PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2023, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (9): 1733-1744.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2023.09.006

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A comparison of living space formation and lifestyle evolution of suburbs in China and the United States

TA Na1,2,3(), CHAI Yanwei4,*(), SHEN Yue5,2   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Geographic Information Science (Ministry of Education), East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China
    2. School of Geographic Sciences, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China
    3. Key Laboratory of Spatial-Temporal Big Data Analysis and Application of Natural Resources in Megacities, Ministry of Natural Resources, Shanghai 200241, China
    4. College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
    5. Research Center for China Administrative Division, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China
  • Received:2022-11-28 Revised:2023-07-13 Online:2023-09-28 Published:2023-09-27
  • Contact: CHAI Yanwei;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41971200);National Natural Science Foundation of China(42071203);National Natural Science Foundation of China(42371245);The Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities—East China Normal University Youth Interdisciplinary Innovation Team in Humanities and Social Sciences Project(2022QKT005)


The widespread trend of suburbanization has resulted in the merging of residential and production elements in suburban areas, causing a significant increase in suburban lifestyles globally. The unique socio-economic and cultural settings of major economies like China and the United States exemplify the distinct features of suburban lifestyle development. An in-depth study of the evolutionary characteristics of suburban living spaces and lifestyles in the two countries benefits the dialogue between Chinese and Western suburban theories. A comparative study can offer valuable references for urban planning in China. This study examined the changes in how suburban living spaces are organized and how people live in them in China and the United States. It took a perspective of the daily lives of suburban residents to compare and analyze these developments. Based on the literature review, this study compared the residential, travel, and activity patterns of suburban residents in China and the United States, and examined how they relate to suburban space. It analyzed how residents' lifestyles have changed in suburban development in both countries and their impact on the suburban area. This article summarized the unique characteristics of suburban living in China and the United States, as well as the mechanisms behind them. Research has shown that both Chinese and American suburban lifestyles follow a three-stage development pattern, starting from monocentric urban lifestyles and eventually transitioning to suburban lifestyles. The suburban lifestyle in China started later, but it has experienced remarkable growth and evolution. The suburban lifestyle is now marked by a diversity of people, mixed residential areas, commuting towards the center, using public transportation, and relying on urban center for daily activities. Living in the suburbs has become a well-established and diverse way of life in the United States. It involves a mix of different populations, residential segregation, commuting inside suburban areas, using motorized mode of transportation for travel, and conducting daily activities in suburban areas. Residential diversification and motorized travel are common aspects of suburban lifestyle that China and the United States share. However, there is a difference in the level of residential integration, motorization, and suburbanization in daily activities between the two countries. Differences in suburban lifestyle between the two countries can be attributed to various factors, including the level of urbanization, transportation infrastructure, and disparities in spatial quality. These differences arise from a combination of choices made by individual residents and external limitations.

Key words: suburbanization, comparative study, commuting patterns, residential communities, lifestyles, cities of China and the United States