I think we can all be thankful for precocious children everywhere — they are the last great hope for homo sapiens.
by Kaid Benfield, via NRDC’s Switchboard
There is probably no other annual event in American culture that extols the concept of family more than Thanksgiving. I’ll be at my in-laws’ home, watching as much sports as possible while still being friendly.
We romanticize family in our society: just watch TV commercials to confirm that. But does our storytale version of family life resemble real family life? Does it exclude people who are not part of or close to their families? Is the concept of “family” changing, with implications for the planning profession? The answers are, of course, seldom; usually; and definitely.
Why does this matter to communities and sustainability? Because we must plan the future of our cities and neighborhoods to account for reality, not our memories, a rosy version of what some believe today’s households “should” be, or even our own personal situations.
As it turns out, the way households are going to be evolving over the next few decades is toward more singles, empty-nesters, and city-lovers, none of whom particularly want the big yards and long commutes they may have grown up with as kids. There will still be a significant market for those things (for example, my in-laws), but it will be a smaller portion of overall housing demand than it used to be. This means that the communities and businesses that take account of these emerging preferences for smaller, more walkable homes will be the ones that are most successful.
Last week the Census Bureau released some fascinating graphs and data about the current state of American households. People are marrying later than they used to, for example, if they marry at all. Among other relevant statistics, the number and portion of people living alone has risen steadily and significantly for decades. So has the number of unmarried couples living together, nearly eight million today compared with only around three million as recently as 1996. Even the number of unmarried couples with children has doubled in less than 20 years.