Monday, January 23, 2017

Seattle Still on Low End for Children for a Major U.S. City

There are several reasons to raise this issue.

One reason is the growing gentrification of this city which is likely to push out groups that traditionally have more children - immigrants (especially Latinos.) 

Another reason is the rising costs of housing in this city as well as the seemingly lack of family-sized apartments/condos being built (at least as being pushed by the Mayor's HALA committee.)

Still another concern is our school district and its inability to be operationally sound and provide good academic outcomes for all children.  If many poorer families get pushed out of the district and wealthier families continue to go private, Seattle Schools may not continue its growth.  Charter schools are likely to influence what happens as well (if the current law doesn't also get overturned.)

The New York Times had a story recently about San Francisco and its lowest-in-the-nation child population.
As an urban renaissance has swept through major American cities in recent decades, San Francisco’s population has risen to historical highs and a forest of skyscraping condominiums has replaced tumbledown warehouses and abandoned wharves. At the same time, the share of children in San Francisco fell to 13 percent, low even compared with another expensive city, New York, with 21 percent. 

As San Francisco moves toward a one-industry town with soaring costs, the dearth of children is one more change that raises questions about its character. Are fewer children making San Francisco more one-dimensional and less vibrant? The answer is subjective and part of an impassioned debate over whether a new, wealthier San Francisco can retain the allure of the city it is replacing.

A report released on Tuesday by the San Francisco Planning Department said the building boom in the city, which for the most part has introduced more studios and one-bedroom apartments, was unlikely to bring in more families. For every 100 apartments in the city sold at market rates, the San Francisco school district expects to enroll only one additional student, the report said.
What I found somewhat chilling were a couple of statements:
“When we imagine having kids, we think of somewhere else,” Mr. Lee said. “It’s starting to feel like a no-kids type of city.”

“Sometimes I’ll be walking through the city and I’ll see a child and think, ‘Hey, wait a second. What are you doing here?’” said Courtney Nam, who works downtown at a tech start-up. “You don’t really see that many kids.
From New Geography:
From 2010 to 2014, the percentage of the population of residents under the age of 18 shrank in every single metro area with more than a million people. This reflects the aging of the population in progress.  But it’s not just that there are more older people. In about half of these major American metros, the actual number of children declined.  
In fact, Austin was the top gainer with a 7.9% increase in children. Houston (+5.5%), Washington, DC (+4.2%) and Denver (+3.1%) were also among those posting strong gains.

So what about Seattle?

Seattle posted a 3.3% gain but that still didn't move our city up. According to the latest stats I could find, Seattle continues to be second to San Francisco in terms of the low number of children in the city.
In sum, while very few regions are losing population on a total basis, many more   are failing at creating the next generation of residents. Of course it  is possible to make up for natural increase in population by attracting newcomers, but consider that these statistics include the children of those recent arrivals as well.

Conversely, again some traditionally slower growth cities and some conventionally viewed as not child friendly-- San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston  are seeing slight  gains in their population of young children even though their percentages drop. Keep in mind these are metropolitan area numbers, not central city ones, as most children, particularly those older than five, end up in suburbs. But even so, the performance of these regions is remarkable compared to declines in celebrated urban areas like Chicago and Los Angeles.


NESeattleMom said...

Today in the NYTimes (and reprinted in today's Seattle Times) there is an article about the population predictions. That millennials will be in short supply as they age out. Right now cities are counting on millennials, but as they get older and have families, they move to the suburbs. With the proposed upzone in the U-district, it doesn't seem like the city council has that knowledge. Also, recent new apartments are not family-sized nor are they affordable.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Exactly right, NE Seattle Mom. What is a city without children?

NESeattleMom said...

Melissa, it is like South Lake Union, with single people walking around to food trucks looking at their cell phones.

Anonymous said...

Additionally, many units are being built without adequate parking. Are families with children going to rely on light rail and Uber? Nope. They have cars. You can't even drive to the light rail and park because they planned the stations without parking, unlike the Bay Area that has parking facilities at the BART stations in the residential areas.


Outsider said...

Not to mention that much of the city's outdoor public space is dedicated to the un-housed and un-toileted heroin-dependent population. It's tough to raise children in rabbit hutch apartments with no safe outdoor space nearby.

Xtian said...

Umm, anonymous, YES, people will take their kids on mass transport. Why do so many Seattleites defy this notion? Have you EVER been to NYC? Montréal? Paris? London? Sound transit may suck at getting stuff built fast enough but autos, with their congestion and their dementia causing pollution are no answer. The world needs to change. We can debate best policies for family housing (and, yes Seattle fails to provide it on many levels) but to advance parking as a cure is asinine and anti-human. Cars and their infrastructure = poison, ugliness and congestion + a waste of money. Duh.