Is New York City Family-Friendly Enough?

One of the enduring fairy tales about New York City is that of the young person who comes here to stake a name for him or herself. But what happens when a lot of these young people partner up and have children?

They leave New York.

Or so says futurist Joel Kotkin in an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal. Mr. Kotkin argues that married people with children tend to be the drivers of whatever economies they’re in; and, increasingly in the U.S., they’re in family-friendly cities like Houston, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham–not behemoths like New York, which tend to attract the younger and the childless.

Urban centers that have been traditional favorites for young singles, such as Chicago, Boston, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, have experienced below-average job and population growth since 2000. San Francisco and Chicago lost population during that period; even immigrant-rich New York City and Los Angeles County have shown barely negligible population growth in the last two years, largely due to a major out-migration of middle class families.

What can New York do to retain more of the young after they’ve aged into 40-something economic engines with spouses and kids? Perhaps (gasp!) follow the lead of Philadelphia, which has been trying to spruce up the neighborhoods near its downtown to keep families from fleeing to the suburbs.

Of course, any additional neighborhood improvements aside, New York would still remain the most expensive city in the nation, a place where the fairy tale of the young arrival is likely to end in his or her exit from town.