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Photo: Nicola Vigilanti/Gamma-Rapho/Getty

For years, an unwavering certitude of industry, think tanks, demographers, policy-makers and city planners everywhere has been that humanity is moving to the city: We just needed to figure out how to house, employ and feed everyone in a condensed space.

Yes, but: As more and more millennials marry and have children, that presumption is coming under scrutiny.

What's happening: The forecast of global massive urbanization was important since it suggested that vast swaths of countryside would empty out, and we would adopt entirely new lifestyles.

  • But, in a mea culpa at Brookings, William Frey, a demographer, said that, based on new census data, he has changed his mind on what he thought was a mass urbanization trend. He still thinks that cities will attract "young people — especially well-off, affluent millennials and post-millennials."
  • "But this won't be most cities," he tells Axios. "And, for this younger generation, what I see is more clustered developments within the suburbs, and smaller metros, greater reliance on public transportation and perhaps ride-hailing and self-driving cars."

What happened: Frey said it might be "just a 'return to normal' of the suburbanization we saw prior to the Great Recession." But Karen Harris, managing director at Bain Macro Trends, tells Axios that, for one thing, it's probably time for millennials — given their stage in life — to start moving out to the 'burbs with their kids.

Distance has changed: Harris also says that very few experts took note of the changed economics of space.

  • It's cheaper to move information from place to place
  • Amazon's model of cheap and fast delivery of goods has shortened perceived distances.
  • Self-driving cars will also make people more likely to perceive places as closer together, since they won't have to become aggravated driving there.

In terms of implications, according to Harris:

  • Businesses need to adjust: They may have to build more locations, perhaps smaller and at greater distances. But that doesn't necessarily mean astronomical costs, as among the new ways to deliver stuff will be inexpensive drones.
  • Upping their game: Brick and mortar shops will have to "re-focus their mission on providing amazing customer experiences."
  • Big suburbs: By 2025, the population of exurbs may exceed those in urban centers for the first time. Developers will have to envision these exurbs as semi-self-contained communities not reliant on nearby cities.

Get more stories like this by signing up for our twice-weekly robotics, AI and labor economics newsletter, Future. 

Go deeper

16 mins ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 37 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.

The week markets went wild

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio

The markets just closed out a manic week.

Why it matters: Outsized — and in some cases historic — moves were evident across the board.