At the end of last year, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission weighed a proposed zoning change that would effectively ban new day-care centers—along with tire stores and car repair shops—in a large chunk of northwest Philadelphia. The bill swiftly encountered fierce resistance, and it now appears dead. But the effort to block additional child-care facilities with a zoning overlay hints at a broader relationship between city planning and the cost of raising children. A growing body of research indicates that restrictive zoning—which often blocks the services and housing that families need—may help to explain why family sizes are shrinking in the United States.
The U.S. birth rate recently sunk to a 30-year low, a trend that’s been blamed on everything from economic anxieties and climate change to the rise of smartphones and the Millennial “sex recession.” Perhaps we should also lay some of the responsibility at the feet of city planning.