NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Family-Friendly Cities Grow Faster

August 28, 2003

Family-friendly cities and suburbs are growing fastest in the current sluggish economy, says Joel Kotkin. In sharp contrast, San Francisco and the other "glamour economies" of the late 1990s are suffering.

Recent evidence contradicts the claim -- first promoted by Richard Florida in the late 1990s -- that economic growth directly follows "quality of life" factors that appeal solely to singles, young people, high-tech workers, gays, students and artists. Formerly "hot" locales like Seattle's Belltown, San Francisco's South of Market and lower Manhattan now have some of the highest vacancy rates and lowest job growth totals nationwide, but areas where single-family households dominate are booming.

  • Thriving cities like McAllen, Boise, Fresno, Fort Worth, Provo and the Riverside-San Bernadino "Inland Empire" area of California have among the highest percentages of children in the nation.
  • During the 1990s, 70,000 logistics and manufacturing jobs were added in the Inland Empire region, while the coastal counties around Los Angeles lost over 43,000 jobs in the same categories.
  • Only 23 percent of Orange County families can afford the median price of a home, whereas almost half of Inland Empire residents can.

This is not to say that these flourishing communities are without problems; they face pollution, traffic and urban sprawl, just to name a few. But as "high-end" workers in major cities tire of long commutes, they will likely begin to choose these smaller, pro-family, pro-business cities where the economy continues to grow.

Source: Joel Kotkin, "Paths to Prosperity," American Enterprise, July/August 2003, American Enterprise Institute.


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