Should You Move to the Suburbs When You Have Kids?
I live in the suburbs of Los Angeles. It is beautiful. I see a piece of the ocean from my table at which I sit. We have great neighbors, better schools, and lots of space (I cringe to admit this, but there are rooms in my house that I rarely visit because they are so cluttered with all sorts of things that I’m definitely going to remove them from “next weekend”) … People always remind me that we are “so lucky” and I can’t even argue. This is a Dream, and it is quiet, safe, pleasant and good.
But I don’t know, maybe because the grass will always be greener, I just get so damn dull when I think about living in the city – a place where I can walk to my destination, where I can check voice events on weekdays where there are readily available food items of every ethnicity (is decent tikka masala too much to ask ?!), where my daughter won’t spend most of her future afternoon hours strapped in the backseat of the Honda Odyssey that is on duty that day in car. … I want to be where people are. The ten-year trend of couples moving from city to suburbs when they have children has only recently intensified. According to Vox , the number of children in some of the fastest growing cities, including San Francisco, Portland, Pittsburgh, Washington, DC, has dropped dramatically. But should families move? Of course, every situation is different (as is every city and suburb – many suburban cities can be culturally vibrant and quite walkable), but there is enough information and data to disprove the myth that suburbs are generally better suited for raising children. Here are some ideas that still hold true:
Myth # 1: Suburbs are safer than cities
It is true that the risk of homicide is higher in urban areas, but with another important safety measure, you are much more likely to die in a car crash outside of the city. In TruTV ‘s suburban episode “Adam Ruins Everything,” investigative comedian Adam Conover adds that road accidents are 270% more likely at dead ends than on gridded streets, possibly because they “lull you into a false sense of security where the distinctions between sidewalk, street and carriageway are blurred. “
Watch the clip:
When you don’t pay attention, bad things happen. Or, as William Lucy, a professor at the University of Virginia, summed it up to ABC News : “Go where you think it’s unsafe and you’ll probably make the best choice.”
Myth # 2: Children in the suburbs have more space to play and be free.
When kids are very young, suburban spaces can be great. (Toddlers without pants, frolicking freely in the spacious backyard? Joy.) But as they get older, they will still rely on their parents to take them somewhere, while city kids may have more autonomy. (In Japan, young children actually take the subway and run around on business alone, but CityLab is discovering that this has more to do with social trust than self-reliance .)
The city itself can be an outdoor playground where children can meet a wide variety of people on a daily basis. Adrian, a father of five living in an apartment in Vancouver, shared on This City Life blog:
“When we live small, we turn our lives around. Instead of carrying everything inside our four walls, we rely on the world outside our walls. Our yard is a local park. Our “man’s cave” is a cinema. Museums, food vans, art galleries, music festivals, children’s fairs and more are within walking distance. “
Oh yeah, walking. Children will be walking (and cycling) much more in cities. Research shows that suburban design limits freedom of physical activity (not to mention that suburbanites have four times the carbon footprint of their city dwellers ).
Myth # 3: You Will Have a Greater Sense of Community in Burbs
Cities have a reputation for being cold and impersonal, but many people find that spending less time in the car gives them more time to spend with family and friends. And when you hike, all kinds of unexpected connections can form. “It’s about living and working in a city where life takes place on the street, where people on the sidewalks are as important as the buildings lined up along the boulevards,” writes Sarah Goodyear on Grist .
So is it worth moving to the suburbs when you have kids? There is no one-size-fits-all answer, and I probably won’t move soon, but I am sticking to Conover’s advice: no matter where you are, “fix the communities you are in.”
You know there will be a change.