Americans today are more likely than they were in the fall of 2019 to express a preference for living in a community where “houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores and restaurants are several miles away,” according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted July 8-18, 2021.
There has been a corresponding drop in the share saying they would prefer to live somewhere with smaller houses that are “closer to each other, but schools, stores and restaurants are within walking distance.”
This shift has occurred during the coronavirus outbreak and the accompanying period of telework, remote schooling and pandemic-related restrictions on indoor dining and other indoor activities. Today, six-in-ten U.S. adults say they would prefer to live in a community with larger homes with greater distances to retail stores and schools (up 7 percentage points since 2019), while 39% say they prefer a community with smaller houses that are closer together with schools, stores and restaurants within walking distance (down 8 points since 2019).
As in the past, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to say they want to live in a community with larger houses even if there are greater distances to schools, shops and restaurants. Today, 73% of Republicans say this, up from 65% in September 2019. About half of Democrats (49%) now say they would prefer to live in a more widely spaced community, up from 42%. In 2019, a 58% majority of Democrats expressed a preference for communities with smaller houses and greater proximity to schools and amenities.
Also note other effects of COVID. Because people can now get feature films on streaming video on the same day they come out in theaters, they have less reason to go out on Saturday night. Consumers also got into the habit of buying more goods online, meaning fewer trips to the store.
And rising homicide numbers in major cities may have made urban life less appealing.