Boston’s suburbs are graying. They’re becoming older and less economically diverse at a time when the state’s economy is increasingly centered around young, city-bound workers. This doesn’t mean that the suburbs are doomed. But there is a shakeout coming, and the suburbs that are the slowest to adapt will struggle mightily over the next two decades, as changes in the way people live push traditional postwar suburbs to the margins. The communities that thrive will be the ones that see these changes looming, and adapt.
The coming suburban shakeout flows from a marked shift in regional demographics. Cities like Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville are thriving because they’re growing younger. They’re growing younger because they offer an attractive lifestyle proposition — walkable streets, vibrant downtowns, and an attractive mix of homes, offices, shops, and dining all in close proximity to each other. The suburbs have been largely unable to match this urban appeal, so their current residents are aging in place, and there’s been no great influx of younger suburbanites behind them.