Why Millennial Families and Cities Need Each Other

The Millennial Family

82% of babies born today are children of Millennials, but you probably wouldn’t think that if you lived in New York City. Millennials who forgo the suburbs and stay in the city are delaying having children, or having fewer children, due to mounting student debt and the general unaffordability of raising a child in an expensive urban area. If they do have children, they’re faced with insurmountable expenses of housing and childcare, alongside a lack of community support.

Yet, urban life provides parents and their children unique opportunities that aren’t available, or are less available in the suburbs. Alongside exposure to diversity, world-renowned (and often free) cultural institutions, and education, city living provides parents with more economic opportunities as companies move their central offices into cities. It’s also simply more convenient to live closer to where you work, and work closer to where your children go to school. But despite these benefits, cities are not designed to support Millennial family life.

 

Why Cities Don’t Support Millennial Family Life

Cities have become largely inaccessible to families, both due to the price of housing and the housing stock that’s simply not designed for families. Not only is raising a family anywhere expensive — childcare and education costs now account for 18% of the total cost of raising a kid, compared to 2% in 1960 — but housing costs in cities have climbed so steadily that with an average 2-bedroom rent in Manhattan of $3,789 ​(compared to a national average of $1,354) a family must make above $150,000 annually to afford living in the city. Overall, city-living families spend $9,000 more​ than their suburban counterparts on childcare and housing.

Beyond cost alone, the majority of the apartments in major cities are not designed with families in mind as developers are continuously incentivized to build one bedroom and studio apartments for the populations that can afford it: young, white, career-oriented singles. In addition to bedroom size, you also have to factor in other amenities, however small, that families need in a home: bathtubs, for example, or elevators to easily transport strollers and small children.

 

A Change Can Be Made

Despite the current environment, change is possible. In 1990, Vancouver responded to a decline in families by requiring developers to set aside 25% of apartment units ​for families, and even encouraged developers to build in family friendly areas that were close to schools and parks, and had accessible side-walks. As a result, the number of children under 5 in downtown Vancouver has increased by 32% (with the number of children under 10 and 15 increasing by 25% and 22% as well).

Change is not only possible, but necessary. Not only do families make city life more diverse and vibrant, but families also contribute to a city’s economic stability. And as more Millennials look to have children, they shouldn’t have to make the decision between staying in a city and struggling, or leaving the place they call home in order to have a family.

Featured photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash.