In the 1950s, families started fleeing American cities launching a strong suburban culture that still exists today. We see it happen in Washington, D.C. The transplant narrative goes like this- move to the city ripe with ambition, happy hour through your twenties, maybe settle down with a special someone in your thirties, flee to the suburbs once that pregnancy test reads positive, chauffeur your kids from soccer practice to interpretive dance class chained to a minivan, retire to a life of constantly upkeeping the suburban McMansion. Ugh. There has to be another way.
New York Times best selling author, Tim Keller, makes the case to stay in cities when your family expands. My wife and I listened to Keller’s talk shortly after our daughter was born; it put to words our reasoning to settle in the heart of Washington, D.C. He says, “On the whole, the city is a better place to raise children.” Here are his arguments:
- Your kids will think their home is the real world– suburban kids think cities are the real world, not where they are raised. City kids know they are from the real world.
- It undercuts their self-righteousness– kids will one day think you, as their parent, don’t understand the real world. If you raise your kids in the city, they know you know the real world. They will see you engage with it and struggle with it daily.
- They will be more confident and self-reliant– they are more able to get places, travel, and be self-sufficient.
- Better at handling diversity- they will meet people of all walks of life from all around the world. Their friend group will be diverse. Suburbs are zoned by class and by design less diverse.
- Cities push families together- you have more face time with your kids. You tend to go out together to restaurants, to events. Cities offer a wide range of activities for any interest, activities you can do with your child. Suburbs push family apart since it takes a hike to get anywhere.
- Your kids interact with adults who are living out their mission– kids will one day think you’re not cool so surround them with adults who are purposeful, interesting, and doing good things in the world. Cities attract those people.
- You can help process the world with them– if not, they will process the world in college when you are not there.
- They have less pressure to conform- cities welcome all different types of people, which allows your child the freedom to be who they are rather than conform.
Keller does mention three reasons it can be more challenging to raise kids in the city:
- Money– taxes and rent alone are expensive.
- Physical logistics on the front 9 (not the back 9)- less yard space, complicated grocery shopping experience.
- Complexity of the educational terrains– not as many options in cities. Public schools tend to have more resources in suburbs.
Overall, his argument for raising kids in the city is strong and worthy of serious consideration.