The End of the Suburbs Book Summary - The End of the Suburbs Book explained in key points
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The End of the Suburbs summary

Leigh Gallagher

Where the American Dream is Moving

(8 ratings)
13 mins
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    The End of the Suburbs
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    In post-war America, a cultural and financial obsession with homeownership drove the growth of suburbs.

    What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you imagine the American Dream? From the early 1930s onward, this dream often involved striving to own a car and – more importantly – a home in the suburbs: a serene, green place far beyond the hustle and bustle of the crowded city streets.

    What was it that drove this near-universal dream? Actually, it was in large part the result of actions taken by banks and the US government.

    The government actively encouraged homeownership as a way of representing wealth and prosperity and inspiring patriotism and “good citizenship.” In 1934, it created the Federal Housing Administration, which encouraged private lenders to provide mortgages to eager home buyers by insuring them if the loans went unpaid.

    Banks, too, encouraged mortgage borrowing as a means to increase their own profits. One way of doing so was turning debt into bonds, which investors could then trade. In order to maximize this profit opportunity, they encouraged more and more people to buy their own homes by taking out mortgages.

    These plans were an enormous success, leading to millions of new homeowners.

    As demand continued to rise, builders and developers started building in more and more undeveloped areas. Because the value of housing climbs with the number of homeowners, builders would often build in areas further away from city centers to secure cheaper land and thus more homeowners.

    Those desperate to own a home aren’t put off by the distances: their only concern was finding a house they could afford to buy, a phenomenon known as “drive till you qualify.”

    As a result of all this outward development, 3 million Americans lived in the suburbs simply because of their families’ desire to have their own little piece of land by 2009.

    Over the years, however, the desire to live the American Dream, or at least this version of it, has severely declined. In the following blinks, you’ll learn all about why.

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    What is The End of the Suburbs about?

    The End of the Suburbs tells the story of how what used to be the textbook example of achieving the American Dream is in deep trouble today. The rising cost of living and an increase in poverty and crime have made suburbs less desirable places to live. The silver lining in the death of the suburb, however, can be found in the renaissance of once-neglected urban areas.

    Best quote from The End of the Suburbs

    Suburbs evoke a way of life, one of tranquil, curving streets and cul-de-sacs; marching bands and soccer leagues.

    —Leigh Gallagher
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    Who should read The End of the Suburbs?

    • Anyone who grew up in a suburb
    • Anyone trying to figure out where to move next
    • Students of cultural and social history

    About the Author

    Leigh Gallagher is an assistant managing editor at Fortune magazine and makes regular appearances in the news media where she comments on economic issues. In addition, she co-chairs Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit.

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