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City vs. Suburbs: Where is better to live?

By Lee Mesika
 unspash / Wheeler / di Girogi
*Updated 2020
Where you choose to live is a major contributor to who you are as a person. The area in which you live evidently becomes a part of you, shaping or even changing your life view. US cities are home to more than 80% of the American population, though rural and suburban living is still seeing growth, year over year. While cities are hot spots for culture, they can be epicenters for germs, especially during pandemics. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit both cities and suburbs, people are increasingly questioning where the best place to live is regarding health and overall quality of life.
Here are three arguments in favor of living in the city and three arguments in favor of living in the suburbs.





By choosing to live in the suburbs, as opposed to a city, families are able to save more money each year. On average, it was found that city-based families in the US spend at least around $9,000 more per year (in many cases, the number is significantly higher) just on basic housing and childcare costs. Homes in the suburbs are also cheaper. Not to mention, they are usually bigger than real estate options in any city. Therefore, in many cases – especially for millennials, suburban living offers a higher value for money.



On average, living in the suburbs grants you an additional 300 square feet (about 30 square meters) of living space. What would you do with an extra 300 square feet of real estate? Create a guest room? A home office? The possibilities are endless. More important than design, though, is the fact that these extra feet provide a feeling of space. This matters because living in small spaces, like in New York, where micro-apartments have become increasingly prevalent, can negatively impact your mental health and how your children are raised. There’s also the additional concern that overcrowded city life can wreak havoc on your physical health, especially during a pandemic, with its lack of room for social distancing, and overabundance of polluted air, noise and stress.



Blame it on TV series, like The Wire, or flashy news headlines, not to mention high-profile cases of cities with police brutality, but we associate crime more to city areas than we do to suburban ones. FBI stats and data from the National Center for Victims of Crime confirm our fears. According to these sources, major cities have higher property crime rates, household burglaries, theft and violent crime rates than surrounding suburban areas. Living in the suburbs can be a lot safer crime-wise.


Big City Life


Cultural Diversity

During the last few centuries, the “American Dream” and promises of other riches and a better life attracted immigrants from all around the world to the United States. These immigrants settled in urban areas as opposed to the countryside, with the city offering them better and a wider variety of jobs. This trend wasn’t just visible in the United States, but also all over the major European cities.

Back in 1900, only 12 cities worldwide had more than 1 million people. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. Cities have grown a lot, and with all these newcomers come new cultures and social diversity. Many cities around the world even have areas that are based on these settlers: ChinatownLittle ItalyLittle India, etc. This “melting pot” effect allows us to try foods from different cultures, meet new people from diverse backgrounds, see arts from around the world, and get exposure to different cultures that wouldn’t be available to us without hopping on an airplane.



Living in the suburbs requires families to have at least one car. Kids and teens who don’t yet have a driver’s license or access to a car, are completely reliant on their parents for commuting. Whether it’s to school, after-school activities, or even to the grocery store, there is a heavy reliance on private transportation when growing up in the suburbs.  Not to mention the distances or traffic involved in driving from your home to wherever you need to be. Oh, and let’s not forget about the added monthly costs of car insurance and gasoline.

In contrast, commuting from point A to B in urban areas is far easier and cheaper. City living allows more flexibility and freedom in getting around, given easily accessible public transportation. New York’s subway system has been running since the early 20th century. Underground subways, and above-ground trains, trams and light-rails are in use in almost every European city. In fact, most cities are designed around public transportation. Buses have special lanes, while trains and metros are not subject to traffic. This enables faster commutes. Plus, public transportation riders have the added benefit of being able to hop off and easily explore new areas of their city that would otherwise pass them by if traveling by car. Pre- and post-coronavirus, public transportation in a safe, efficient, and convenient way to get around and/or explore one’s surroundings.


A lot more to do

It’s no secret that cities attract more tourists than suburban areas do. Let’s face it, wouldn’t you rather travel to Los Angeles than to the LA suburb of Pacoima (which most people have never heard of)? And with tourists come businesses and attractions, including restaurants, parks, shops, nightlife, etc. Therefore, living in a city may provide a wider variety of entertainment, educational and cultural options than what can be found in suburbia. Besides the museums, public galleries, educational centers found in US cities, there are also numerous public events that are often free or affordable for city residents – in non-coronavirus times. City dwellers not only have outlets where they can learn about art, culture and history but public transportation that makes diverse cultural opportunities accessible.


The Bottom Line: Living in the suburbs can provide more real-estate space and, perhaps, a safer environment while saving you money. However, living in a city exposes you to new cultures and entertainment that are more easily accessible with public transportation.  Where would you prefer to live?

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