What is a suburb? The word may conjure mental images of fence-lined streets with the car in the drive, shopping strips and centres growing families and the breadwinner heading off to work elsewhere in the city, but it is surprisingly difficult to define (Forsyth 2012). While this suggests some uncertainty, the rise of suburbs as both a concept and part of cities in the late 19th century is a result of the separation of places of work and production from places of residence, enabled by transport systems, the telephone and changes the production methods for goods and services (Jackson 1985; Walker 1981).
From the perspective of a city’s economy, the function of a suburb is a place that provides residence and sustenance for workers who export their labour. The process of suburbanisation can therefore be seen as the change in an area’s population and economic profile, whether it includes an increasing number of workers who commute outwards and changes to local employment are in sectors associated with servicing population. While this definition includes a spatial distinction between where workers rest and replenish themselves from where they work, it is does not suggest that suburbs need to be part of a continuous, urbanised area.