Is it Possible to Raise a Family in NYC?

2994-Central Park-Bethesda Fountain

Of course it is! Many families in different income ranges are doing it everyday. But I ask this question because I have a few friends who have decided to move out of NYC after having kids. Some couples we know who haven’t had children yet are already planning to leave once they do have them. The reasons usually cited are the cost of living, being closer to family, and the blanket statement that NYC is a “terrible place to raise children.” Granted, most of these families are NYC transplants and have family in other parts of the country. I mentioned in a previous post, Why Do You Live Where You Live?, that one main reason we plan on staying here is because both my wife and I have family here. It doesn’t hurt that NYC is one of the most exciting cities in the world. Here are some reasons why raising a family in NYC is a good idea and some reasons why it’s tough to raise a family here.

Cons:
Cost of Housing

It is undeniable that living in NYC is expensive, significantly housing costs. We currently live in a one-bedroom apartment which is approximately 600 square feet. BUT, a small place is fine since our son is still a baby. Plus, you can optimize the area in a small apartment to maximize your usable space. We’re hoping to buy a co-op which will have a second bedroom. If we have more kids in the future, we can always get bunk beds for them! It probably is much tougher when kids are older though, but living in close quarters with your loved ones isn’t the worst thing in the world.

No outdoor space
Not having outdoor space like a backyard is related to the cost of housing. I remember fondly growing up having a backyard where we would have BBQs in the summer and my parents would buy a inflatable pool or turn on the sprinklers. Other than a balcony or a terrace, there usually aren’t any outdoor space options for apartment dwellers. BUT , you can use city parks as your backyard as there are public outdoor spaces in pretty much every neighborhood.
swing

Pros:

Entertainment options

I think Shannon from Financially Blonde summed it up best in a comment she made on my post, Why Do You Live Where You Live?, when she said:

Things may be cheaper and commutes may be easier outside of New York; however, you also find a lot less culture and activities for kids and adults other than shopping and eating. We took our now 8 year old son to the Met not too long ago, and he loved it. He just had a field trip to the Museum of Natural History and the kids found out they could have a sleep over in the blue whale room. We took him to his first Broadway show last month and he was riveted by the production and wants to see another. We recently watched a program on Nova about the rebuilding of Ground Zero and then went to Ground Zero to see the memorial and museum. We went to a Yankees game for $20 thanks to Groupon to see Derek Jeter play his last season. Living in NY is stressful, it’s hard work, it’s expensive, but if you take back from the city what you are putting into it, you get an amazing return on your investment.

There are tons of museums, zoos, and kid-friendly attractions here in NYC. There are always ways to go there at a discounted price, and there are also a lot of free entertainment options as well. Also, while I don’t want to make a blanket statement about problems in suburbia, I work in suburbia and live in the city (well Queens), and hear many problems related to under-aged teen drinking and drug use. I’m not saying that it’s not a problem in the city, it most certainly is, I do think that boredom in suburbia is one of the causes of drinking/drug use.
free events

Walkability/Public Transportation

One of the things I really like about living in NYC is that it is convenient and walkable. You don’t need a car to go everywhere. This was a big positive growing up too. I didn’t have to get a ride from my parents to go everywhere, which seems like the case with many kids in suburbia. When I was old enough to go out on my own, I could walk a few blocks to buy a slice of pizza, catch a movie at the local theater, or take the subway to Manhattan where there are even more entertainment options.

Different cultures/Diversity

You can see the world in just one city! You can have Dim Sum at an authentic Chinese Restaurant (no the local Chinese food takeout spot doesn’t have that). You can have a baleada or pupusa from an authentic Central American restaurant. There are also Dominican, Indian, Nepalese, Mexican restaurants, etc…you name it, they have it here. There is Chinatown, Little Italy, and various other communities where you can experience different cultures. I also love the fact that there are many neighborhoods which are very diverse and kids will be exposed to people of every race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and class.

chinese restaurant

55 thoughts on “Is it Possible to Raise a Family in NYC?

  1. Income Surfer

    Well Andrew, it would certainly be a different childhood than I had……but that doesn’t mean there is a thing wrong with it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Honestly, I think the cultural and demographic aspects would be good for the kids. I think it would be harder on the parents…….

    I love to visit big cities like NYC and Chicago, but to VISIT. I’m a country mouse, through and through. I need to be in the woods or on the boat……that’s just the way I am.
    -Bryan
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    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea, I was born and raised in the city so I can understand the different mindset!

