Sunday, December 03, 2006

Anti-Sprawl Myth Exposed

In the Detroit News of 11/29/06 is a news report "Suburban isolation myth busted" by LA Times writer Roy Rivenburg. I always knew that those anti-sprawl studies purporting to show that suburban life was miserable were wrong. If they were true, people would not flood to those burbs. Now there is this study which says:

A professor at the University of California-Irvine has uncovered evidence to support the proverb "Good fences make good neighbors."
In a study of 15,000 Americans, economist Jan Brueckner found that suburban living is better for people's social lives than city dwelling.

The less crowded a neighborhood is, the friendlier its residents become, the report says.

For every 10 percent drop in population density, the likelihood of people talking to their neighbors once a week goes up 10 percent, regardless of race, income, education, marital status or age. Involvement in hobby-oriented clubs also soars as density falls, the study found.

This of course reaffirms the old adage that everyone needs some "elbow room," arrived at without an expensive study. Anyway, this flies in the face of conventional wisdom:
Such behavior contradicts a widespread criticism that suburban sprawl causes social isolation and anonymity.

The article ends with:
The idea that generous amounts of personal space help people get along has been under assault for years.

Author Robert Putnam's "Bowling Alone" and a chorus of sprawl critics have argued that the steady creep of cookie-cutter housing gobbles open space, thickens traffic congestion and damages the social fabric.

Sprawl historian Robert Bruegmann, a professor of art, architecture and urban planning at the University of Illinois in Chicago, called Brueckner's study a welcome antidote to "the endless drumroll of criticism of suburbs," although he cautioned that he hadn't read the report and couldn't vouch for its reliability.

Suburban living isn't paradise. It has its drawbacks like traffic and travel time. But so far at least, the pros far outweigh the cons in the minds of many people.
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