NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 1, 2005

Vibrant cities such as San Francisco, Seattle and Portland are becoming childless because high housing prices are keeping young families from moving in, says the New York Times.

Central cities are revitalizing through the construction of new high-density homes, fashionable restaurant and shops, and businesses that reflect the tastes of the locals. However, the atmosphere is not attracting families who want affordable housing and more space for children.

For example:

  • From 1990 to 2003, Portland, Oregon grew by 90,000 people, but it is now educating fewer students than in the previous 80 years; as a result, the city will close several schools over the next decade.
  • San Francisco, where children under age 18 comprise only 14.5 percent of the inhabitants, has the lowest percentage of children in any major city -- no surprise considering the median housing price is $700,000.
  • In Seattle, which ranks second among large cities with the lowest percentage of children, dogs actually outnumber children.

The falling birthrate nationwide has contributed to the problem as well. Indeed, North Dakota is losing more children than any other state. However, mayors are worried that the decline in children will diminish the overall quality and diversity of their cities and reduce the human capital needed to support an aging population.

In fact, several mayors are taking steps to buck the trend. Seattle Mayor Charles Royer started an initiative in 1990 to market the city to families by including mixes of more affordable housing and making parks more child-friendly.

Source: Timothy Egan, "Vibrant Cities Find One Thing Missing: Children," New York Times, March 24, 2005.

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