anthony Downs; Barbara McCann; Sahan Mukherji; Robert Burchell (2005). Sprawl Costs: Economic Impacts of Unchecked Development. Island Press. p. 63. 
  15. ^ Anthony Downs; Barbara McCann; Sahan Mukherji; Robert Burchell (2005). Sprawl Costs: Economic Impacts of Unchecked Development. Island Press. pp. 71–72. 
  16. ^ Anthony Downs; Barbara McCann; Sahan Mukherji; Robert Burchell (2005). Sprawl Costs: Economic Impacts of Unchecked Development. Island Press. pp. 80–81. 
  17. ^ Leah Platt Boustan; Robert A. Margo (2011). "WHITE SUBURBANIZATION AND AFRICAN-AMERICAN HOME OWNERSHIP, 1940-1980". National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved 2011-02-27. 


[1] [2] [3] [4]


  1. ^ Massey, Douglas S.; Denton, Nancy A. (1988). "Suburbanization and Segregation in US Metropolitan Areas". American Journal of Sociology. 94.3. 
  2. ^ McIntosh, Peggy (1988). White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women's Studies. Wellesley, MA: Center for Research on Women. 
  3. ^ Mieszkowski, Peter; Mills, Edwin S. (1993). "The Causes of Metropolitan Suburbanization". Journal of Economic Perspectives. 7.3: 135–47. doi:10.1257/jep.7.3.135. 
  4. ^ Pulido, Laura (March 2000). "Rethinking Environmental Racism: White Privilege and Urban Development in Southern California". Department of Geography at the University of Southern California. 
  5. ^ Oliveira, N. Dos Santos (1996). "Favelas and Ghettos: Race and Class in Rio De Janeiro and New York City". Latin American Perspectives. 23.4: 71–89. doi:10.1177/0094582x9602300406.