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Blue Model Blues
Childless Cities, Fertile Cities

Young people in their 20s may want a dense, New York-style city, but that doesn’t mean they’ll still want it in their 30s. Over at New Geography, Joel Kotkin has the numbers on which cities tend to attract 30-something Americans starting families, and, amazingly, New York and Los Angeles aren’t doing well:

Virtually all the metro areas where there has been the strongest growth in families from 2000 to 2013 are highly suburban, highly affordable and located in the South and Intermountain West. If they also have a strong economy, like top-ranked Raleigh, N.C., they are even more attractive. In concert with strong net in-migration, the number of children in the Raleigh metro area between the ages of 5 and 14 grew by 63,600 from 2000-13, or 55.7%. That’s roughly 10 times the national growth rate of 0.5% for this demographic. […]

The largest declines in the 5 to 14 cohort since 2000 have almost all occurred in the large coastal metropolitan centers, led by Los Angeles, 46th out of the 52 cities on our list, where the child population has dropped by 303,000, or 15.3%, since 2000. In the New York metro area (40th), the number of 5- to 14-year-olds fell by 238,000.

This phenomenon is traceable in part to specific policy decisions taken by city leaders. Certain kinds of zoning policies raise the cost of housing dramatically in blue cities, but that’s not all. As Kotkin has pointed out elsewhere, family-friendly cities have found all sorts of ways to invest in amenities and structures that attract families, from creating parks and open spaces to pursuing better schools through smarter education policy.

Cities that attract families will have an edge as millennials get older and start the families they say they want. Maybe, just maybe, local governments will start thinking about which policies make their cities better places to raise kids.

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  • Anthony

    One component remains “unless the more expensive urban areas can expand their educational choices, many families will continue to look elsewhere for the critical combination of affordable housing and decent education for their children.”

  • jeburke

    Yeah, but NYC has free pre-K. So naah, naah.

    • Curious Mayhem

      Well, there’s the point. Making some place incredibly expensive to live, whether you have children or not, then trying to offset this expense with “social services” and tax breaks doesn’t work.

      If it did, certain European wlefare states would have much higher birth rates. But they don’t. The welfare state prevents half the population from ever growing up and overburdens the other, responsible, half.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    So, I’m going to take a wild guess and say blue model cities are losing children, and red model cities are gaining them.

    • Corlyss

      But red model cities still have a lot of ground to make up. And every year, the blue model cities indoctrinate more and more kids to the joys of the welfare state as the number of people practicing the “pathology of the underclass” increases within those cities.

      • Boritz

        “Young people in their 20s may want a dense, New York-style city, but that doesn’t mean they’ll still want it in their 30s.”

        This is a model followed by some birds.  Ca-ca in your own nest then move on to a clean one.

  • TheRadicalModerate

    About 80% of the decision on where to raise a family is dictated by the quality of the school system. Since virtually all urban school systems are inferior to the diverse set of school systems found in the suburbs, we’re really talking about how well the urban core plays nice with the suburbs. For families, suburban sprawl is a feature, not a bug, as long as the transportation system accommodates it. And since the high-growth cities are the ones that are most tolerant of sprawl, and the high-growth cities are mostly in red states, red state cities are more family-friendly. But it has nothing to do with the actual policies of the urban core.

    I live in Austin, which has a pretty bad urban public school system and pretty good suburban schools. But the City of Austin and Travis County planners have fallen in love with the high-density fad, which is causing them to strangle the burbs by dragging their feet on highway build-out while they erect condo and apartment high-rises downtown. As a result, I fully expect Austin to plummet in the “family-friendly” surveys over the next few years. It’ll be interesting to see how our Oh So Enlightened Government responds when this happens. The right answer is to build more highways. I doubt that that will be what they come up with.

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