      Reply
  2. Glen Craig

    Living in NYC is a balancing act. On the one hand you have a city that is vibrant like no other and is full of things to do and see. OTOH, it’s also filled to the brim with people and operates at a different speed than most places. I grew up in NYC but I live just outside its borders now. Though there’s a lot I miss I’m also happy we moved.
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      It definitely is a balancing act, and it’s still possible that we move out of NYC at some point in the future. Most likely out to the island…just outside the borders of NYC =).

      Reply
  3. Tonya@Budget and the Beach

    I think there are some definite pros to living in a city like NY and raising kids. Like you said the culture is undeniable. I don’t want kids myself, but if I did I’d try to find more of a balance between space and culture. I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit which was very vanilla and boring, and had no culture whatsoever, but there was plenty of space and safety. So for me I’d maybe pick a mid-sized city. Something like Seattle, Portland, Denver, or Austin.
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      So you don’t think LA is a good place to raise a family? The cities you mentioned are family friendly from what I’ve heard. I’ve only been to Seattle which is a great city…though the weather can be a bit gloomy.

      Reply
  4. Shannon @ Financially Blonde

    Thanks for sharing my comment! You obviously know how I feel on the subject, but just to add to it, we had the choice to raise my son in the Southeast. I had a great job and they wanted me to stay and I could have worked there as long as I wanted. We specifically chose to leave, though, because we wanted him to have exposure to a unique culture and experience that I believe you could not get anywhere in the world. People say they want to leave to get out of the “rat race” and as my hubby always says “there are just other rats.” I would not trade all of the hard work and energy for anything else. When my son graduates high school, that’s a whole different conversation. :-) Until then, we are happy here.
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    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks for your comment…it really captured the positives of raising a child in NYC. If you don’t mind me asking…are you in the city or right outside in the suburbs? I’m in Queens which is technically part of the city, but to many they don’t call it the city since it’s not Manhattan.

      Reply
  5. E.M.

    I can imagine being raised in NYC is an enriching experience. My parents hated the city, so I wasn’t really exposed to it much growing up. To be very honest, I wasn’t exposed to much culture at all where I grew up, even versus where my boyfriend grew up. That can definitely have its own disadvantages. Many of my peers and I were kind of sheltered. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to raise a family in the city. It’s a challenge, but a worthy one!
    E.M. recently posted…My Frugal Makeup RoutineMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea it would be great if we can raise our family here in the city, but it’s a possibility that we’ll move out to the island in the future. It would be nice to have more space at some point…though it’ll probably be somewhere that is just on the border or has quick access to the city.

      Reply
  6. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    I think each family has to decide what’s best for them, depending on their goals as parents, you know? And it sounds like you guys have a great idea of your goals for what you instill in your children, and it also sounds like NYC fits in pretty well with those goals. I think what’s most important is that parents think long-term about what kinds of values they want to share with their children, and what kinds of interests and culture they want to expose their children too, and make a decision as to where to raise their kids accordingly.
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…A Singular Focus of Paying Off Debt Leads to PeaceMy Profile

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      It definitely makes sense for us at this point with family nearby and plenty of activities for kids.

      Reply
  7. Zee @ Work To Not Work

    The entertainment options are the exact same reason that I live in San Francisco. Sure I could live in a neighboring city for less, but now that it’s summer there’s usually a street fair every few weeks and there’s a lot of great stuff within walking distance all the time. The cheaper nearby places are great but I would get so bored in them that I would constantly driving to the city to entertain myself anyways.
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I’ve been to San Francisco…very cool city. Expensive though…just like NYC. Summer is always an exciting time and it’s always great to be walking distance to great stuff.

      Reply
  8. Pretired Nick

    People have a weird idea that if you don’t have a typical suburban life, you’re doing some sort of disservice to your kids. I’m a big fan of in-city child-rearing. Car-oriented living leaves people isolated from their communities and lets them live in a bubble where everyone is just like themselves. It’s not healthy for people or communities. As far as cost, I think commuting costs and other costs associated with suburban life easy map to the supposed higher cost of living in big cities. I think it all nets out to about the same.
    Pretired Nick recently posted…Harleys are dumbMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I remember you had a great post listing factors which make a city great. I definitely like not having to drive everywhere, especially since we only have one car. Plus, I don’t always trust my wife’s driving (don’t tell her I said that!)

