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02-12-2013, 01:05 PM
  #61
tarheelhockey
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It's important to note that the basic argument is true though. As generations progress, they tend to have fewer kids and fewer marriages. It doesn't help that my generation (I'll be 25 this year) grew up in mostly broken homes, with record divorce rates. When you couple that with the financial crunch and the increasing cost of education, it's not hard to see the trend towards smaller living. No doubt an affordable house in the burbs makes more sense than a condo downtown, but that conversation is happening increasingly later in life for most, myself included. This is also being fueled by major changes in consumer habits, most notably how we eat. Since the 70s, there's been a very dramatic shift from home cooked meals and grocery shopping to eating out. Having a large variety of dining options available is part of the appeal dense cities have. Age plays a factor, sure, but there are long running trends at work here.
This is all very true, but it's happening at a creep and not in a linear fashion. The trend of fewer people marrying is countered by an increase in the number of marriages per person. The trend of people having kids at a later age is countered by kids staying at home till a later age. The demand for denser amenities is largely being supplied by the growth of amenities in the suburbs. Sparsely populated suburban areas are being filled in with infrastructure and commercial development, which raises property values and forces "starter home" development even farther to the fringe, which in turn pushes demand farther outward. The former suburban edge of the city from two or three generations ago is now considered "downtown" in a lot of places and attracting denser development in its own right (Atlanta being a prime example).

I'm not saying these trends are good, but they are real. The downtown-development boom of the early 2000s was a much needed shot in the arm for urban areas, but it didn't have nearly the far-reaching effects that urbanists predicted (and I include myself as one of those who was cheering on the parade of new condo towers). If anything, the biggest change is simply that we see people going to more efficient cars and smaller houses... in the suburbs. People have made very small, very subtle shifts but a significant difference in society is not evident at all from where I'm sitting.

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