Yes, Children Need to Live in DC
A Washington Post article published earlier this week argues that “it’s hard to build cities for kids.” Given the economic argument that families with children cost the city money while “young, educated, ambitious” adults bring in revenue, the author posed an interesting question—do children need to live in Washington, DC?
I say, “Yes.” Here’s why:
Children Provide Long-Term Economic Stability
Although it’s true that the percentage of DC residents under 18 decreased during the last decade, the population of children under 5 increased. In 2013, almost 41,000 children ages birth to 4 called DC home. That’s 8,000 more than the 2009 count for this age group. We find the largest growth in the Under 5 child population in Wards 2, 3, 4 and 6, where the city also sees development and economic prosperity.
These areas also have the highest rates of homeownership suggesting that families with young children may be laying down roots. With higher median income, households in these neighborhoods pay more dollars in taxes. Less migration of DC professionals with children to Maryland and Virginia suburbs means more income and property tax revenue for the city. This could be good news for the longterm financial stability of DC.
Children Need the Same Things That Adults Do
Hip restaurants, retail and great parks appeal to young adults with busy social calendars, but these neighborhood assets also benefit children. With the exception of schools, adults of all ages need access to the resources we describe as critical for children to thrive. Amenities like grocery stores, banks, recreation, health care and transportation are the building blocks of vibrant communities for citizens of all ages.
Sure, public schools and social services focused on children are expensive, but they can provide additional benefits to the city. With movement toward the idea of neighborhood schools, educating children is not a school’s only benefit to the community. School-based resources like health centers and recreation (pools, gyms, etc.) increase access to important services for the community. Additionally, libraries provide cultural hubs for literature and gathering places for adult programs like job seeker and financial literacy workshops.
A Child-Friendly City Benefits Everyone
Children need safe and stimulating environments to learn and grow. As described by the International Making Cities Livable Council (IMCL), efforts to make cities friendly to children improve safety and the environment and create additional networking opportunities for adults.
City planning that emphasizes walkability, public transport and traffic calming to increase safety and reduce pollution meets the needs of families with children but benefits the wider community. A consumer base of families with children living in the neighborhood supports local businesses. Adults meet and network through child-centered activities like school and community programs.
Our city needs native Washingtonians to stick around. As IMCL says, “Children who have grown up in a hospitable and complex downtown may as adults contribute great social, intellectual and creative skills to the city they love.”
So yes, DC needs children.
Our city planning and development must reflect this. The emphasis on young, educated, childless adults brought revitalization to some parts of the city, but this may affect our long-term prospects of continued economic stability. Neighborhoods with the city’s largest numbers of residents under 18 do not have the resources and assets needed for children to thrive. These areas located in Wards 7 and 8 have fewer grocery stores, parks and public transportation stops. Our Data Tool 2.0 provides a visualization of these assets as well as other indicators of child well-being.
At DC Action for Children, we believe the entire city benefits when we work to improve outcomes for children. Right now, 1 in 4 DC children live in poverty. As the Washington Post article points out, the city enjoys a surplus. Now it’s time to invest back into the community, especially in areas where DC children still lack access to critical assets, so our city can stay on a path to economic stability for years to come.