“Is it better to live in the city or in the suburbs when you have a family?” This is a common question for people who are looking for a place to settle down and raise kids. Both the city and the suburbs have their share of advantages and disadvantages, but how do you decide which is the best place for your family? We’ve compiled a few pros and cons of urban vs. suburban living to help you make the choice that’s right for your needs!
Raising a Family in the City
Abundant Entertainment Options
One major advantage of raising children in the city is easy access to after-school or weekend activities. Movie theaters, museums, galleries, and festivals are all fun ways for kids and parents to enjoy themselves outside the home. Plus, most entertainment districts are within walking distance.
If your family lives in the city, you can increase your exercise and decrease your time in a vehicle. Along with more amenities, cities have public transit options like trains, buses, or subways that can make getting your kids to activities or home without a car easy.
Cheaper Transportation Costs
Owning a vehicle costs roughly $8,558 a year, making it a major expense that can strain family budgets. But living in a city means your family can walk and utilize public transportation more often, saving on vehicle maintenance costs and gas. You may even be able to get rid of your vehicle altogether!
Speaking of transportation, if you work and live in the city, you can cut your drive time to work drastically. With 25 minute one-way average commute times (not including rush hour delays), those who work in the city but live in the suburbs spend at least an hour a day in commute traffic.
In the city, your kids will be able to meet people from all walks of life. Schools are often more diverse, and after-school activities will offer opportunities to expand social horizons. Even walking the streets will provide tons of visual stimuli and the chance to sharpen their street smarts.
A family of four spends about $871 a month on groceries. While you’d think the suburbs would have cheaper groceries due to the availability of big grocery stores, living in the city actually means lower prices. Most urban areas have small businesses that can offer more product variety at competitive prices.
Lower Utility Bills
Living in a small apartment or condo means drastically different utility bills than a house. And since you spend less on gas for your vehicle, it means you have less of a carbon footprint by living in the city.
Fewer Driving-Related Accidents
One myth about cities is that they’re unsafe for families. But a University of Virginia study concluded that cities may actually be safer than outer suburbs because of the lower risk of involvement in car accidents.
Smaller Home Means Less Clutter
Generally, living in the city means your family will be in a smaller space. That can be a good thing, especially if you’re trying to minimize clutter. Instead of filling every room of a suburban house with things, you’ll have less to maintain, less to pick up, and more chances to go outside and experience city life.
Lack of Private Outdoor Space
City living generally requires tighter quarters, making it difficult to find an apartment or condo with ample outdoor living spaces. And when you have restless kids who need to run around, that can be a problem.
Might Not Be Allowed to Have Pets
Depending on where your family lives, you may not be permitted to have pets. If you do find an apartment or condo building where pets are allowed, there may be breed and weight restrictions, plus a costly pet deposit and pet fees.
Police sirens, rowdy nightlife seekers on the streets, honking traffic—these are just a few noises your family will have to get used to in the city.
Higher Cost of Living
Some cities can have a higher cost of living than their surrounding suburbs. The same goes for housing and childcare. City residents spend about $9,073 more on these costs than their suburban counterparts.
Higher Local Taxes
If you’re looking to save money on taxes, the suburbs may give you an edge. Cities have higher taxes than the surrounding suburbs because of street maintenance and business districts. Some cities may also have higher property taxes than the suburbs, though some research shows there may not be much difference.
Difficult to Find Parking
With a family of four, it might be hard to get around without a car. Some apartments don’t offer off-street parking, making it even more difficult to get your family where they need to go.
Raising a Family in the Suburbs
Peace & Quiet
One of the advantages of living in the suburbs is quieter streets. Suburbs don’t have the loud noises of the city that would otherwise keep your kids (and you) up at night. Living in a house instead of an apartment also means no sharing of walls, and less noise from neighbors.
Access to Great Schools
Moving to the suburbs can mean easier access to good schools. While there are great schools in cities, suburbs generally have more wealth, meaning more money goes into nearby public school systems. Schools in the suburbs often have better teacher-to-student ratios and less crowding, too.
More House for the Money
If you live in a larger city, you may pay the same amount (or more) for a condo versus a house in the suburbs. In fact, homes in U.S. suburbs average around $230,000, with comparable homes in cities averaging $431,000. Price per square foot can be much lower in suburbs, making a larger home more affordable for families.
More Room for Amenities
Raising a family in the city has its share of challenges. You might not be able to find a home with amenities like a washer/dryer, dishwasher, or additional storage space. Living in a house in the suburbs can offer more convenience and space that makes raising a family a little easier.
Less Expensive Childcare
Families living in some major cities spend a whopping $43,652 a year on housing and childcare versus $34,579 in suburbs. That $9,073 you’d save per year could go toward vacations or home improvement.
In the suburbs, your children will most likely attend the same school or daycare as other children in the neighborhood, so it’s easy to make friends. Suburbs also have a plethora of families with young children, meaning playdates, babysitters, or lunchtime companions are just a few steps away.
It’s hard enough to get kids moving in the morning. With a garage, you don’t have to worry about finding your car on the street, and you won’t have to bother scraping your windows.
Lack of Entertainment Options
A major difference between urban and suburban living is the proximity to activities. The suburbs can be just far enough from the excitement of the city that driving to museums and theaters can be an inconvenience.
Commuting to work and school can take more time in the suburbs, translating to more time behind the wheel and less with your family. And since there are fewer opportunities to use public transportation in the suburbs, you’ll be leaving a bigger carbon footprint.
Though the suburbs have quiet streets with lots of sidewalks, they tend to be sprawled out , meaning it’s not as easy to simply walk to the grocery store, pharmacy, school, library, or events.
Higher Transportation Costs
As your kids get older, commute times and driving costs will increase exponentially as they get involved in sports and other activities outside of your immediate area. That, and weekend trips to the zoo or parks will take longer, require more energy, and put more miles on your vehicle.
While this isn’t true in every suburb, there’s no doubt that living in the heart of a city provides more opportunity for kids to meet people of all backgrounds. Suburbs can be fairly homogenous, so your kids will mostly be around people of similar backgrounds.
Now that you’ve considered the pros and cons of living in the city and the suburbs, you can make the best decision for your family!