When you think of the American suburbs, what comes to mind?
Street after street of similar houses? Shopping malls and big yards and white picket fences?
All valid images, but you’re forgetting something that is - or was - a fixture of suburbia: young children, romping on quiet streets and in playgrounds.
According to 2010 Census data, the population of children has dropped in 95 percent of America’s counties, compared with a decade earlier. While the nation’s population grew almost 10 percent in that time, the number of households with children under 18 remained constant, at about 38 million.
Five million more U.S. households have dogs than have children.
Real-estate publications are taking note of the absence of kids in many neighborhoods, except in suburbs where typically larger Hispanic families have moved in.
“Lots of elders, lots of singles, fewer kids,” Armondo Carbonell of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy told Realtor magazine.
In some areas of the country, schools have closed from declining enrollments, some child-oriented businesses are closing, and housing needs are shifting, the magazine reported.
In Levittown, Pennsylvania, a planned community that became the stereotype of suburban sprawl, Jim White recalls that everybody on his street had kids. He told the USA Today newspaper, “At no time could you walk out and not have someone to play with.”
Now, as his neighbor, Kathy Bachman, told the newspaper, “Out of 75 houses on the street, I’d say maybe 15 have kids.”