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Are Suburbanites Happier Than City Dwellers?

Three reasons people want to move from the city to the suburbs.

It’s human nature to want what we don’t have — whether it’s coveting our neighbor’s trendy job, seemingly happier relationship, or their infinitely more stylish home. But as the old saying goes: The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Once we try the “other” side, we might find that it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for either. And that’s what many people are realizing when it comes time to identify where they want to live in the next few years, be it an urban, suburban, or rural area.

According to a recent Trulia survey, people who currently live in suburban and rural areas are satisfied with their locale — enough so that they want to remain in the same area in five years.

On the flipside, more city dwellers want to move away from the city to the suburbs than the other way around. That includes young adults ages 18 to 34, who are normally seen as magnets for urban areas.

So why are city dwellers considering the great suburban migration? And why are so many people considering moving to rural areas in the next five years?

To find out, we asked people who are currently living in the city and looking to move why they have set their sights on the suburbs.

1. Millennials are settling down

Many 20-somethings who live in urban areas and are considering starting a family might move to the suburbs where they can enjoy a bigger living space.

Although times have changed and the ‘burbs are no longer synonymous with Leave It To Beaver-style idealism, many families continue to embrace the suburban life — and that’s because it makes sense for many. Housing prices, public school ratings, and the cost of private schools and daycare are frequently more favorable in the suburbs.

In fact, a whopping 93% of young renters say they believe in the American Dream and “plan to buy a home someday,” according to findings from another Trulia survey. Add in increasingly expensive real estate in urban areas, and you have yet another reason for the migration to the ‘burbs.

Aalap Shah is a classic case of “you can take a suburbanite out of the suburbs, but you can’t take the suburbs out of a suburbanite.”

Shah, firmly in the millennial generation, was raised in the ‘burbs but moved to Chicago, where he founded a digital marketing firm. Although business for Shah remains in the city, he and his wife are getting ready to move to the suburbs.

“We need more space because we have a 3-year-old now,” he explains. Shah says he’s really looking forward to getting to know his neighbors and being part of a community with kids.

2. Many suburbs now offer city amenities

Enjoying urban amenities while living in the suburbs is a popular trend, according to a recent report from the Urban Land Institute.

The report calls out suburbs that incorporate urban characteristics, namely “18-hour cities.” These are not 9-to-5 work areas that shut down when the offices do, and neither are they huge 24-hour urban centers.

Instead, 18-hour cities stay alive after working hours and feature houses within walking distance of restaurants, retail, and entertainment areas.

Bonny Jones, who lives in Northern Kentucky, a suburb of Cincinnati, enjoys living in the suburbs but wants to move to one that offers more city-like amenities.

“There’s lots to do in Cincinnati, but I have to drive in awful freeway traffic to get anywhere. I would love to live in a walkable neighborhood and one with public transportation.”

Jones cites SunRail, a commuter rail transit that serves central Florida, as among the types of features — along with museums, parks, art festivals, and concerts —she desires as she considers looking for a new ‘burb to call home.

3. Nature, privacy, and space are appealing

Surprisingly, more people said they wanted to move to rural areas in the next five years than anywhere else. Although the overall population of rural area continues to decline while suburban and urban areas grow, U.S. Census figures do show that the rural population grew from 53.6 million in 1970 to 59.5 million in 2010.

With so many people interested in slow and local food movements and “back to land” lifestyles, it’s easy to see why today’s urbanites might consider moving to the country.

“I need nature,” says Laurie Brenner, who lives on 10 acres in the Sierra Nevada.

Brenner likes her privacy. Case in point: She could walk out on her back deck naked if she chose to, without anyone ogling. (Or even noticing.)

Curious whether you belong in the city or the suburbs? Take our quiz to find out!