      Reply
  9. Jessica

    I agree with you, I am pregnant with my second child. My oldest is 8 I live in Queens I cant afford to buy a single family home but I don’t want to go pay more rent vs buying :(

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Congrats to you Jessica! Yes, we’d love to buy a home in Queens but it’s really expensive, especially in areas with good schools. We’re hoping to buy a co-op…it seems like the only thing that is affordable, but there are many negatives associated with co-ops as well. We’ve been renting for awhile and decided it was time to buy something…the main reason being that our rent for a 1-bedroom is not much less than what our mortgage/maintenance would be in the place we’re hoping to get. Nothing wrong with renting, but it just made more sense to buy at this point for us.

      Reply
  10. Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog

    It’s all about your mindset. Like Shannon said, you will get culture that you wouldn’t get outside NY, but you will save money if you live elsewhere. The are always pros and cons. If you have the right mindset and do things with discipline, they will happen. If you stay positive, everywhere can be a great place to live. On the other hand, if you think NYC is too expensive and you can’t afford to live there, you probably can’t…not because of your finances, because of your mindset.
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      It definitely is hard for a lot of people to make it in NYC if they have the wrong mindset (always trying to keep up with the Joneses)…I’ve already realized that there’s no point in doing that!

      Reply
  11. anna

    I love that picture – is that your little one?? :) Also loved that you mentioned pupusas – I’ve had such a big craving for it, and the best place in SD no longer is open on Saturdays (of course, that’s when we planned to go). Thanks for sharing the NYC pros and cons… I still tend to be a West Coast girl, but always interested in learning about other cities. :)
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks, yes that’s him…he loves the swing! My wife grew up in Honduras and introduced me to pupusas and baleadas…I have a craving for it too. I might have to go pick some up today! Hope everything is going well with you.

      Reply
  12. John @ Wise Dollar

    I’m assuming that’s a pic of your son? If so, love the pic. :) That is our little one’s favorite thing to do. At any rate, I think it’s totally possible to raise a family in NYC. My wife and I went through what we wanted to do when we were first married and living in San Diego. I know that NYC is definitely more expensive than San Diego but it’s a lot closer to that end of the extreme than Omaha is. We wanted to be able to afford a house which likely wouldn’t have happened in San Diego, plus we also wanted a city we could call our own so one parent didn’t feel like we were picking one over another. That said, while Omaha does have some diversity it’s absolutely nowhere near what you’ll find in more major cities.
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yes, that’s him…he loves the swing! I definitely would like to buy a house in the future…not sure if that means moving out of the city. But if it does, it’ll probably be in the suburbs of NYC.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea, the pre-k interview sounds crazy. I don’t think it’s that crazy out in the outer-boroughs, but education options are something to think about. I live in an area where the school district is considered pretty good…but that’s also why the housing costs are higher. And I also know parents who are already preparing their kids for the kindergarten entrance exam to get into the gifted and talented programs!

      Reply
  13. Alexis

    I think the only thing I would be worried about living in the city is the amount of space my child would have. They obviously probably wouldn’t have a backyard and if they wanted to play outside they would probably have to go to a park nearby, which isn’t so bad but it isn’t a backyard either.

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea, I worry about that too. I’d like to have a backyard also, but the parks and other outdoor spaces will have to do for now.

      Reply
  14. Joshua Rodriguez @ CNAFinance.com

    NYC definitely sounds like a fun place to visit, but I think the fast paced life would be a little much for me. I rarely go to crowded areas because I like my space, I couldn’t imagine actually living in a crowded city. I’m in the outskirts of Portland. Where I live, it’s incredibly tranquil and I’m only about 45 minutes away from down town. It works out well for me. I definitely see the meaning behind if you take out what you put in, NYC has a great ROI…I’m just not sure I’d be willing to live that lifestyle personally. I love the woods way too much!
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  15. femmefrugality

    We are having trouble deciding on whether to move to the burbs or not. Pittsburgh is no NYC, but a lot of your points are the same. Our biggest issue is schools. The husband went to a magnet school, and even his stories of a “good” school make me want to pack up and leave. But then there’s also violence. While more common in city schools, it’s also more predictable… I dunno. I like living in the city as an adult, but we have really great education options in our suburbs. We’re still up in the air. The city is cheaper here aside from taxes.
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I’m struggling with that too, but I think there are some decent schools districts here in the city. While the suburbs supposedly have better schools in general, I think you can often find good ones in the city as well. Plus, as I mentioned, boredom leading to alcohol and drug abuse seems to be a problem when the kids become teenagers. I’m surprised that the city is cheaper where you are! Well at least housing is generally cheaper in the suburbs.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea, most cities are pretty good at that if it has a decent sized population. You’re right about the other elements though…

