Public opinion research has revealed decided preferences for living in rural areas and small towns, and proponents of population deconcentration have interpreted this as support for their policies. This study, based on a national sample, yielded similar results, but when we introduced the additional possibility of a preference for proximity to a larger city, then the rural areas preferred were found, for most respondents, to be those within the commuting range of a metropolitan central city. Although persons wishing to live near large cities were found to be looking for the same qualities of living sought by those who prefer a more remote location, these findings are not, in general, consistent with the argument that public preferences support strategies of population dispersal into nonmetropolitan areas. Instead they indicate that most of those who wish to live in a different location favor the peripheral metropolitan ring areas that have, in fact, been growing rapidly by in-migration.

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