, usually referring to a residential
area, are defined in various
different ways around the world. They can be the residential areas
of a large city, or separate residential communities within
commuting distance of a city
. Some suburbs have
a degree of political autonomy, and most have lower population
density than inner city
Modern suburbs grew in the 20th century as a result of improved
road and rail transport and an increase in commuting
. Suburbs tend to proliferate around
cities which ideally have an abundance of adjacent flat land. Any
particular suburban area is referred to as a suburb
suburban areas on the whole are referred to as the suburbs
, with the demonym
being a suburbanite
Etymology and usage
The word is derived from the Old French
and ultimately from the Latin suburbium
, formed from sub
meaning "under", and urbs
, meaning "city". In Rome,
important people tended to live within the city wall on one of the
seven roman hills, while the lower classes often lived outside of
the walls and at the foot of the hills. "Under" in later usage
sometimes referred variously to lesser wealth, political power,
population, or population density. The first recorded usage,
according to the Oxford
, comes from Wycliffe
in 1380, where the form
has different meanings in different parts of the
United States and Canada,
suburb usually refers to a separate municipality, borough, or unincorporated area outside a town or
This definition is evident in the title of David
Rusk's book Cities Without Suburbs
(ISBN 0-943875-73-0 ),
which promotes metropolitan
. U.S. colloquial usage sometimes shortens the
term to burb, and "the Burbs" first appeared as a term
for the suburbs of Chicago.
Ireland and the United Kingdom, suburb merely refers to a residential
areas outside the city centre, regardless of administrative
Suburbs in this sense are not separated by open
countryside from the city centre. In large cities such as London, suburbs
include formerly separate towns and villages which have been
gradually absorbed during a city's growth and
Australia and New Zealand, suburbs have become formalized as geographic
subdivisions of a city and are used by postal services in
In rural areas of Australia their equivalent are
called localities (see suburbs and localities
In Australia, the terms inner suburb
are used to differentiate between the higher-density
suburbs with close proximity to the city center, and the
lower-density suburbs on the outskirts of the urban area.
Inner suburbs, such as Te
Aro in Wellington, Prahran in Melbourne and Ultimo in Sydney, are usually
characterised by higher density apartment
housing and greater integration between commercial and residential
Prior to the 19th century, suburb
often correlated with
the outlying areas of cities where work was most inaccessible;
implicitly, where the poorest people had to live. Charles Dickens used the word this way,
albeit not exclusively, in his descriptions of contemporary
London. The modern American usage of the term came
about during the course of the 19th century, as improvements in
transportation and sanitation made it possible for wealthy
developments to exist on the outskirts of cities, for example in
The Australian and New Zealand usage came
about as outer areas were quickly surrounded in fast-growing
cities, but retained the appellation suburb
; the term was
eventually applied to the original core as well.
The growth of suburbs was facilitated by the development of
and various innovations in transport
. After World War II availability of FHA
loans stimulated a housing boom in American suburbs. In the older
cities of the northeast U.S., streetcar
originally developed along train
lines that could shuttle workers
into and out of city centers where the jobs were located. This
practice gave rise to the term bedroom community
, meaning that most
activity took place in the
city, with the working population leaving the city at night for the
purpose of going home to sleep.
Economic growth in the United States encouraged the suburbanization
of American cities that required massive investments for the new
infrastructure and homes. Consumer patterns were also shifting at
this time, purchasing power was becoming stronger and more
accessible to a wider range of families. Suburban houses also
brought about needs for products that were not needed in urban
neighborhoods, such as lawnmowers and automobiles. During this time
commercial shopping malls were being developed near suburbs to
satisfy consumer needs and their car dependent lifestyle..
York in the United States became the first large scale suburban area in the
world to develop.
Westchester's significance as a suburb
derived mostly from the upper-middle-class development of entire
communities in the late nineteenth century, and the rapid
population growth that occurred as a result.
