Atlantic Cities
Democracy in America

As America Ages, NIMBYism Could Increase

As America Ages, NIMBYism Could Increase
Reuters

It’s a common complaint among developers and city officials that the same vocal crowds tend to come to public meetings and steamroll local planning and development decisions, over and over again. The latest annual report from the Saint Consulting group pinpoints who those people are: Not surprisingly, older people tend to be most active in opposing new development, while younger people are more often in support.

The Saint Index recently released its 2011 results, based on surveys with 1,000 adults in the U.S. this summer, with the goal of understanding what types of projects are most likely to be opposed and why.

The report finds that people aged 56-65 are most likely to actively oppose new projects in their communities, while people aged 21-35 are most likely to actively support projects.

As the U.S. population ages, the opposition of older people to new development is likely to become a growing issue. The median age in the U.S. in 2010 was 37.2, up from 30 in 1980. According to estimates from the 2010 Census, 121.7 million Americans were aged 45 and over, making up about 40 percent of the population. But it’s also notable that 83.2 million people – about 27 percent of the population – is under 19. As this younger group ages into political activity, these results suggests they’ll be more likely to support new projects.

The actual numbers of those actively opposing or supporting projects are relatively low, with just 17 percent of respondents having opposed a project and 14 percent having supported one.

Overall, however, NIMBYism is on the rise, according to the report. Nearly 80 percent of U.S. residents oppose any new development in their community. It’s the highest level of opposition recorded in the report’s six-year history, and the first time since 2008 that the amount of opposition has increased.  

But the report also finds that, when asked about development in light of the recession, more people support new projects. About 70 percent of respondents say they’d be more likely than usual to support new development in their communities in the context of the recession. Those most likely to support projects are again on the younger side, filling in the 21-45 age range.

Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for The Atlantic Cities. He lives in Los Angeles. All posts »

Join the Discussion