Roughly 80% of Americans live in urban areas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
But The Washington Post reports that new data from Gallup suggests many of them aren’t doing so by choice. Asked what kind of community they’d live in if they could move anywhere they wished, Americans overall said their No. 1 choice would be in a rural area.
Specifically, 27% said a rural area would be their ideal community, with an additional 12% opting for a small town. Just 12% said they’d prefer a big city, with an additional 21% preferring a big city suburb, the second-most-popular choice. Seventeen percent said a small city would be ideal, while just 10% said they’d like to live in a small city suburb.
The differences between where people actually live and where they’d like to live are telling. Just 15% said they live in a rural area, while 40% said they live in either a big or small city.
“If Americans did sort themselves according to their desires,” Gallup’s Frank Newport writes, “there would be an exodus from the big cities and, to a lesser degree, from small cities and towns, accompanying a movement to rural areas.”
People often stay put in cities because big metro areas tend to be where the jobs and opportunities are, and labor markets are a positive feedback loop.