Most prominently during the post-World War II era, suburbs have been synonymous with the "American Dream" and prosperity. Urban areas are seamlessly blended into sprawling communities with borders between the two often blurred, but the distinctions are difficult to miss.
A suburban area is a community outside of an urban center and its outskirts. Common features of these communities are single-family homes interspersed with shopping malls and strips, as well as office buildings. Suburbs often sprawl, making a spread over the area they occupy as opposed to creating prominent skylines such as their urban counterparts. Suburban building often tends to be homogeneous and predictable; residences in the suburbs are sometimes chided as being cookie-cutter and are, in professional terms, for the most part, tract housing.
Suburbs started to gain popularity when the electric railway was implemented in the late 1800s, making it cheap and easy for people to commute from their residence to their place of employment in the city. Other influences of suburban expansion were Henry Ford and his affordable car revolution, development of the interstate highway system, and the federal government making it cheaper for new homes to be constructed outside of the city instead of building upon existing urban structures.
There are many perceived advantages to living in the suburbs. Suburban neighborhoods offer a community and, in some cases, residents can participate in a Homeowners Association to influence the policies that are implemented. Suburban neighborhoods also have the appeal of being removed from the grit and noise of city centers. They are considered to be fairly quiet, provide quality schools and are safer than urban areas.
Suburbs are not a fail-proof beacon of safety. Gangs and drugs still exist in the suburbs, and crime is not vanquished from these areas. Disturbing tragedies occur as humbling reminders that well-manicured communities do not necessarily protect people from some of the scarier aspects of urban living.
The Future of Suburbs
From 2001 to 2006, approximately 90 percent of population growth occurred within the suburbs. During the same period, job growth occurred six times as quickly in the suburbs as in urban centers. Unlike when suburbs were first being developed, many working people commute from one suburban area to another as opposed to commuting from the suburbs to a city center. And with telecommuting jobs becoming more prominent, the concern regarding commuting is becoming less significant. With these considerations in mind, it is believed suburbs will continue to be a popular option for American residency.