ECONOMY

New Life and Work Choices Revitalize Exurbs, Bringing New Strains


MURFREESBORO, Tenn.—This bucolic town 30 miles southeast of Nashville, Tenn., was once best known for its nearby Civil War battlefield and state college. Now it is one of the fastest-growing places in the country.

Surging housing costs and remote work are sending droves of people to live in new, fast-growing exurbs of metropolitan areas in the Southeast where suburban living has long been concentrated closer to the city.

Nashville, Charlotte, N.C., Charleston, S.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., are among the places getting the type of outer-ring residential development once found only around the country’s largest cities.

In 2020, net migration into a large group of exurban counties rose 37%, according to an analysis of U.S. Postal Service permanent change-of-address data by The Wall Street Journal. Nearly two-thirds of the flow came from large cities and their close-in suburbs.

Exurban areas, which include 240 counties as defined by the Brookings Institution, grew at almost twice the national rate over the past decade, a shift that began before the pandemic. There are signs it is accelerating this year as Americans prepare for an expected post-pandemic landscape where increased working from home reduces the need to commute.

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