Over the last few months, we’ve talked about a lot of issues affecting professional women during the pandemic, but this may be the weightiest one we’ve discussed: what to consider if you’re thinking of leaving the city for the suburbs. Since March, lot of people have decided to leave cities, either for a temporary escape or a permanent change — and we’re curious how many readers are doing the same. If you’re thinking of leaving the city, what led you to consider the move? Had you been pondering a change even before the pandemic, with coronavirus being the last straw?
How many people are actually moving because of the pandemic? The Pew Research Center recently reported that by June of this year, about a fifth of U.S. adults had moved due to COVID-19 or knew someone who did (!). Last week, Slate talked to a few experts on cities and suburbs to get answers to the following, in the context of coronavirus: who’s really moving out of cities, why, and what comes next? A lot remains to be seen; as one pointed out, “It’s clear that people have temporarily left [cities], but I don’t think that we can necessarily translate that to those people are never going to come back again.”
Since March, many, many articles and essays have been published on the topic of leaving New York City. Here’s a sampling: “The Agonizing Question: Is New York City Worth It Anymore?” (NYT), “Frustrated and struggling, New Yorkers contemplate abandoning the city they love” (Washington Post), and “Coronavirus is making some people rethink where they want to live” (CNN).
Readers have been talking about this topic lately, too, participating in long comment threads about considering moving closer to family (due to the current situation) and pondering a move to the suburbs.
Psst: Click on over to today’s CorporetteMoms post for advice from moms who moved to be near family.
Here are some factors to consider if you’re thinking about leaving the city for the suburbs:
Pros and Cons – For You
What do you feel are the best things about living in a city? What are the worst? What memories stand out most in your mind when you think about city life, and how would you feel if you weren’t able to make memories like that anymore? What aspects of the city would you be satisfied with solely experiencing during short visits after you moved?
If you’ve lived in the suburbs before, did you like it? If your city has a very diverse population and the suburb you’re considering doesn’t, how does that affect your decision? If the cost of living is much lower where you’re thinking of moving and you’ll be job-hunting there, how much lower are the salaries?
Would you move to be near friends, family, or both? Do you have a plan for how to make “local” friends, or are you close enough to your current city that you won’t need new friends? (If you doubt you would see your “city friends” if you move to the near suburbs, are you considering suburban living in another city or state?)
If you’re currently uncoupled, does that play into your decision? If you are coupled, what are your partner’s pros and cons?
If you’re moving from the city to the suburbs, this will likely be a key difference! To find out how walkable your target neighborhood is, for example, check Walk Score and/or use this (very detailed) checklist. Apparently — I just learned this while writing this post — most walkability indexes are “severely flawed,” so take them with a grain of salt. You can also try using the National Walkability Index, but it’s not as user-friendly. (Read: I couldn’t figure it out.)
Speaking of walking — or driving, or biking — try to figure out what your commute will be like and what traffic is like in general.
(If you’re moving to a suburb far from your current city, you may also want to take a look at the local airport — what destinations are direct flights? How often do those flights happen? Is rail travel available in the city, or cushy buses like Bolt Buses?)
How far from your target suburban area are grocery stores and big box stores? Independent shops/boutiques, furniture stores, farmers’ markets, movie theaters, sports venues? Recreation spots, parks, libraries, and hospitals?
Browse Yelp to see if your favorite cuisines are represented, as well as bars, clubs, etc. For info about things to do and the general nature of the community, visit the city’s subreddit and/or peruse posts on the city’s Nextdoor. (Bear in mind that Nextdoor has had serious problems with racist comments and has other issues. And if you need a break from thinking about your move, check out the Twitter account Best of Nextdoor. It’s … illuminating.)
Arts & Culture
How far would you have to travel for museums (art, science, technology, etc.), theaters, arts & crafts festivals, or interesting community classes? Visit the websites for the local daily newspaper and alt-newsweekly (event calendars, etc.) to get a feel of what goes on during a typical weekend.
If the local scene is dominated by sports, how do you feel about that?
Does it matter to you how red, blue, or purple the local culture is?
Schools & Childcare
These issues may be irrelevant to you or may be a bit too far in the future to consider, but we went into some detail about this in today’s CorporetteMoms post, so head over there if you have kids or might have them someday.
Further Reading If You’re Considering Moving to the Suburbs
- “New Yorkers Look To Suburbs And Beyond. Other City Dwellers May Be Next” [NPR]
- “Welcome to suburbia: the millennials done with city life — and city prices” [The Guardian]
- “Why I Refuse to Believe Moving to the Suburbs Means ‘Giving Up’” [Good Housekeeping]
- “The pandemic is making people reconsider city living, trading traffic for chickens” [Washington Post]
- “Black Parents Avoid America’s White Suburbs to Keep Their Kids Safe” [Fatherly]
- The Suburban Jungle blog
Are you thinking about leaving the city for good (or have you already done so)? Are you considering a move to be near friends or family and/or returning to your hometown? Besides the factors listed above, what other aspects are affecting your decision?