City or Suburbs: Where Do You Prefer to Live?

We each have our own preferences in terms of where we live.  Some of that is geographic, meaning we want to be in a certain part of the country or a specific metropolitan area.  For example, in my case I choose to live within the Chicago area and have a specific reason for doing so: family.  Who knows where I could be decades from now, but that’s the area for now.

Another aspect of where we choose to live can be broken down to a decision of city vs. suburbs.  Some people love living in a city and couldn’t imagine living in the suburbs, and vice-versa.  Now, we could also bring another type of location into the picture, which would be rural areas or locales far removed from a substantial city.

Why People Like Living in the City

It’s interesting how people who live in the city, here in Chicago, tend to view the suburbs.  I should clarify up front that I’m currently living in the suburbs.  Anyway, the stereotypes city dwellers I have known (many over the years) tend to have about the suburbs tend to paint the latter as being lame, for lack of a better word.  Accordingly, here are some of the advantages they tend to rattle off either directly or indirectly:

  • More “cool” people (as said by others)
  • Diversity of people
  • Fun, trendy restaurants
  • Much better nightlife
  • Cultural opportunities (museums, theatre, etc)
  • Quick access to major professional sporting venues
  • A more cosmopolitan environment

People tend to be willing to trade off space for location in the city.  Condo or apartment living are the options for most.  Not all, but most in the popular areas.

The suburbs tend to be viewed as one giant sinkhole of culture, all lumped together.  There isn’t much distinction in the thoughts of how very different each suburb might be in terms of character and quality of life.  To the loyal city person, they’re all bland and all cut from the same boring cloth.

Why People Like Living in the Suburbs

So, I’ve heard things from the other side of the fence as well.  From comments I get from people who are devoted suburbanites, it seems like some kind of foregone conclusion that “of course” a person would want to live in the suburbs.  Almost as if the city is not a “real” option to be considered.

Here are some of the reasons I’ve heard about why suburban life is preferred:

  • Safer, with less crime
  • Better schools
  • More family-oriented
  • Quiet
  • More spacious housing
  • Less congested
  • More green

I’ve heard people talk about the city as if it’s one big, angry place.  The notion is almost that one must always keep doors locked when driving, so the bogey man doesn’t chase you down at 40mph and carjack you.  You know, knee-jerk reactionary stuff.

People in the suburbs tend to characterize the city as having areas that are either bad, trendy, or for business (downtown).  Or, the city is seen as a place to visit a few times a year to get some culture and have some fun.  Perhaps see a show, visit a popular restaurant, or see a ballgame.  Then, high tail it back to the perceived security of the suburbs.

What Do I Think?

I realize that some of the things noted above are total generalizations.  Just things I’ve heard or picked up on.  They may not even be applicable to every city or area.  Every U.S city is different, and not all provide the same city experience – and not all have the same number or variety of suburbs.

That being said, it seems like people tend to fall into one of the two camps.  Some more entrenched than others!

For me, it’s really been a matter of timing.  As in, the stage of life I am in when I have to choose.

As I mentioned, I currently live in the suburbs.  So, you can see where I ultimately decided to live.  When looking at the advantages and disadvantages of each type of environment, suburban living won out.  Again, just based on this stage of life.

Currently, what I value most is safety and good schools.  I’ve talked before about how I think schools are important when buying a home, and how a lesser quality home in a great school district is absolutely my choice over a great home in an average district.  Not that I’m saying this is the only way to look at it of course, just the way I do.

Beyond schools and safety, I think nice cities have a lot more to offer.  Here, the city has the entertainment, cultural opportunities, and diversity of choices that appeal to me.  It’s more fun than being in a suburbs.  I prefer a cool neighborhood restaurant over some generic chain any day! Seeing a major league game played under the bright lights and national spotlight is better than seeing some minor league affair that has no real significance.

But, there is a time and place for everything.  When younger, I had a condo in the city.  It was great, and I enjoyed as much of the city as I could.  For a young professional, it was almost like an amusement park of sorts :)  With no kids, I had far fewer reasons to worry about schools, and was not stressed about safety.  But when your main responsibility is no longer yourself but other people, your priorities tend to change.  At least mine did.

So, suburban life it is. For now, anyway.  Who knows, as an empty nester many years from now, a move into this (or another) city might happen!

My Questions for You

What do you prefer, city or suburban life?  Why?

Could you see this changing at any time in your future?


  1. says

    You finished this article off with exactly what I was thinking, it depends on the stage of life. I usually prefer country type settings, but I love the culture of the city. We currently have kids and live in the downtown area of a city in the suburbs. 😉 A little bit of everything here.

  2. says

    It also depends on the size of the city – I live 10 minutes from the CBD however because of the small size of my city I was able to afford a three bedroom home with a small backyard. I prefer this to living in an apartment right in the city, but I wouldn’t want to live in the suburbs if they were more than half an hour from the city centre – it would be too far to commute each day.

    • Squirrelers says

      That’s another factor: commuting. Sometimes we have to really think about trading off space for a shorter commute. Makes little sense to spend so much time commuting just to have more spacious living quarters that you’re never around to enjoy! Though sometimes we have to for schools and safety.

