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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

DHS temporarily suspends use of horse patrol in Del Rio

U.S. Border Patrol agents watch as Haitian immigrant families cross the Rio Grande from Mexico into Del Rio, Texas on Sept. 23, 2021. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday temporarily suspended the use of horse patrol in Del Rio, Texas a DHS spokesperson confirmed.

Why it matters: The suspension comes after images showing border patrol agents whipping at and charging their horses at migrants surfaced earlier in the week, prompting widespread criticism of the Biden administration's handling of the crisis at the border.

Southwest drought is worst on record, NOAA finds

In a stark new report, a team of NOAA and independent researchers found the 2020-2021 drought across the Southwest is the worst in the instrumental record, which dates to 1895.

Why it matters: They also concluded that global warming is making it far more severe, primarily by increasing average temperatures, which boosts evaporation.

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Taliban: Executions and strict punishments will return

Taliban fighters in Kabul. Photo: Oliver Weiken/picture alliance via Getty Images

Strict punishments such as hand amputations and executions will return in Afghanistan, one of the Taliban's founders said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Why it matters: Despite attempting to project a new image, the Taliban remain committed to a hard-line, conservative ideology, including harsh ruling tactics.