You know those “Best-of” articles that magazines churn out when they’re short on good story ideas? Well, sometimes they just don’t sit right. Example: Parenting’s 2011 Best Cities for Families. Number one?
Washington, DC. The history, the government, the breathtaking architecture and inspiring monuments—you don’t have to be a child to get an amazing education in this city. Our nation’s capital is also known for its plenitude of museums—in fact, there are 44, second only to the Big Apple! If your kid enjoys visiting the National Air and Space Museum, imagine fostering his love of airplanes with trips to nearby Gravelly Point Park for front-seat views of the takeoffs and landings at Reagan National Airport. The Capital Crescent Trail, a hard-surface trail from Georgetown to Bethesda, MD, developed on an abandoned rail bed, is a great bike trip that is off the beaten track.
I grew up across the Potomac in Alexandria. I took school field trips to every one of the Smithsonian’s museums. I laid on my back in the grass watching planes fly in and out of National. I rode the bike trails along the river with my dad. I watched the fireworks over the Mall on July 4th. I have a lot of fond memories.
But I would not live in DC today. For one thing, we lived in the Metro area, not the District, and we lived there over thirty years ago when a retired Navy Chief with a mid-level management position in the printing division of a government agency could afford to own a house in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandra. Today that house would be well out of my family’s price range.
Matt Yglesias, who unlike me currently lives in the DC area, gets right to the point:
(T)he obvious drawbacks to raising kids in Washington are bad public schools and high housing costs. But what I think ought to be particularly worrisome to the city’s policymakers is the fact that the housing costs are high despite the fact that DC’s students perform below average for big city schools. Our poor kids do worse than an average city’s poor kids, and our non-poor kids do worse than an average city’s non-poor kids.
Of course, the wealthy residents of Georgetown and other upscale neighborhoods can afford both high housing costs and a private school tuition, while the poor, overwhelmingly African American residents of Anacostia are stuck with dilapidated schools and a violent crime rate that, while no longer “murder-capital” worthy is still too high for anyone to have to tolerate.
Maybe Parenting needs two categories. Perhaps Best Place to Raise a Family if You are Independently Wealthy and Best Place to Raise a Family if You Work for a Living?