America split between two community ideals
A Pew Research Center nationwide survey showed that America is divided nearly down the middle between preference for walkable urban and drivable suburban living arrangements. The survey, released June 12, asked US residents whether they would prefer to live in a community where the houses are larger and farther apart but schools, stores and restaurants are several miles away, or one where the houses are smaller and closer to each other but those services are within walking distance.
Forty-nine percent preferred the low-density model where the car is required, and 48 percent preferred the walkable neighborhood. More than 3,300 people were surveyed.
The numbers are consistent with the 2013 survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which found that about half of respondents prefer the walkable neighborhood, and about 45 percent the conventional suburb.
Both the Pew and NAR surveys find higher demand for walkable urban than the market research showed 10 to 15 years ago. About a quarter to a third of Americans preferred the walkable urban model in the early 2000s, according to a meta-analysis of market research at the time.
Some details from the study:
• While young adults are disproportionately in favor of walkable neighborhoods, the most favorable group is people 65 and older — led by women in that age category.
• Hispanic is the racial group most favorable to walkable urbanism, followed by African-Americans, and then whites. No details were available on Asian preference.
• Those with a college degree are far more likely to prefer walkable urban places — bearing out the “creative class” theories of Richard Florida.
• Women lean toward walkable urban while men lean in the other direction.
• Liberals want walkable communities, conservatives prefer more room.
• “Walkable urban” doesn’t necessarily mean city. Many of those who prefer a walkable community also choose suburb or small town as their ideal community type.
Robert Steuteville is executive director of Better! Cities & Towns.
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