Published on December 01, 2020

One thing Americans have proven themselves to be skilled at is finding or developing communities that fit their preferred lifestyles. From decades of developing and moving to the suburbs to more niche modern trends like living in tiny homes, Americans are constantly on looking for the right work-life balance and way to live the life that is fulfilling. For many around the country, that has meant looking beyond the suburbs and moving to exurban areas in recent decades.

The term “exurb” is generally used to refer to communities that exist beyond the traditional suburban areas but are still economically connected to a large metropolitan area. Additionally, in order to qualify as an exurb, a community must also feature low housing density. Essentially, exurbs allow citizens to enjoy a more rural, spacious living environment. But, the location still allows reasonable access to the benefits and resources of a big city as long as they are willing to commute.

For many, the exurbs are the best of both worlds, so it should come as no surprise that these kinds of communities have been growing and thriving all around the country as more and more Americans discover the benefits and lifestyle they allow. Given our expertise when it comes to how and why people relocate, we wanted to look closer at this topic and find out which exurban communities have been growing the fastest in the last 30 years. 

Map and chart showing exurban areas growing the fastest from 1990-2019   

Our team used data from the American Communities Project and The Brookings Institution to identify more than 300 communities across America that qualify as exurbs. We then used population growth data collected and published by the United States Department of Agriculture to track the growth rate for each of those communities for three different time frames: 1990-2019, 2000-2019, and 2010-2019. 

For our first bit of analysis, we mapped out the 10 fastest-growing exurbs in America since the start of the 1990s. For each of the top 10, we include the name of the county where the exurban area is found, data on the community’s growth rate over the designated time period, and the closest major metropolitan area. For the period from 1990 to 2019, the two fastest-growing exurbs were Douglas County, Colorado and Forsyth County, Georgia. Both experienced over 400% population growth in that time frame, more than quadrupling in size over the last 30 years. While those two counties led the way, it is worth noting that every single exurb in our top 10 grew by at least 200% since 1990. 

Map and graph displaying exurban areas growing the fastest from 2000-2019  

When shifting the time frame to the start of the new millennium, we see many of the same exurban areas in the top 10, with some changes in the ranking. The fourth-place exurb for 1990-2019, Lincoln County, South Dakota, climbed up to first from 2000-2019 thanks to a 153% growth in the last two decades. An even more drastic change also saw Douglas County, Colorado go from first in the 1990-2019 evaluation all the way down to seventh. 

Graphic and chart depicting exurban areas growing the fastest from 2010-2019

Finally, we examined the last decade of population growth and mapped out the fastest growing exurbs in recent years. This evaluation saw a number of new counties crack the top 10, including the top two fastest-growing communities overall since 2010. Hays County, Texas and Trousdale County, Tennessee exploded onto the scene with  population growth in excess of 43% since 2010. 

 
 
 

For anyone interested in exploring this topic beyond the top 10 in each time period, we also created these interactive maps highlighting the fastest-growing exurb in every single state for each time frame. Users can hover on individual states or exurban dots to see further information in each state. 

As noted in the maps, some states do not feature a top exurb. This is because those states either lack any communities that meet the criteria to be called an exurb, or the exurbs that are located in the state feature negative population growth in the time frame. 

 

Finally, we also compiled this table of state-by-state results for each of the three time periods. Presenting the data this way allows users to quickly and easily compare changes across time in every state. 

We hope this look at America’s fastest-growing exurbs helps you as many companies allow “work from anywhere” and “distributed workforce” arrangements. In a year where homes have become offices, classrooms, and so much more, it is more important than ever before to love where you live, and for many people exurbs fit that bill.

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