In seeking to explain recent trends in population distribution, there has been increased interest in residential preferences. This study is a comparison of preferences based on 1972 and 1988 national surveys, years that bracket a period of considerable change in distribution patterns. Over time there has been a small shift in preference toward cities less than 500,000 in size, primarily by those already living there. Rural settings, especially near cities, continue to be very attractive. At both times studied, more than half of those preferring a smaller or more remote place would retain this preference even if it meant 10% less income. Nevertheless, the proportion preferring to live more than 30 miles from a large city was unchanged and approximately equal to the proportion already living there at both times, indicating that a discrepancy between where people live and where they want to live is not an important basis for the upturn in nonmetropolitan growth away from large cities in the 1970s or the downturn in the 1980s.