- January 2008: Vol. 20 No. 1

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A Country for Old Men: Changing Patterns of Suburban Settlement and the New Retirement Lifestyles

by Claude Gruen

Between 1947 and 1962, 14 million new single-family homes were built in the United States. More than 10 million of these homes were built on farmland and in the smaller communities that fanned out from the existing urban cores of America’s cities. These suburban developments offered competitively priced housing built on land that absorbed less than 20 percent of total development costs. These houses could be bought with relatively little down and annual payments of less than 25 percent of family incomes. The young families who flocked to the suburbs were often the recipients of educational subsidies and mortgages provided by the package of Congressional largesse referred to as the GI Bill of Rights.

The houses these young families bought offered them more than homes — they provided gateways to middle-class economic and social opportunities. These families enjoyed the pleasures of the yards and privacy that came with suburban densities, and they preferred shopping in the 5

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