Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Insight: Cities, Suburbs, and Kids

Just One Minute has a take on city/suburban living which parallels mine.

My question - is it unreasonable to wonder whether the low European birth rates can be tied to their living arrangements? I have lived in Manhattan with two kids, and in the suburbs with more than two. Trust me, or try it for yourself - the suburbs are easier to manage when lots of kids are in the picture.

Or try this simple census survey - how many couples can you think of that met in the cities, had children, and moved to the suburbs? Now, how many couples have kids in the suburbs and then move with them into the city? Hmm...

I'm not saying it can't be done. I'm just noting that the evidence from Europe might suggest that small cars and limited space might be better suited to small families; it seems to be a point that a top-notch, objective economist like Krugman would at least want to address.

Of COURSE there are exceptions, which the LeftyWonks will be happy to raise as "norms."

But it is not merely high property-taxes which impel young families to move to the 'burbs,' nor "racism." It is, in the wonderful German term invented just for this debate, 'lebensraum.'


Anonymous said...

Certainly there are more than a couple factors involved. I think anyone who denies racism was a factor just is refusing to look at facts. You don't even have to get to the personal level. Even there were blacks (or other 'undesireables' that often included ethnic catholics) the area was red-lined and ineligible for mortgage insurance from the Feds. Forced busing also went over like a ton of bricks.

It also quite apparent the author is writing from suburbia. How many people would he expect to know who have moved from suburbia to the city. If he lived in the city, he would be able to ascertain that data point more easily. He is however right that schooling is a big disincentive for living in the city. Crime? It is becoming more of a wash every day. A lot of cities are significantly safer than they were 30 years ago.

Dad29 said...

Yes, there is some racism. There are also (e.g.) people who want a much larger garage, or no sidewalk to shovel, etc.

However, his theory can also be given some support by noting that a number of suburbanites are selling their homes (and acreage) and moving to in-City condos--when their children are gone.

And of course the 'evidence' is incidental. But I cannot disagree with him.