What the suburbs will be 20 years from now

Now, the stereotype stands that the suburbs are about wealth and the cities are about poverty. The suburbs are white. The cities are black (or Latino or some other non-white group).

The reality has always been more complicated — cities have always had white populations, both rich and poor — but this is a question of our national shorthand, and I believe that in the next 20 years or so, that perception is going to change.

It’s going to have to change because reality eventually catches up to perception. Poverty is sadly surging in the suburbs, part of a wide diversification outside of cities, which, though still facing legacy violence and education issues, largely appear on a road of recovery. More poor people live in the suburbs than cities or in areas called rural, a fact that came true starting in 2005.

Simply put, in the next generation, the divide will be simply more about space: the suburbs will have space, the cities will not. Of course, it’s a simplification. I know homes in Philadelphia with big yards in the Northeast and northwest, homes with pools and driveways along the dense riverwards and deep in West Philadelphia. But that’s not the point.

The point is what the stereotype will be. And when crime, demographics and poverty aren’t the issue, what else could be?

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