Thursday, May 06, 2010

Far fetched

In the May, 2010, Harvard Business Review, Ania Wieckowski writes about "Back to the city ... The suburban model of community is broken ..."  The article includes most of the popular cliches on the subject, including the silly one on obesity and suburbanization: people in the suburbs walk less than their urban counterparts. 

USC's Pengyu Zhu and I have been examining the latest (2009) National Household Travel Survey. While the survey's use of "urban" vs "suburban" categories ar much too broad, the data suggest that lifestyles in these settings differ very little.  Daily per capita frequencies of shopping trips were 2.32 (urban) vs 2.28 (suburban); for family and personal trips, it was 2.38 vs 2.28; for social and recreational trips, it was 2.29 vs 2.19; for visits to friends and relatives, the rates were 1.91 vs. 1.92.

We expect to find that demograhic differences explain most of the gaps found.  But the idea of real lifestyle differences between settings seems far fetched.