March 3, 2009 / 9:58 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. suburban satisfaction trumps angst: survey

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Suburban angst makes for good novels and films, but people who live between the country and the city in the United States like their lawns and driveways.

A view of a neighborhood in the town of Superior, Colorado, a Denver suburb February 27, 2006. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Suburbanites are significantly more satisfied with their communities than people who live in cities, small towns or rural areas, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographics Trends Project.

“Ever since there have been suburbs there have been harsh critiques of suburbs — a common one being that they are suffocating places where people live lives of quiet desperation. Well, most suburbanites apparently never got that memo,” said Richard Morin and Paul Taylor, the authors of the study.

More than 40 percent of suburban residents rated their communities as satisfying places to live, compared with 34 percent of urban dwellers, 29 percent of people living in the countryside and 25 percent of people living in small towns.

The poll comes on the heels of “Revolutionary Road,” a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet that is based on a 1950s novel by Richard Yates that depicts suburban life as a masquerade of satisfaction concealing a crippling sense of unfulfilled passions.

It also suggests that a parade of films and books produced since the rise of U.S. suburbs in the late 1940s, including the stories of John Cheever and films like “The Ice Storm,” “Little Children” and “American Beauty” portray suburbs through a darker glass than might be warranted.

The survey of 2,260 adults in October 2008 asked people to rate their communities on job opportunities, cost of living, a place to raise children, recreational and outdoor activities, shopping, the climate, cultural activities and opportunities to meet people and make friends.

It also asked them to rate their communities overall.

Suburbanites, the survey’s authors said, tend to be big boosters of their communities. More affluent residents, therefore, tend to live in more desirable communities that offer more and better services to their residents.

They also said that more college graduates and adults earning $100,000 a year or more live in suburbs.

Warmer weather may contribute to the results as well. People living in southern and western U.S. communities, with warmer weather in general, tend to be more satisfied.

Still, not everyone wants to live in the suburbs. Twenty-five percent of the survey’s respondents said that suburbs are the ideal community. Nearly a third said small towns are ideal, despite the fact that people who live in those towns are less satisfied with their communities than suburbanites.

Reporting by Robert MacMillan; editing by Patricia Reaney

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