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Boppin' in the 'Burbs

Cites a study which suggests that suburbanites today are more nontraditional in their values than inhabitants of cities, so-called 'centers of liberal thought.' Comparisons of values between city- and non-city residents; Numbers of Americans moving to the country; Additional information.

To the children of the 1960s, the suburban landscape picket fences and June lie Cleaver look-a-likes was a boring, conservative nightmare. Now suburbia is raising everyone's eyebrows as it sheds its "its ma-and-pa values and shows a little leg.

Suburbanites today are more nontraditional in their values than inhabitant's of cities, those "centers of liberal thought," according to a recent study. Boondockers still cling to conservative beliefs and old-fashioned morals. But suburbanites outswing both city slickers and country folk on tell-tale values. More of them:

  • Deem premarital sex not always wrong
  • Think marijuana should be legalized
  • Believe there should not be laws against the distribution of pornography to persons over age 18
  • Disagree with the statement: "Women should take care of running their homes and leave running the country to men."

Sociologists richard Alba, Ph.D., Sun Joon Jang, Ph.D., uncovered the free-wheeling suburban attitudes while looking at the influence of place on beliefs. Yes, they found, where you live counts, and the big divide on social attitudes is metropolitan versus nonmetropolitan settings. But regardless of place, the young, the male, and the divorced or separated tend to be the most liberal.

And that's who's living in the 'burbs these days--mostly white, educated, affluent former city folk. They brought their urban attitudes along with the sofa.

More Americans than ever (over 50 percent) now live in suburbs, and a steady stream continues to pour burb-ward. According to a Gallup Poll, 50 percent of L.A. residents and 60 percent of New Yorkers would move there if they could.

Suburbs have grown so populous they can now accommodate a subculture of liberalism, say Jang, of Ohio State, and Alba, of the State University of New York At Albany. And that stems largely from the ex-urbanites' high levels of education. Education is still the best predictor of people's attitudes.

But if most suburbanites are white and affluent, it doesn't mean they all are. Says Alba: "They're becoming more and more diverse. Americans don't appreciate that."