The following is a distillation of a Tim Keller lecture entitled, “It Takes a City to Raise a Child,” in which he argues why it is not only possible to raise a family in the city but actually the better option versus raising a family in the suburbs.

3 ‘Cons’ of City Life for Families:

1. Taxes and money. Taxes and rent alone are far more costly in the city. The cost of living may prohibit some of the activities parents might like to do with their families.

2. Physical logistics. Getting around is more complicated. On the ‘Front 9’ (ages 0-9), it is more difficult to physically get around with little kids. But on the ‘Back 9’ (ages 10-18), it is considerably easier. The kids can go to the doctor or dentist, school, extra-curricular activities by themselves. Outside the city, without the transportation system, parents have to drive the children everywhere until they are 16 and parents buy them a car. And, in the city, kids just can’t run and play in the yard.

3. Complexity of the educational choices. There are many educational options and navigating education for one or more children can be very complex and overwhelming. But, it can also be seen as a plus with the richness of choice.

8 ‘Pros’ to Raising Children in the City:

1. Kids will think they are living in the real world. A doctoral study found kids from Christian families were more likely to embrace their parents’ faith when they perceived their parents to be in touch with the ‘real world’, understood them, and their issues. Living in the city, children will have a greater sense of what it takes and costs to live in the ‘real world’ and will not be drawn by the ‘glitz’ of somewhere else. Cities give youth a taste of the big world and subdue the feeling to ‘run away’ to somewhere else (which often includes ‘leaving’ the faith of their parents).

2. City life undercuts youthful self righteousness towards you and your faith. Keller says Kids want to believe that their parents do not know anything about the ‘real world’. Teenagers want to believe their parents live in a ‘la-la’ world. Living intentionally in the City can provide an enormous amount of respect towards their parents’ faith when kids see tangibly what their parents’ faith means and does.

3. Your children will become more self reliant and self confident growing up in the City. Keller shares a story about sending one of his kids on a school trip to Paris in the 8th grade and how the NY parents were told that they had to communicate to their kids that they needed to stay with chaperons on the trip. Apparently NY kids figure that since they can navigate NYC- they can deal with any other city in the world.


4. The kids are going to be better at handling diversity.
The essence of suburbia is zoning (i.e. monoculturalistic). “That would be a great place to raise kids” usually means that everyone there is like me. Not so in the culturally diverse city.It creates more of a connection between home, work and church. At first, families go everywhere together. Commutes are considerably shorter, increasing face time with family. There are many more options for any and all of your kids’ interests, that you can do together with them.When kids go to church and see adults, they cannot envision ever being 35, married with kids. They can envision being 20 something and hot. In suburbia, all the young adults are in the city. Seeing young, passionate adults following Christ gives teenagers pictures of who they could become. This does not necessarily happen with a “great youth group”.

5. The City pushes the family together.

6. In the City, teenagers can more easily see a Christianity they can envision becoming.


7. Parents can help kids process the real world.
Kids in the city run into issues that many other kids do not run into until they go off to college- only at college you are not there to help them navigate these issues. In essence, Keller says you “go to college with your kids before they go to college.” The diversity of city schools, neighborhoods allows kids to be more comfortable with who they are.

8. The pressure to conform in the City, in general, is less pervasive.