  3. says

    I’ve always been anti-suburb (though I’ve spent a good part of my life living there), and have tended toward city life. Now we like small city life–living near the downtown of smallish, say 100,000 to 250,000 population, cities. Not so hectic, but still convenient to everything.

    • Squirrelers says

      Kurt – those type of places can often offer a little of everything. Now, of course they’re not going to be cosmopolitan like a true national/international city, but you can get an urban feel while being in a suburban type of setting. There’s one around here that’s just like that, and it’s popularity has exploded in the last 30 years.

  4. says

    This was a timely post for me. We’re soon-to-be empty nesters who have lived in the suburbs for all the things it’s known for (safety, good schools, convenience). Just yesterday my husband wanted to go downtown to look at some condos for sale, just out of curiosity. We’ve kind of kicked around the idea or urban living when we make our next move.

    The verdict? We like the “idea” of city living better than we think we would like the reality of it. My husband likes to sit on the patio in the mornings with his coffee and paper. I like the convenience of pulling my car full of groceries right into my garage – just a few steps from the kitchen.

    But it’s fun to think about.

    • Squirrelers says

      Sounds like a new adventure coming up! I see what you mean, it can be fun to at least think about if nothing else. And to balance out those pros and cons either way. Seems like for many of us, the advantages to making a move need to really be strong, since it’s sometimes tough to totally move out of a comfort zone.

  5. says

    Initially I thought it was an age thing, but thinking back, I always stayed in suburbs and drove into the city during blue moons. It was an adventure finding city type fun in the suburbs, too. During vacations I got my fill of different cities as well.

    • Squirrelers says

      Buck – good point. Actually, I’ve heard this before…yet I’ve never heard of people getting their fill of suburbs on vacations :)

  6. says

    We are suburb people. I can see the attraction to the city, but I like being able to plant a vegetable garden and have some fruit trees in the back yard. I also like being able to entertain outdoors on the back patio with people and kids coming and going from the house to the patio, to the yard. I also like that even the elementary school has a track and lots of green space for the kids to play in.

    • Squirrelers says

      Bryce – Much of that can happen in the city too, depending on where one lives. In congested attached housing that’s tougher of course, and I know that in many cities such housing can actually be vastly more expensive than more spacious surroundings in outlying areas. But, cities do offer opportunities to garden, entertain, etc albeit on much smaller parcels of land. Though many suburbs (at least around here) seem to have much more space for kids to play. There’s a reason I ended up here!

  7. says

    We tend to prefer the suburbs, but that is mainly because we have younger kids. Most of the housing in downtown Omaha is high-rise and higher end apartments that aren’t the most kid friendly. There is much more for them to do in the suburbs and just makes more sense for us.

    • Squirrelers says

      John – that makes sense, suburbs do tend to be more kid-friendly. Seems that this is the predominant situation.

  8. says

    I live in the city, but I have a house with a yard to grow vegetables and flowers, as well as easy access to green space. I think there is a perception that cities = dense high rises and suburbs = green yards and cavorting children. As you’ve noted, it’s not that simple.

    I grew up in the suburbs and have nothing against them, but I resented having to drive everywhere all the time. City living means I can take public transit 7 days a week to my favorite restaurants; and if I’m lazy and just want to take a cab, it will not cost an arm and a leg to get home. I can drive to places, too, but I rarely do since I don’t like driving very much and would rather not hunt for parking. I can even do things that people in the suburbs can’t do, like keep chickens in my yard.

    Oh, and I live in the second safest neighborhood in the city, too. :-)

    • Squirrelers says

      Linda – thanks for stopping by. I’m pretty sure I’ve driven through the area to which you’re referring, makes sense that it’s one of the safer ones in Chicago. I’ve been to nearby Edison Park a few times to a couple of restaurants/bars, I liked that area. Been at least 5 years since the last visit there.

      As for the city advantages you list, I have to agree with your assessment that those are indeed advantages compared to the suburbs. I too grew up in the suburbs, but for whatever reason I never resented driving locally too much. I guess it’s what I’ve been used to. When I lived in the city, it was almost a novelty and actually kind of cool to take the El all over. Though in the winter, standing on those platforms waiting for the train isn’t cool (it’s COLD haha).

  9. Lindy says

    I’ll chime in with a vote for rural living. We live on 1.25 acres in Denton County in North Texas, 40 miles from Dallas. We are a 10 minute drive to a light rail station into Dallas and a 10 minute drive to several towns depending on the direction we drive. We love the quiet and the luxury of privacy.
    Most new subdivisions in the suburbs of North Texas are hideous. 4000 sq. ft. houses plopped on .15 acres. You can almost touch your neighbor’s house. All you see from the highways here are thousands of rooftops that look like they’re touching they’re so close together.
    Developers here clear cut beautiful Post Oak forests to save money instead of building into the trees. And then the people that buy these houses complain about their children’s asthma as our air quality gets worse and worse. Gee, I wonder why our air quality is so bad???
    I like suburban living but around here more responsible development is greatly needed.

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