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Are the ‘Hip’ Cities Too Cool for Families?

New report shows families are not moving to San Francisco, Boston or Manhattan.

By Livability.com on January 7, 2016

A young boy in a blue shirt looks sad as a dog watches him.

There are more dogs than children in San Francisco, a city losing families at a rapid rate, according to a new study by the Chapman Center for Demographics and Policy written by Joel Kotkin. The study, titled Building Cities for People, found that many cities typically seen as hip and trendy are not where young parents are moving. While places like New York City, Boston and Los Angeles may be gaining racial minorities and singles, they are losing children.

The best cities for middle-class families tend to be located outside big metro areas, according to the study. Measuring factors such as income growth, commute times, middle-income jobs and housing affordability, the authors determined that many of the best cities for families are mid-sized places. Among the top places cited in the report are Des Moines, Iowa; Madison, WI (which ranked as the No. 3 city on our 100 Best Places to Live); and Albany, NY.

Why So Many Americans Are Moving South and West

The study's authors point to affordability as a key factor in where parents choose to raise their children. More than 80 percent of married couples now live in single-family homes, and the most affordable homes tend to be located in the suburbs or outside large cities. Livability.com will soon release the 10 Most Affordable Places to Live 2016, which looked at not only home prices but a variety of cost of living factors to determine the 10 most affordable and livable cities in the country. 

Kotkin identifies an emerging housing crisis and challenges the solution offered by many planners, which is to advocate for higher density in cities and suburbs. The authors found that building high density projects, such as five-floor apartment buildings and even townhomes, costs more per square foot then traditional single family home construction, leading to higher rent.

Higher density cities such as New York, Miami and Las Vegas landed at the bottom of the authors' list of the best cities for middle class families. "The hipster cities, in other words, are not so amenable to the new generation of young families," Kotkin wrote. 

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