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October 2010 Issue

10 Facts: Do you really know the suburbs?

By Kelly Martini

This month's issue features a story about the suburbs. These ten facts provide insight into what it really means to live in the suburbs.

 1. Internationally, suburbs are often places of economic disparity, higher crime rates, social problems and proportionately higher immigrant populations that lie outside the city limits.

 2. In the United States, suburbs are residential and metropolitan areas surrounding a city. Often viewed as more affluent and spacious, the “burbs” grew up through the 20th century as commuting became popular and easier. They grew exponentially during the years of desegregation of schools and public accommodations, when many Whites moved out of cities in what became known as “white flight.”

 3. In the United States after World War II, Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgage loans fueled a dramatic expansion of “bedroom communities,” so-called because residents slept in homes outside of urban areas but worked in the city. The federal agency would not insure loans in older parts of cities, where many Blacks lived, contributing to urban decay and the racial composition of the new suburbs.

 4. A home with space away from city sidewalks and skyscrapers may bring about its own problems. SUVs, 3,000-square foot abodes, and bright green lawns are leaving a gigantic carbon footprint. However, a Feb. 10, 2008, New York Times article, reported good news: suburbanites are becoming aware of environmental issues. They are joining local farming cooperatives for food, buying hybrid vehicles and using clotheslines in their backyards.

 5. Since 1960, industry has moved to the suburbs because of lower taxes, cheap land and more space. The U.S. Census Bureau reported 80 percent of new jobs are in the suburbs. Ninety-five percent of black Americans live in cities and for a variety of reasons may not have access to these opportunities.

 6. In other ways, the suburbs are diversifying culturally and racially. Sixty percent of foreign-born immigrants live in the outskirts of U.S. cities.

 7. In the suburbs of Baltimore, Md., 81.5 percent of high school seniors graduated last year, while 34.6 percent graduated in the city, according to a study commissioned by the Colin Powell-founded America’s Promise Alliance and statistics from the U.S. Department of Education. These educational inequities are not limited to this area.

 8. There may be a correlation between the nation’s growing suburbs and waistlines. Americans who live in the suburbs tend to weigh more and have higher blood pressure than their counterparts in urban environments, according to a report in the American Journal of Health Promotion. The potential cause? Suburbanites have fewer sidewalks and more accessibility issues. They must drive to grocery stores, church, playgrounds, social visits, schools and a place to exercise.

 9. Minneapolis suburbs are defying certain stereotypes. The city and its suburbs are full of bikers, bike lanes, and bike paths. In the suburb of Plymouth, there are 40 parks and 70 miles of trails.

10. More than 300 suburban school districts across the nation have twice as many homeless schoolchildren as the cities they border. The endemic is well hidden as families sleep in low-cost motels, on friends’ and families’ couches, and in church basements. Suburbs are not prepared with shelters, transportation or services.

Kelly C. Martini is interim managing editor for response. She lives with her three children and husband in a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa.

Last Updated: 03/22/2014
 
 

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