San Francisco Is Asking: What Happened to the Kids?
The tech boom transforms a city into a twenty-something’s playground.
SAN FRANCISCO — In a studio apartment here a young couple live with their 7-year- old, whom they dote on and take everywhere: a Scottish terrier named Olive.
Raising children is on the agenda for Daisy Yeung, a high school science teacher, and Slin Lee, a software engineer. But just not in San Francisco.
“When we imagine having kids, we think of somewhere else,” Mr. Lee said. “It’s starting to feel like a no-kids type of city.”
A few generations ago, before the technology boom changed San Francisco and sent housing costs soaring, the city was alive with families. Today it has the lowest percentage of children of any of the largest 100 cities in America.
San Francisco, population 865,000, has roughly the same number of dogs as children: 120,000. The share of children is 13 percent, low even compared with another expensive city, New York, with 21 percent. In Chicago, 23 percent of the population is under 18 years old, which is also the overall average across the United States.
Housing costs, an uneven public school system, the attractiveness of the less-foggy suburbs to families, and the large number of gay men and women, many of them childless, have all played roles in the decline in the number of children in San Francisco. The tech boom now reinforces the notion that the city is for the young, single and rich.
Richard Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” said technology workers who move to San Francisco anticipate long hours and know they may have to put off having families.
“It’s a statement on our age that in order to make it in our more advanced, best and most-skilled industries you really have to sacrifice,” Mr. Florida said. “And the sacrifice may be your family.”
Liz Devlin, a senior manager at Twitter, lives with her husband and two children in a three-bedroom apartment. Ms. Devlin said she considered San Francisco a “phenomenal place to raise kids.”
Still, last July, she and her husband decided it was time to leave. “In terms of cost of living, space and schools, I think it’s definitely attractive for people to look outside the city,” said Ms. Devlin, who moved north to Marin County.
Mr. Lee said he loved San Francisco but felt somewhat detached from the life cycle.
“It’s similar to when you go to college and you are surrounded by people who are in the same life stage or who have the same attitude about what their priorities are,” Mr. Lee said. “That’s all you see: people who are exactly like you.”