Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Rise of Family-Friendly Cities

Two recent articles have addressed the issue of family-friendliness of cities.

The Rise of Family-Friendly Cities

Urban centers that have been traditional favorites for young singles, such as Chicago, Boston, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, have experienced below-average job and population growth since 2000. . . .

Married people with children tend to be both successful and motivated, precisely the people who make economies go. They are twice as likely to be in the top 20% of income earners, according to the Census, and their incomes have been rising considerably faster than the national average.

The specificity of this statistic worries me. Could it be that there are other numbers out there that don't support their cause. This appears to compare married people with children to all others - including unmarried persons with children. The low marriage rate among the poor could be acting as an outlier - why not just compare those with children to those without if one is campaigning for more playgrounds?
Contrary to popular belief, moreover, the family is far from the brink of extinction. Most Americans, notes the Pew Research Center, still regard marriage as the ideal state. Upwards of 80% still marry, and the vast majority end up having children. Brookings demographer Bill Frey notes that the number of married couples with children has actually been on the rise after decades of decline. . . .

The rapidly increasing percentage of college educated women, a group that places a high value on marriage and children, are emerging as critical shapers of the future skilled workforce. Two decades ago, these women were less likely than other women to marry. Today, a single, 30-year-old woman with a graduate degree has about a 75% chance of getting married, compared with a single 30-year-old woman with less education, who has about a 66% chance. Overall, reports The Center for Economic and Policy Research, women in their late 20s and early 30s who are in the top 10% earning bracket are just as likely to be married as other women who work full-time.

Curious that they cite the statistics for educated women concerning marriage, but not children. Could it be because the more education a woman has, the less likely she is to procreate? This article perpetuates the fallacy that the alternative to families is young singles, and ignores demographic trends that indicate childless couples and older singles are an increasing presence in our cities and workforces.

Is New York City Family-Friendly Enough?

One of the enduring fairy tales about New York City is that of the young person who comes here to stake a name for him or herself. But what happens when a lot of these young people partner up and have children?

They leave New York.

Or so says futurist Joel Kotkin in an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal. Mr. Kotkin argues that married people with children tend to be the drivers of whatever economies they're in; and, increasingly in the U.S., they're in family-friendly cities like Houston, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham--not behemoths like New York, which tend to attract the younger and the childless.
. . .
What can New York do to retain more of the young after they've aged into 40-something economic engines with spouses and kids? Perhaps (gasp!) follow the lead of Philadelphia, which has been trying to spruce up the neighborhoods near its downtown to keep families from fleeing to the suburbs.
Has the homogenization of American cities gone so far that we have begin embracing it as a goal? I call New York home precisely because it is a city for the childless. While it may seem to many that children run amok all over the UWS, compared to the cultures of other cities it is quite adult friendly, and the culture is accepting of the childfree choice.
There is a reason I live in New York and not Houston, Charlotte or Raleigh-Durham, despite the fact that we suffer much worse weather. Those cities need to continue catering to those who call it home, but where on earth would one get the idea that we need to make American cities more alike? Let the people who prefer the 2.3 kids, backyards, and cultural aspects elsewhere flee, and leave NY to the neurotic, the workaholics, the nightlife-obsessed, the singles, and the childless. We deserve a city of our own.
As the first article cited, our population is still growing - I don't see it as a problem that cities elsewhere are growing faster. As long as we have a steady stream of immigrants, fresh-faced ibankers and newly minted lawyers shoring up our economy, we'll survive just fine without those who prefer the sunny, spacious South. Viva la difference.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Consider the statements made:

"Married people with children tend to be both successful and motivated"

Oh really? What is the statistical yardstick used for "motivation"?

"[They] are twice as likely to be in the top 20% of income earners, according to the Census".

Twice as likely as whom? Single people? Married people without kids? What about gay couples?

If they are just comparing to a "national average", then what do equivalent comparisons for child-free couples look like?

This is the sort of crap that passes for "statistics" in rags like the Wall St. Journal, which by the the way, has a very right-wing editorial slant. It's the old agenda of pushing one very limited view of "family".