      Reply
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  17. Ryan @ Impersonal Finance

    I think the cost of living would be the biggest drawback, as well as the lack of outdoor space. I have very fond memories of just being a little kid and playing outside without adult supervision, but that probably isn’t possible in NYC. The culture is second to none, but having lived downtown in Chicago, it really is about what you get back from it. I know people that lived there for years and never went to a museum or Cubs game. And honestly, I don’t even know how you afford NYC. It really boggles my mind sometimes, so I am really impressed.
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I played outside without adult supervision, but you’re right that not many parents allow kids to do that as much nowadays. You’re also right about some people living in great cities who never take advantage of it. And thanks for the compliment…I don’t live in Manhattan…that helps a lot, but it’s still pretty expensive here!

      Reply
  18. Kim

    I think it doesn’t matter where you live as long as you realize there are all kinds of people in the world. I grew up never seeing an Asian or even Jewish person until I was in my teens. I wouldn’t say my family is racist per say, but they do have a huge fear of the unknown which makes it much harder to assimilate into life outside the southern US. On the other spectrum I’ve met people from the East coast who think all people from the South are hayseed idiots. I love the open space of the southwest US but I want my daughter to experience all sorts of places so she never feels trapped due to fear of the unknown.

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Open space is one thing we’re definitely lacking here in NYC! I definitely would like my son to experience different places as well…hopefully he’ll be up for some traveling. Actually I’m hoping I’m up for traveling with a little one!

      Reply
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  20. Tom

    We probably wont try for a kid for a few years, but when we do, I could never imagine raising my kid in NYC. Not that I think there is anything wrong with it, its just not the way I would like my kid to be raised.

    The outdoors is extremely important to my wife and I so we want to be able to put them on a paddle board or teach them how to surf. I know, I know – some of the hardcore NYer’s wont just give up there (some of my extended family is included in this group, its as if they cant fathom the idea that the nyc area isnt perfect for everyone) and say you can surf at Far Rockaway or kayak in the Hudson, but the idea of taking more than an hour to get to the beach means its not a viable option as often as I would like.

    I still remember my trek from the upper east side to far rockaway to surf, what an adventure it was, not to mention all the glares from carrying a surfboard on the subway.

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yes, it seems that people who love the outdoors (especially swimming and surfing), NYC is probably not for them. You can probably live closer to the water here and not take an hour to get there, but winter can be pretty long and harsh up here. I can probably get to Far Rockaway in less than 30 minutes.

      Reply
  21. BobRoberts

    Why not just live across the river in NJ, or in Yonkers, or in CT and drive/PATH in to the city whenever you want?

    Save on taxes, get a nicer place to live.

    I grew up 30 miles west of the city and went in all the time.

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Good point…but I work out on Long Island so it would make more sense to move out there. Property taxes are a lot higher and I’d likely need another car. How are the property taxes out in Jersey?

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      And I’ve always wanted to see Australia…heard it’s beautiful there! I’m sure you’ll make it here some day.

      Reply
  22. Clementine Isabella Sophie Florence Cecelia Marie Grace Emily Charlotte Smythe-Worthington

    As a child I moved around a lot (I grew up in Germany, when I was 4 we moved to France, when I was 7 we moved to Italy, at 10 we moved to China and at 13 we spent a year and a bit in Spain) , I learned different languages and tasted a variety of cultural foods and as soon as I came ton NYC I loved it, I was only 14 when I moved, but oh my goodness, I would pay to see the facial expression on my face the first time I went to times square, the first time I saw a Broadway show (in America), there is something about NYC that seems to charm the pants off residents and visitors. I really love NYdC, when my parents and I first moved here, honestly if you can afford living then go do it. Despite what some of my relatives thought and loudly said about my parents taking me to live in NYC as opposed to other states, they had no idea about what I experienced over the years, the people I met, who came from all different cultures. Some people disapprove about raising kids in NYC but honestly, it’s amazing. NYC is beautiful and there are a range of things to do. Honestly, I’m proud my husband and kids are New-Yorkers and I am happy that I am one!

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Wow, you’ve lived in so many countries! NYC is a great in it’s diversity in people and cultures. If only it weren’t so expensive =)

      Reply

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