Cities versus Suburbs: Where Should You Live?

Where we live has a significant impact on every aspect of our lives. Whether we’re in the inner city, out in the suburbs, or even deep in the rural countryside, our surroundings impact us in ways we may not even consider. How do we decide where to live?

As with all things in life, each type of place has advantages and disadvantages. There’s no such thing as the ‘perfect’ place to live. What you need to do is to research the benefits of city, suburban, or country living and make your decision based on what’s important to you. What do you want out of life? Choose the area that gives you most of it.

Housing and Costs

Living in the city is extremely expensive for people who need a family home. Families spend tens of thousands of dollars more on rent and utilities in the city than suburban families do. Because of the higher rent and mortgage costs in city centers and metropolitan areas, a large family home is simply out of reach. Childcare can also be significantly more expensive in cities, so families with working parents can run up large childcare bills.

Of course, as with most things in life, property prices are always subject to change, and depending on where you live, you may find that living in the city actually offers better value for money than the suburbs. If you’re unsure about the location you’re looking to live in, do a little research on comparative property prices over the last decade or so. That should give you an idea.

Family homes also tend to be more expensive in the city because there simply aren’t as many of them. Bigger houses are concentrated in the suburbs, and most city center housing is in apartment buildings or condo complexes.

Because of generally lower house prices in the suburbs, people who live in those areas are more likely to own their home than city dwellers, who are more likely to rent. If you’re looking to buy a house and give up renting for good, you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck in suburban areas.

There’s more to it than just cost. Are you dreaming of a big back yard with a grill and a patio cover, or would you rather avoid doing that kind of maintenance? Do you want the ability to expand your living space with an extension? Do you want to avoid having neighbors close by? 

These are all questions that need to be answered before you commit to a new home. What about children or pets? They need more space than a single person, couple, or even a group of friends. You can have children or a pet in the city too, of course, but you may not have the same space as a suburban family.

General Cost of Living

Living in the city generally costs more than living in the suburbs. This is a simple case of supply and demand. Because cities are more densely populated than suburban areas, the demand for goods and services is higher and drives up prices. However, it’s often the case that some things are more expensive in the city, and others are more expensive in the suburbs. What your cost of living turns out to be will depend largely on what you want to spend your money on.

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Let’s look at this idea in a little more detail.

As mentioned earlier, buying or renting a home is usually cheaper in the suburbs. Even if the properties themselves are expensive, you tend to get ‘more for your money’ than you would in the city. 

However, because many people who live in the suburbs still work in the city, they will probably pay more for transportation than people who live nearer their workplace. People who live in cities could walk to work or take public transport, but those who live in the suburbs are much more likely to need a car.

Cities also have much more range and variety when it comes to groceries and eating out, with street food, markets, and cheap but tasty cuisine readily available everywhere. Outside of the city center, there are fewer options, and what’s there tends to be in the more traditional ‘restaurant’ format. These places are most often more expensive than grabbing a delicious burrito from a street food van.

Careers and Commutes

Living in the suburbs and working in the city will generally mean a longer commute and the aforementioned higher transportation costs, but for people who often travel for work and don’t need to be in the office every day, it can turn out much cheaper. It could also work for you if you’re able to work remotely and don’t need to be in the office every day, or at all.

What you do for a living may also play a big part in your decision-making. If you’re in a job where there are likely to be more opportunities in or near a big city, you should live near one. If your job is more suited to the suburbs, you need to take that into account. Yes, you could commute, but you still need to be within a reasonable distance of great career opportunities.

Activities and Facilities

As a general rule, the closer you live to the center of a city, the more there will be for you to do – more restaurants to go to, bars to drink in, and museums and galleries to look around. Life tends to move much faster in the city (even if you do spend some of your time amazed by how long you’ve been in traffic), and if you want them, you can have different experiences every single day.


Suburban life is more slow-paced, but depending on where you are, there will still be plenty to do. There will likely be much more space around you, so what the suburbs lack in museums, they make up for in green spaces, parks, sports, and maybe even a beach close by. When deciding where to live, make sure to give your hobbies and interests a careful consideration. They’re an essential part of life, and you’ll be happier living somewhere those activities are available to you.


Health

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is incredibly important, and where you live can have a profound effect on your overall health. Again, no place is perfect. You just need to make a call on what works best for you. In the city, there’s more likely to be heavy pollution from vehicles, or rodent infestations, or coughs and colds might spread faster because the area is more densely populated. The faster pace of life in the city may also mean you feel more tired or stressed out.

All that said, living in the city also means you’re able to walk to work, or to visit a friend, or see an exhibition. If you’re not walking, you may be able to bike. In the suburbs, things are much more spaced out, and there are fewer public transport options, so most people drive everywhere. This can contribute to an overall sedentary lifestyle, which can lead to health problems such as obesity or heart disease.


School Districts

Even if you don’t currently have children, if you’re planning to do so in the future, it’s crucial to think about their potential future school environment. What schools are available in the area you’re looking to move into? Are they suitable for your needs and wants? 


It’s also worth bearing in mind that property taxes fund public schools in the United States, so schools in areas with high concentrations of lower-income people tend to be less well-funded.



These areas are generally concentrated in the inner city. According to research, more than 50% of people living in American cities consider themselves ‘poor.’ By contrast, more than half of people living in suburban areas consider themselves to be ‘affluent’ or middle/upper class. While some of this may be due to general perceptions of cities versus suburbs, it may also be due to cities having a higher population of people at the start of their working life, which leads us to…


Demographics

Suburbs are generally home to older people, but this has been changing in more recent years as millennials flock to the suburbs. This means that while the overall population of the suburbs is still older than that of cities, it’s getting younger. 

Generally, the reason for the difference in average age between city-dwellers and people living in the suburbs is income. People living in the city tend to be younger and earn less than their suburban counterparts.


People of the millennial generation are also more likely to have large amounts of debt, with many owing tens of thousands in student loans by their early twenties. Older people are statistically less likely to have ever owed money for student loans and have therefore been able to begin building their wealth much earlier.



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