Microblog #79: What’s a suburb, anyway?

Defining the suburbs: More complicated than you might think.

If you ask most people what makes a neighborhood suburban, you’ll probably get some similar responses. Single-family home ownership, low density, separated land uses, and white picket fences—what else is there to say?

For demographers and housing researchers, the answer isn’t quite as straightforward. Sometimes the data we want isn’t available at the scale we need. And it’s often difficult to agree on thresholds for classification. Plus, the Census Bureau hasn’t set an official definition, leaving researchers to fill the gap with many overlapping standards.

A new report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies takes a look at three definitions: one based on names and boundaries, another on housing and commuting patterns, and another on density. Each leads to different results, but some commonalities exist.

Read their working paper here, or follow along their live-tweets of a seminar from the researchers today at 12:15PM EST.


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