City or suburbs?
Since the end of World War II, when suburban life as we now know it came into being, families have struggled with choosing which experience to give their children.
If you had to choose between raising your kids in the city or suburbs, which would you choose? According to a recent Rent.com survey, the answer isn't cut-and-dry. Both locations have pluses and minuses, and parents' attachment to their city or 'burb often dictates where they choose to raise their children.
Of the parents surveyed, 42 percent said they have always lived in the city and are raising their kids there, while nearly the same percentage chose to stay put in the suburbs to raise their families.
Other than having an attachment to bigger backyards and strip centers, how should you decide where to raise your kids? It's not easy, but here are some things to consider when choosing between city and suburban life.
Housing Stock. The most obvious difference between the city and the suburbs is the type of housing stock you can find. Outside the city limits, you'll probably get a little more space for your money, though the types of housing (single family and some condo or townhome developments) may be more limited.
In one of Chicago's North Side neighborhoods, for example, you can get a modern, two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo for $250,000.
But if you're willing to travel 22 miles west of the city, you can get a newly-renovated three-bedroom, three-bathroom home with a yard in Downers Grove, Ill. for the same price. Your decision depends on what's more important for you — space or convenience.
Also remember things that are normally a given in the suburbs — ample room for kids to play, a laundry room or closet and plenty of storage space — are things you'll pay extra for if you live downtown.
Respondents to the Rent.com survey didn't seem worried about the size of homes in the city. Only nine percent of parents cited not having enough space for their family as their biggest concern about city living. They weren't too worried about cost, either; only one in four parents surveyed said cost would be an issue.
Commute. According to a Census report released last year, the average American worker spends over 100 hours per year commuting, and roughly 3.2 million U.S. workers are "extreme commuters" who spend more than three hours commuting to and from work every day. These commutes are no fun, and can take years off your life in the form of stress, high blood pressure and obesity.
The prospect of a long commute keeps many parents from moving out to the 'burbs. Many large companies have offices in big cities, and that means more job prospects for parents. Working and living in the same city translates to shorter commutes and more time spent with family and friends, and some would give up suburban space for the chance to walk or bike to work.
To go back to our Chicago example, you work near Downers Grove, the smart decision may be to buy the bigger house, even though you'd prefer to live in a downtown Chicago condo simply because the reverse commute traffic will eat up at least two hours of your day.
But don't despair if you have your heart set on living in the suburbs — you may be in luck. According to the Brookings Institute, more than 45 percent of jobs lie at least 10 miles outside downtown city areas. Today more than ever, parents have a good chance of finding a job close to their suburban home, or a company that allows telecommuting.
Lifestyle. There's no doubt that living in the city is much different than living in the suburbs. Big cities tend to be more diverse, and that's reflected in the food, art and people who live there. Nearly 40 percent of respondents to the Rent.com survey believe access to this diverse culture is the biggest advantage to living in the city versus the suburbs, and 12 percent believe this diverse population is more conducive to raising kids.
Even better, a lot of this stuff is right outside your door. When my husband and I decided to have kids, we made the move to the suburbs. It's been great, but we certainly miss being able to walk two blocks in every direction and find a great ethnic restaurant, an independent theater production, a summer sidewalk fest, or a boutique selling local art.
Living in the suburbs requires a lot more driving, even if you're not commuting to work.
The suburbs may lack culture, but for many parents raising kids in the 'burbs feels like a safer choice. The survey revealed 46 percent of parents believe living in a suburb or smaller town offers the advantage of a safe neighborhood, and 56 percent revealed safety is their biggest concern when looking for an apartment or home in the city.
Both the city and suburbs offer perks for parents, but ultimately it's all about where you and your family are most comfortable. Depending on where you live, factors like schools, recreational activities for kids and religious centers may also play a part in your decision.
If it's any help, consider the parents in the Rent.com survey. Suburban parents were more satisfied with their choice to raise kids outside the city, with 46 percent of them saying they would make the same choice again. Only 34 percent of city parents felt the same way, and 18 percent would instead raise their kids in the suburbs if they had to make the choice again.
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