Friday, March 28, 2014

More People Moving To Big Cities, What Does it Mean for Families?

USA Today recently published an interesting ARTICLE on a trend I've been noticing for years, more people are moving back to big cities. After years of families and young people rushing to the suburbs, city life is now becoming more appealing, and rundown urban areas are seeing significant re-flourishing. The article addresses cities nationwide, but uses Baltimore as a specific example of a big city changing for the better.

As someone who grew up in both a city and suburban environment, I've been able to see the pros and cons of both and am admittedly a city gal. I like the historic architecture of big cities, the more solidly built homes and other structures, walkability and transportation, presence of mom and pop shops, cultural institutions, dining options, and diversity big cities tend to offer.

What I've noticed though is that upwardly mobile people who choose to inhabit cities undergoing renaissance are saddled with an increased responsibility to better their communities. While developers come in and offer more amenities and renovated housing, economically well-off residents become tasked with warding off crime and restoring dilapidated institutions, most importantly public education.

My Baltimore neighborhood is currently faced with this challenge, as neighborhood parents decide if they will organize and put in the effort necessary to bring our neighborhood school up to snuff. Will we send our kids to the local public school? Enroll them in private school? Or move away to a pricier neighborhood with better schools?

I for one am all for strengthening our neighborhood school. I feel this way for many reasons:

1. We pay extremely high property taxes, and should reap the benefits of this by attending the school system we pay for.

2. I love my home and neighborhood and don't want to move. Why should I shell out money to move when where I am located could be a perfectly fine place to raise a family with just a little work? (sidenote: I'm amazed at the number of parents I meet who buy more house than they can afford to send their kids to better schools, instead of just improving the schools in areas they can afford.)

3. Poorer children who's parents do not have the resources to send them to private school should have access to good schools and the ability to socialize with students of all backgrounds.

4. My husband and I are fortunate in that we can afford to send our child to any private school in Baltimore, but shelling out $25k a year in tuition while letting our neighborhood school underperform just undermines our property value. So not only will we add a major expense by sending our kid to private school, but we will also be eroding the value of one of money making assets, our beloved home. Even sending our child to the cheapest nearby private option will end up costing $150-200K in lost equity and tuition bills over the course of 9 years, and that's just for one kid.

I know firsthand that schools not performing at the desired level can be changed rapidly through parental and community involvement. I've seen it occur in cities faced with swift population changes such as DC. However, this change does not occur due to one or two active parents, it requires a committed group of residents. So the question becomes, are you committed?

"Life's most persistent and urgent questions is, 'What are you doing for others?'" ~Martin Luther King Jr.


  1. I totally agree with you on #3. If we all could benefit from good quality education regardless of our socio-economic status, it will give us hope/opportunities for financial upward mobility and also will probably strengthen the middle class in our society (the strong middle class = happy, healthy society.) I grew up in Japan and we had a very good public school system. Our government at the time financially invested into our education (obviously the money was allocated wisely, too), and it benefited all of us. It takes sure takes entire community to make our education better, but it's worth the effort :)

    1. Thanks for your perspective Yuko. I did not know you grew up in Japan. My husband lived in Japan for several years and has commented in the past on how well educated he thought the people were.

  2. We lived in London for 15 years some of them with three of our four kids - loved living in a city but in the end we moved over here because it was so labour intensive - always at the park and kids supervised. However if we'd still lived there they would have been able to get around better. Oakland is good compromise as loads of outdoors but still urban

  3. I'm very much a city person as well and more than anything love the idea of not being car dependent. My children attended a socioeconomically diverse school and I am so happy they did. I find the "very best" school districts SO limited in diversity and you end up with a bunch of upper middle class bored and privileged kids. I had the option of raising my kids in one of those kind of school districts (McLean, Va) and I'm so glad to have opted out.

  4. I think it's great to be able to send your kids to diverse schools. The people skills they pick up along the way are priceless. The DC area has tons of diversity if you live in the right part of the city or in a mixed suburb. Unfortunately, in some areas of the country there are very few diverse school options available. I've been trying my hardest to identify as many as possible in the Baltimore area.

  5. Thanks for taking the time to discuses this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. US Property Investment education tour