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New book declares the end of the suburbs

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Picture the recent housing bubble and one of the first images that may come to mind is that of a mostly vacant subdivision pocked with for-sale signs and foreclosure notices. The recession was rough on the suburbs (to say the least). Even though the economy may be in recovery mode, suburban living has fallen out of favor for the first time in generations.

Leigh Gallagher, the assistant managing editor at Fortune, has a new book (The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving) that discusses why spacious living in the suburbs have lost some of its appeal.

In one telling passage, Gallagher writes about a married couple from suburban Boston who underwent a serious change of heart once their five children reached ages where they were more involved. This set into a motion an unshakable feeling the suburban lifestyle meant too much time commuting, keeping up an oversized home and being surrounded by families that felt a little too familiar:

She missed being surrounded by people of a wide mix of ages and life stages; most people in her neighborhood were couples in their thirties to fifties raising children. She didn’t realize how much work would go into keeping up the house; her husband spent almost every weekend shoveling snow or taking care of the lawn. And she had no idea how much time she would be spending in her car. Roseman says she would spend the hours from 3 to 6 p.m. each day shuttling her children to and from swimming, chess, ballet, Hebrew school, jazz, soccer, music lessons, and more. “I’m in my car from morning till night,” she said at the time. “My car knows the way to gymnastics.”

None of this is to say suburbs will dry up and disappear anytime soon. That’s hardly Gallagher’s claim. But for the first time since World War II, younger families are less drawn to the oversized homes, planned communities and daunting commutes. The rush of city living trumps rush-hour traffic.