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On my first day at the City Paper, I went out to lunch with a few staffers. It took about five minutes for them to start debating the suburb/city divide. Wasn’t much of a debate, actually—three of the four were bashing the suburbs, and the one guy who didn’t live in the District kept that piece of information to himself until the check came.

The divide is new for me: I moved from what is essentially a giant suburb. But since I got here, it’s come up again and again. When I found a place, ex-D.C.ers told me the neighborhood was dangerous. My roommate broke up with a girlfriend because she lived in Virginia. Even the Post can’t seem to bridge the gap.

And now, the Atlantic has weighed in:

[A]s more Americans, particularly affluent Americans, move into urban communities, families may find that some of the suburbs’ other big advantages—better schools and safer communities—have eroded. Schooling and safety are likely to improve in urban areas, as those areas continue to gentrify; they may worsen in many suburbs if the tax base—often highly dependent on house values and new development—deteriorates. Many of the fringe counties in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, for instance, are projecting big budget deficits in 2008. Only Washington itself is expecting a large surplus. Fifteen years ago, this budget situation was reversed.

Christopher B. Leinberger‘s story is called “The Next Slum?”—I imagine the anti-suburb contingent will find it dreamy. Until, of course, they have to move into McMansions because they can’t afford rent on that studio any longer.

Photo by dospaz