October 10, 2008

Move Up? Move Out? Families Squeeze In

Since I have oodles of time to ponder the meaning of life and mentally furnish the gorgeous pre-war penthouse of my future, I have been thinking a lot about the perks of city vs. country life.

At the moment, I am quite ensconced within the confines of suburban New Jersey, and while it is absolutely gorgeous and I loved growing up here, since starting college I've come to feel a wee bit trapped. When it takes you twenty minutes to drive to a coffee shop, and on that route you see more acorn-munching deer and herds of buffalo than human beings, you really can't help but wonder what motivates people's desire for isolation.

Basically, that was a super long and me me me-focused introduction to this NY Times article about the increasing number of upper-middle-class Manhattan families who are choosing to remain squashed in a one-bedroom apartment rather than giving up the perks of the city and moving to the suburbs.

The family in the picture below bought their 700 sq ft West Village loft a decade ago. They've since had to make room for a home office and two children.

Tina Fineberg for The New York Times

They converted a walk in closet/laundry room into a bedroom for their six year old daughter. Their two year old son currently sleeps on a fold out mattress at the foot of the bed, and they're trying to figure out how to create some kind of private space for him.

A professor of child development at Columbia University, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn notes that "The vast majority of humans alive today, and those in the past, have lived in close quarters," which only seems new to developed nations like the U.S. where each child is expected to get their own bedroom.

NYU sociologist Kathleen Gerson notes that in major cities, where there is less private space, people tend to spend more time in public areas outside the home.

It's a very interesting read. And definitely fits right into my personal musings of late. I've been wondering, from an evolutionary perspective, is it more natural for humans to want to live in close quarters and be part of a close-knit urban community, or isolate themselves enough to have land and space that is specifically theirs?

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