Americans Dream On

It takes more than an economic crisis to put a damper on the American Dream when it comes to habitat. A recent Pew Research Center study about where and how Americans want to live (summarized in David Brooks's column in the New York Times) found that although the suburbs have receded as an ideal, Americans are still motivated by the geographic tendencies that have characterized the nation since its emergence: a mentality of mobility, conquering the next frontier and combining the best of town and country living. The study also found that Americans would still prefer to live by a McDonald's over a Starbucks; with San Francisco, Seattle and Denver among the five most desirable cities to live in, I hope the Pew Center can reformulate the question.


Dave Brown said...

Why do you think that the Pew survey questions need to be reformulated from those answers? What is wrong with those cities? David Brooks' description of them sounds quite attractive.
I also do not understand why Brooks' ends his article with the statement "Americans may be gloomy and afraid..." when most Americans I know are quite positive and enjoy going to these cities because of the high quality of life--primarily, as Brooks points out, with easy access to both urban and natural areas. Essentially it is a balance between the choice, accessibility, comfort, and affordability that a place offers.
The debate reminds me a bit of some of Richard Florida's critics. One of them claimed that Florida's "3 T's" formula for creative city success--technology, talent, and tolerance--in actuality is replaced by a different formula: Skills, Sun and Sprawl.
now, i would prefer the live in New York over Denver, etc, but I don't think we should look down on the millions of Americans who would prefer the opposite.

Cordelia said...

I agree with Dave. I wonder how the questions encourage one to imagine urban life, for example. Cities, especially beautiful, pedestrian-friendly cities with lots of greenspace and good markets, tend to be much more expensive per square foot. Starbucks is more expensive than MacDonald's. I would assume most people would like to live in decently spacious and green environments that they can afford. Does the question begin "If money were no object... ?"

Katia Savchuk said...

In my last sentence, I meant to say that I hope if Americans are tending towards culturally diverse, environmentally sensitive and typologically interesting cities like San Francisco and Seattle, then I hope questions probing American preferences can go beyond a McDonald's-Starbucks spectrum as a barometer of identity.

Chachy said...
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Chachy said...

There's sort of an ironic tension between the motivations behind the suburban model of city development. On the one hand, it represents the desires mentioned in this post to move on to greener pastures, to conquer the frontier, etc. At the same time, the net effect has actually been to reduce mobility: with homeownership officially encouraged by federal policy and by the nature of the suburbs, people have become more tied down to their homes; mobility is lower than it's been at any time since the 1950s, as Florida points out in his recent Atlantic article.