From the Record:
In a striking reversal, growing numbers of young parents are choosing the bustle of New York City over the calm of suburban life as a place to live, a trend that is already changing the face of some neighborhoods across North Jersey and could have long-term implications for schools, the housing market and beyond.
The number of children under the age of 5 has fallen 20 to 40 percent in many wealthy communities, with an overall drop of 12 percent across Bergen and Passaic counties since 2000, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. At the same time, middle- and upper-income areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn have seen virtually the opposite shift in both the number of young adults as well as preschool children, an analysis of the data by The Record found.
The trend, a break in a pattern that has held since before World War II, has left Bergen County with 6,000 fewer children younger than 5 years old than it had in 2000. Passaic’s figure, meanwhile, has slid by about 6,000 since 2005. Similar declines have appeared in suburban Westchester and Nassau counties in New York, the analysis found.
“This is a huge deal,” said Andrew Beveridge, a sociologist at Queens College in New York City who studies population flows. “Affluent men and women in this area who want to have kids are much more likely to have kids in New York City and not move to the suburbs, which is the opposite of the way things used to go. The city is in, and the suburbs are out.”
But while economic forces go in cycles, the shift in preference for urban life could portend long-term changes in the status of the suburbs as a place to buy houses, settle and raise children.
Already, the fallout is hitting at least a few North Jersey school systems, causing reductions in the number of classes or rerouting of children among schools, officials say.
“It’s astonishing. Remarkable,” said Adam Fried, superintendent in the Harrington Park School District, which cut the number of kindergarten classes after the enrollment dropped from 70 to 36 children in 2012. “It’s a big concern.”
Real estate experts say they’ve noticed the trend as well. Upwardly mobile young families have long been the lifeblood of upscale suburbia. As their numbers decline, the impact could be felt by home sellers already reeling from 20 to 30 percent price drops the past five years, said Jeffrey Otteau, an East Brunswick real estate appraiser who follows the statewide housing market.
“The effect will be less demand and subpar price increases for suburban real estate, and price declines for large-lot luxury suburban houses,” he said. “It’s a zero-sum game.”
Whether the preference for urban life among affluent parents continues into the future remains to be seen.
But Beveridge, the Queens College sociologist, discerns a structural change in how parents see the suburbs, especially if they want to be closer to jobs in the city.
“The suburbs were set up nicely for the idea that the husband would commute to and from city, and the wife would stay home,” he said. “Now, she is working, so that completely changes things, particularly if she is working at a relatively high-status job.”