Over at Sightline, the ever-awesome Eric de Place takes down a flawed piece on Crosscut lamenting Seattle's supposed lack of families with kids.

Calling the Crosscut piece, by former UW professor Dick Morrill, a "bizarre piece of writing," de Place notes that the story's central premise---that the number of families with kids in Seattle isn't just low, but is declining precipitously---is false.
In fact, over the last decade -- the period of time that Morrill purports to analyze but doesn't -- Seattle became a bona fide magnet for children, adding nearly 6,000 kids to the population. In terms of attracting and retaining kids, Seattle easily outperformed King County as a whole, Washington as a whole, and the United States as whole. In the Northwest, only two other large cities did as well: Bellevue and Salem.

Morrill goes on to blame density and growth management for this alleged decline in the number of kids in Seattle, a claim de Place eviscerates by noting that Morrill presents "no evidence to support his claim. None. And his claim is contradicted by the evidence."
First, Seattle's "child gap" only began to shrink after the growth management era kicked in around 1996. That's right: after growth management started, Seattle stopped losing and started gaining kids relative to the rest of the state. Second, the other locations that did well for children -- Salem and Bellevue -- were also both adding considerable density during that same time period. Both, furthermore, are subject to growth management laws. In fact, local demographers tell me that Bellevue's remarkable growth in children occurred almost entirely in that city's densest areas: downtown, Crossroads, and Factoria.

Finally, de Place touches on the thing about Morrill's piece that really chapped my hide: The notion that "traditional families"---that is, a married mom and dad with biological kids---are the norm, and thus the ideal.
Both in the article's kicker and in the analysis, Morrill focuses on "married couples with children, the historic norm." I'll grant that's the historic norm (and I'll grant it's the way that Census data are most easily parsed), but it's an extremely limited viewpoint. It's blind to the substantial numbers of families with gay parents or straight-but-unwed parents, which are a huge feature of the landscape of urban families. A far better way of evaluating demographics is just to look at how many kids there are, irrespective of whether the parents look like "the historic norm."

I'll go one step further and say that the absence of kids does not mean that a city is dying. Singles, childless couples, and empty-nesters, gay or straight, all contribute to the vibrancy and diversity of a community, and their predominance in Seattle shouldn't be viewed as a bad thing, but merely as a fact. Children are not the ne plus ultra of cities, any more than any other demographic group make cities good or bad, and heaping moral opprobrium on those of us who choose to live in dense urban areas and not have large broods of kids does neither side of the density debate any good.
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