The growth in the use of trains, and later automobiles and
highways, increased the ease with which workers could have a job in
the city while commuting
in from the
suburbs. In the United Kingdom, railways
stimulated the first mass exodus to the suburbs. The Metropolitan
Railway, for example, was active in building and promoting its own
housing estates in the north-west of London, consisting mostly of
detached houses on large plots, which it then marketed as "Metro-land
". As car ownership rose and wider
roads were built, the commuting trend accelerated as in North
America. This trend towards living away from towns and cities has
been termed the urban exodus
Zoning laws also contributed to the location of residential areas
outside of the city centre by creating wide areas or "zones" where
only residential buildings were permitted. These suburban
residences are built on larger lots of land than in the urban city.
example, the lot size for a residence in Chicago is usually
deep, while the width can vary from wide for a row house to wide
for a large standalone house. In the suburbs, where
standalone houses are the rule, lots may be wide by deep, as in the
Chicago suburb of Naperville.
Manufacturing and commercial buildings were
segregated in other areas of the city.
Increasingly, more people moved out to the suburbs, known as
. Moving along with
the population, many companies also located their offices and other
facilities in the outer areas of the cities. This has resulted in
increased density in older suburbs and, often, the growth of lower
density suburbs even further from city centers. An alternative
strategy is the deliberate design of "new towns" and the protection
of green belts
around cities. Some social
reformers attempted to combine the best of both concepts in the
garden city movement
View of housing development near farm
in Richfield, Minnesota (1954)
In the United States, since the 18th century urban areas have often
grown faster than city boundaries. Until the 1900s, new
neighborhoods usually sought or accepted annexation
to the central city to obtain city
services. In the 20th century, however, many suburban areas began
to see independence from the central city as an asset. In some
self-government as a means to keep out people who could not afford
the added suburban property maintenance costs not needed in city
living. Federal subsidies
development accelerated this process as did the practice of
by banks and other lending
institutions. Cleveland, Ohio is typical of many American central cities; its
municipal borders have changed little since 1922, even though the
Cleveland urbanized area has grown many times over.
layers of suburban municipalities now surround cities like Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Los
Angeles, Dallas, Fort
Francisco, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.
While suburbs had originated far earlier; the suburban population
in North America exploded during the post-World War II economic
. Returning veterans wishing to start a settled life
moved en masse to the suburbs. Levittown developed as a major prototype of mass-produced
At the same time, African Americans were rapidly
moving north for better jobs and educational opportunities than
were available to them in the segregated South. Their arrival in
Northern cities en masse – in addition to race riots in several
large cities such as Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia – further stimulated
white suburban migration.
The ideals of family life transformed during this time of
suburbanization, gender roles
more specific and the nuclear family
became the norm for the middle class. The male figure of the
household would work outside the home in the city and the wife had
the role of the stay at home mom whose job was to raise the
De-investment in American cities was rampant during the time of
mass suburbanization. Aging cities were left to fall apart, during
the time when the country was experiencing tremendous prosperity.
Industrial factories that were once the heart of the city were now
being abandoned and jobs were shifting to the service sector
In the U.S., 1950 was the first year that more people lived in
suburbs than elsewhere. In the U.S, the development of the
skyscraper and the sharp inflation of downtown real estate prices
also led to downtowns being more fully dedicated to businesses,
thus pushing residents outside the city center.
development in Canada has largely
paralleled development in the United States.
After World War
II, large bedroom communities of single-family homes
and shopping centres
sprouted on the outskirts of Canadian cities.
However, Canada has far fewer suburban municipalities than the U.S.
large cities, such as Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa, extend all
the way to, and even include the countryside.
fact that literal boundaries of suburbs are not present in Canada
does not eliminate suburbs, per se
. The boundaries of
Canadian cities are under the jurisdiction of the provinces, which
have imposed city-suburb mergers. Vancouver and Montreal regions still have suburban municipalities,
although their suburban areas are generally grouped into fewer
cities than is typical in the United States.
