Spoiler alert: It’s simply not the case that families with kids have disappeared from urban America.
Look around a hip neighborhood in Lower Manhattan or downtown San Francisco, and you’ll see lots of young people, and Baby Boomers whose kids have left the nest. There are also some stylish moms (or nannies) pushing tots in strollers. But you won’t see many traditional nuclear families with school-age children.
There’s a growing consensus that our cities are becoming “childless.” This past October, Axios ran a story on the ”great family exodus,” showing data that the share of families with children under the age of 20 has fallen in 53 large cities across the country. As far as I can tell, the phrase “childless cities” was first advanced in 2013 by Joel Kotkin in an essay of that title for City Journal.
Several factors are said to be pushing families with kids out of cities: the expensiveness of city living; the lagging performance of urban versus suburban public schools; and the preference of immigrant families for the suburbs over urban locations. But just how childless are our cities, really?