The Slatest

How White Is Your Favorite Suburban Amenity?

Seen from a distance across snowy fields and fences, framed by a pair of dark horses, Martha Stewart wears an orange jacket and stands with a group of other people.
Martha Stewart is surrounded by friends and family members as they look at her horses during a walk around her Katonah estate March 6, 2005, in Katonah, New York. Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

“[S]uburbia is far from homogeneous,” the New York Times real estate section declares, in a piece surveying the options available to people who currently live in New York City but who would prefer—for pandemic reasons, or simply because “urban life is a phase”—not to live in the city anymore. People are not simply fleeing from New York; ideally, they would be fleeing toward something. But toward what? In “Leaving New York: How to Choose the Right Suburb,” the Times breaks down eight different varieties of suburban desire, epitomized by eight different places, because “urbanites ready to cut ties should carefully weigh their priorities.”

Some people want the best possible schools; some people want access to bodies of water; some people want the feeling of real country living. Some people—but certainly not all people!—want “diversity” to be part of their lifestyle, and the Times suggests they go to Valley Stream, New York, where the Census Bureau reports “the population is 31 percent white and non-Hispanic, 27.6 percent Black or African-American, 22.9 percent Hispanic or Latino, 15.4 percent Asian and 4.6 percent mixed-race.” Valley Stream is not “all sweetness and harmony,” the Times notes: “Recently, Jennifer McLeggan, a Black nurse who lives with her toddler daughter in Valley Stream, publicized video evidence of being continuously harassed by racist white neighbors.” But still, one survey concluded it was the “most diverse city in New York.”

How does it compare to the other towns in the Times roundup? The story doesn’t give much guidance to people who might desire (or even personally constitute) demographic diversity while they’re also searching for other features of suburbia. The entry for Great Neck, New York, where “highly rated schools” are on offer, does include a parenthetical: “(The district is 47 percent white, 41 percent Asian, 9 percent Hispanic or Latino, 2 percent multiracial and 1 percent Black or African-American.)” But the rest of the list avoids mentioning the racial makeup of the towns altogether. To fill in the blanks, and to get a sense of the real range of choices in Times-approved suburbia, here’s a handy infographic cross-referencing the Times’ suggestions with the Census data on the non-Hispanic white population of the recommended places.

A bar graph, hand-drawn in pencil on graph paper, listing real estate categories by percentage non-Hispanic white: "Waterfront Without Tears" (Carmel, N.Y.) 85.4; "Rural Character" (North Salem, N.Y.) 82.0; "Highly Rated Schools" (Great Neck, N.Y.) 77.6; "A Village Experience" (Katonah, N.Y.) 74.2; "So Close and Yet So Far" (Glen Ridge, N.J.) 73.7; "The Most Bang for Your Buck" (West Hartford, Conn.) 73.3; "Easy Aging" (Hartsdale, N.Y.) 55.3; "Diversity" (Valley Stream, N.Y.) 31.0
Tom Scocca for Slate