Columbia created a "metropolitan" government for the Vancouver area
in 1965, but the urbanized area has since grown well beyond
Toronto has some of the largest suburban municipalities in
North America, and the two largest suburbs in Canada are in this
metro area. Just west of the Toronto boundary, the
neighbouring cities of Mississauga [pop. 668,549] (6th largest city in Canada) and
433,806] (11th largest city in Canada)
together claim 1.1 million inhabitants, and would be the third
largest city in Canada if merged. Many Toronto suburbs have
significantly improved on the suburban philosophy, adding a
downtown to many suburban centers, notably Mississauga, Brampton,
Vaughan and Markham. Another characteristic unique to Toronto is
that the suburbs are far more diverse that then the downtown cores
with visible minorities making up as much as two-thirds of the
population. That number is growing as Toronto takes in 150 000
immigrants a year who are 90% visible minority. In 1998 the
governmental structure was reorganized to include many of these
formerly independent suburbs into the Greater Toronto Area (see
Greater Toronto Area
has several large suburbs, with more than three quarters of a
million people living in Surrey (the third largest suburb in Canada), Richmond, and Burnaby. Montreal has its two largest suburbs,
Longueuil, as well as a suburban group of smaller
municipalities neighbouring Montreal known as the West Island.
States, suburbs have a prevalence of usually detached
Many post-World War II
are characterized by:
- Lower densities than central cities, dominated by single-family
homes on small plots of land, surrounded at close quarters by very
- Zoning patterns that separate residential and commercial
development, as well as different intensities and densities of
development. Daily needs are not within walking distance of most
- Subdivisions carved from
previously rural land into multiple-home
developments built by a single real estate company. These
subdivisions are often segregated by minute differences in home
value, creating entire communities where family incomes and
demographics are almost completely homogeneous, although suburban
developments have become and are becoming more diverse.
- Shopping malls and strip malls behind large parking lots instead of
a classic downtown shopping district.
- A road network designed to conform to a hierarchy, including culs-de-sac, leading to larger residential
streets, in turn leading to large collector roads, in place of the
grid pattern common to most central cities and pre-World War II suburbs.
- A greater percentage of one-story administrative buildings than
in urban areas.
- A greater percentage of Caucasians and less percentage of
citizens of other ethnic groups than in urban areas. Black
suburbanization grew between 1970 and 1980 by 2.6% as a result of
central city neighborhoods expanding into older neighborhoods
vacated by whites.
- Compared to rural areas, suburbs usually have greater
population density, higher standards of living, more complex road
systems, more franchised stores and restaurants, and less farmland
In many parts of the developed world, suburbs are different from
the American suburb, both in terms of population and in terms of
what they represent. In some cases suburbs of cities outside of
North America are economically distressed areas, inhabited by
higher proportions of recent immigrants, with higher delinquency
rates and social problems. Sometimes the notion of suburb may even
refer to people in real misery, who are kept at the limit of the
city borders for economic, social and where applicable some argue
ethnic reasons. An example in the developed world would be
the banlieues of France, or the
concrete suburbs of Sweden.
most ways, the suburbs of most of the developed world are
comparable to several inner cities
U.S. and Canada.
In the UK, the government is seeking to impose minimum densities on
newly approved housing schemes in parts of southeast England
. The new catch phrase is
'building sustainable communities' rather than housing estates.
However, commercial concerns tend to retard the opening of services
until a large number of residents have occupied the new
illustrative case of Rome, Italy, in the
1920s and 1930s, suburbs were intentionally created ex
novo in order to give lower classes a destination, in
consideration of the actual and foreseen massive arrival of poor
people from other areas of the country.
Many critics have
seen in this development pattern (that was circularly distributed
in every direction) also a quick solution to a problem of public order
(keeping the unwelcome poorest
classes together with the criminals, in this way better controlled,
comfortably remote from the elegant "official" town). On the other
hand, the expected huge expansion of the town soon effectively
covered the distance from the central town, and now those suburbs
are completely engulfed by the main territory of the town. Other
newer suburbs (called exurbs
) were created at
a further distance from them.
China, the term suburb is new, although suburbs are
already being constructed rapidly.
