New Report and Rankings: Making Metros Family-Friendly
America’s urban centers can attract families and reverse childlessness by leaning into their strengths
New York, NY – America’s major cities are increasingly childless, a condition exacerbated by the emergence of remote work, troubling crime spikes, and rising housing prices. In a new report, Manhattan Institute fellow Robert VerBruggen ranks America’s metro areas on numerous measures of family-friendliness and offers suggestions for urban areas to reverse course and support parents.
The report discusses factors influencing where families with children choose to live, such as educational achievement, social mobility, social capital, and child poverty. VerBruggen integrates a wide variety of data sources, including the Census Bureau’s 2017–21 American Community Survey, using an original data tool to illustrate how every key variable correlates with all the others across more than 200 metro areas.
Affordable housing and low cost of living emerge as key factors in attracting families, and VerBruggen suggests ways to make urban living more appealing to them, including:
- Increasing housing supply: Less dense areas are outcompeting cities by offering families more space and lower costs; urban centers can address at least the latter by encouraging more housing through liberalizing zoning rules.
- Controlling disorder: Ensuring that public spaces are—and feel—safe is of utmost importance for attracting and retaining families seeking good environments for their children. Cities can draw from policy playbooks which proven success in cultivating urban public order.
- Offering educational choice: Allowing parents to send their children to public schools outside of their residential zone, as well as embracing voucher programs, charter schools, and magnet schools, is a clear way to attract parents who may otherwise be leery of the local schools in affordable neighborhoods.