Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Who Cares How Many Children Live in San Francisco? 

My younger brother’s job is relocating him to New York City after several years living abroad. Married with three children, he’s discovering what many New Yorkers (and many ex-New Yorkers) already know—raising kids in the city ain’t cheap. Less appreciated is that the cost of family formation has a profound effect on our politics. As commentator Steve Sailer has shown, in places where family formation is relatively cheap, people tend to vote Republican. And places where family formation is expensive tend to be dominated by Democratic voters. The affordability of family formation looks to be the best explanation for the gap between the blue and the red states.

Today Steve links to a story about the results of San Francisco’s inhospitable atmosphere for families—just 14.5% of San Fran’s population is under 18-years-old. That’s about half the average for California. It’s easy to see why children and parents who live in San Fran object to this situation. It deprives the kids of playmates and the underlying causes of family flight must make life pretty difficult for those families that decide to remain behind. But let’s not get carried away with our sympathy for the plight of these parents. After all, many of them could also move away, but choose to stay because they want to enjoy the pleasures of a urban life.

What’s a bit more of a mystery is why San Fran’s political structure regards this situation as a problem. The Associated Press story described San Fran mayor Gavin Newsome as “determined to change things” that have led to family flight from the city. But why should San Francisco strive to keep its population of youngsters up?

It’s not as if San Francisco is in danger of depopulation. After all, one of the things driving the families out is the ever-increasing price of housing, driven by ever-increasing demand. Unlike many urban areas, San Francisco has actually seen its population grow over the last twenty years (after a long period of steady or declining population after World War II), primarily due to the influx of gays, Asians and Hispanics into the city.

I've got a couple of ideas I'm playing with, but I wonder what you think. Why is this an urgent issue for San Francisco’s political machinery?

[Oh, and this is as good a post as any to wish the premier chonicle of New York real estate, Curbed, a happy first birthday. Congratulations, Lockhart.]