Many new suburban homes
are similar to their equivalents in the United States, primarily
, which also mimic Spanish and Italian
architecture. In Hong Kong, however, suburbs are mostly
government-planned new towns containing numerous public housing
estates. New Towns such as Tin Shui Wai
may gain a notorious reputation as a slum. However, other new towns
also contain private housing estates and low density developments
for the upper middle and upper classes.
Malaysia, suburbs are common, especially in areas
surrounding the Klang Valley, which is
the largest conurbation in the
These suburbs also serve as major housing areas and
. Terraced houses
are common concepts in suburbs.
certain areas such as Klang, Subang Jaya and Petaling
Jaya, suburbs form the core of these places.
latter one has been turned into a satellite city of Kuala Lumpur. Suburbs are also evident in other smaller
conurbations including Ipoh, Johor Bahru, Kota
Kinabalu, Kuching and Penang.
Suburbs typically have more traffic
and longer travel times than traditional
neighborhoods. Only the traffic within
the short streets
themselves is less. This is due to three factors: almost-mandatory
ownership due to poor suburban
systems, longer travel distances
and the hierarchy
system, which is
less efficient at distributing traffic than the traditional
In the suburban system, most trips from one component to another
component requires that cars enter a collector road
, no matter how short or long
the distance is. This is compounded by the hierarchy of streets,
where entire neighborhoods and subdivisions
are dependent on one or two
. Because all traffic
is forced onto these roads, they are often heavy with traffic all
day. If a traffic accident occurs on a collector road, or if road
construction inhibits the flow, then the entire road system may be
rendered useless until the blockage is cleared. The traditional
"grown" grid, in turn, allows for a larger number of choices and
Suburban systems of the sprawl type are also quite inefficient for
, as the direct route
is usually not available for
them either. This encourages car trips even for distances as low as
several hundreds of meters
(which may have
become up to several kilometres
the road network). Improved sprawl systems, though retaining the
, possess cycle paths
connecting across the arms of the sprawl
system, allowing a more direct route
while still keeping the cars out of the residential and side
- The television series The
Wonder Years, which was set in the late 1960s and early
1970s, took place in an undisclosed suburb. In the first episode,
the series' narrator comments on the seeming sameness of suburbia,
in the ending narration noting that despite the rows of identical
houses and carports, within each one are people with unique stories
and individual lives.
- Popular culture largely
recognized this concept during the 1980s and early 1990s. In
Britain, television series such as The Good Life,
The Fall and
Rise of Reginald Perrin depicted suburbia as
well-manicured but relentlessly boring, and its residents as either
conforming their behaviour to this situation or going stir crazy through its regimented
blandness. In America, similar but more violent themes could be
found in the works of David Lynch, most
notably Blue Velvet,
which establishes a view of idealistic suburbia and then showcases
a dark, depraved underworld. A distinctive depiction of American
suburbs is Joe Dante's comedy film The
'Burbs from 1989, starring Tom Hanks and Carrie Fisher, in
which the people living in the suburbs are portrayed as paranoiacs
looking for adventure, which ends up in the explosion of one of
their neighbors' houses in which they presume a huge number of dead
bodies. The Oscar-winning 1999 film American Beauty centers on the
life of two suburban families and their eventual downfalls.
Todd Field's Oscar-nominated film
portrays the suburbs as a place full of paranoid and sometimes
hypocritical and judgmental security
moms and dads, and bored and unhappy wives and husbands driven
- The Showtime series Weeds centers on a suburban housewife
selling drugs in a stereotypical suburban neighborhood. Its
depictions of the people and situations surrounding them can be
seen as a negative critique of the suburban lifestyle.
- The Television series Desperate Housewives centers on
lives of a group of suburban housewives seen through the eyes of
their dead neighbor, as they work through domestic struggles and
family life, while facing the secrets, crimes and mysteries hidden
behind the doors of their—at the surface—beautiful and seemingly
perfect suburban neighborhood.
- The movie E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
depicts the adventures of a young and lonely suburban boy who
befriends an alien creature from another planet. The movie was shot in
some San Fernando
Valley suburban neighborhoods and showed the dreams of
a typical suburban boy.
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