Family Issues

All Hail Supermoms!

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According to a University of Maryland study, contemporary mothers spend more time tending directly to their kids than mothers did 40 years ago, even though more women work outside the home today. In 1965, for example, mothers spent 10.2 hours per week focused directly on kids (feeding them, playing with them, etc.). Now they spend more than 14 hours a week, the study reported. The findings are included in the book "Changing Rhythms of AmerToday's women sacrifice housework, free time and sleep, and they "multitask."

And yet, the study's lead author predicts that guilt will rule the ladies' roost:

They should find comfort in the findings, "but they won't," predicted Suzanne Bianchi, the study's lead author and a native Iowan. "No matter what, they still feel guilty."

More here.

The University of Maryland has long been doing fascinating work on the changing ways in which Americans actually use their time. A decade ago (christ!), I interviewed Terrapin scholar John Robinson, coauthor of a great book called Time for Life: The Surprising Ways Americans Use Their Time, which found, among other things:

Americans average about 40 hours of free time per week. That's a gain of almost one hour per day since 1965. This is time apart from work, meals, personal grooming, child care, sleep, etc. It's time spent on sports and recreation, with TV, radio, and movies, reading for pleasure, and hobbies. But when people are asked how much leisure time they have, their median estimate is about 16 hours a week. In fact, less than one out of five American has fewer than 20 hours of free time a week.

Another surprise has to do with what we call "more-more" behavior. For instance, people who have personal computers in their households don't read fewer books, magazines, or newspapers than people without PCs–they read more. The cliché that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person, has a great deal of truth to it.

More here.

NEXT: Airborne All the Way

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  1. I’ve heard these “Amazing Bread Machine” type stats before, and I generally agree with them [especially the personal consumption data], but isn’t the “free time” stat skewed by the fact that the percentage of our population that is elderly and retired has steadily increased over time?

    It’s hard to accept data that paints a spreading world of leisure, when there’s a lot of 16 hour a day numbers getting plugged into the data from invalids and nursing home residents.

  2. My mom ahd her sisters were talking about this a few years ago, but including the fathers too. They were saying that me and my cousins were such better parents and did more things with our kids than they did.

    I guess they were right, when I looked back on what my folks did with me and what I did with my son. Their perspective still seems a little unfair towards them, but I guess it is that guilt stuff from the article too.

  3. according to http://www.slate.com/id/2161309/, the leisure time of Hard Working Americans has stayed put, while the Just Plain Working Americans’ leisure time has increased. so i buy it, because Hard Work isn’t as hot as it used to be. or whatever your grandpa would say.

  4. the “spending time with kids” stat is the one that gets me smirking. are we exchanging family dinners and playing ball for driving the brats to practice? if it’s an hour in traffic with the kids slumped in the back seat, does that really count?

  5. “In 1965, for example, mothers spent 10.2 hours per week focused directly on kids (feeding them, playing with them, etc.)”

    I’m usually not one to nitpick, but I find the above stat hard to believe. That is only an hour and a half a day.

  6. Cab –

    I think there’s some reporting bias there.

    If you ask a parent who is in the home with the child all day how much time they’re spending with their kids, they may underreport because “just being around” time is the norm to them, so they are hyperspecific about delineating interaction time. When I was a kid, if my mom and I happened to be swimming in the pool at the same time, but she was swimming laps and I was goofing around, I doubt she would have reported it as “interaction” time.

    Today’s parents probably consider it interaction time as soon as their tires hit the driveway.

  7. Actually Fluffy, my daughter is a divorced mom that works 40-45 hrs a week and spends an amazing amount of time doing things with her 6 yr old daughter. She originally did this for several reasons one of which was a feeling of guilt for having to put her in day care before she started school. Now that her daughter is in school, they spend a lot of time together just because they have come to enjoy their shared activities.

  8. How much of the extra time with the kids is the result of keeping them in the house, rather than letting them run around the neighborhood with other kids?

    And meals should NOT be counted as something that takes away from our leisure time. People who spend a hour dawdling over dinner at the table with the family are not enjoying less leisure time because they didn’t wolf down hot pockets in five minuts while watching TV.

  9. Americans average about 40 hours of free time per week.

    Americans without jobs maybe. You’ve got separate populations here you can’t just average them into one figure. Children living at home, are different from students living at school, are different from part-time workers, are different from full-time workers, are different from stay at home parents, are different from retirees. I’m sure there’s several more categories too. But when it comes to free time, it just doesn’t make sense to talk about dad and grandpa at the same time. Indeed, the increased elderly population, could account for the whole hour/day.

  10. Does quality vid time count? I kicked my stepson’s ass last night at Xbox FIFA Soccer. He then went on to pummel his younger brother and came to tell me after each goal. Or are video games destroying the family and the country? Please give me guidance.

  11. Pro Lib

    I, for one, count it as quality. I never really got the point of video games myself. And I still don’t like them that much, but I do get a real kick out of insisting that my brats never play them unless they do so with me watching. They also have to “teach” me every game they play, which gives them a thrill. (And I, of course, get to supervise every game they play…just in case they ever try anything naughty in something like GTA)

    Lately, they’ve been trying to get me to create a World of Warcraft character, but since I saw the episode of South Park, I refuse to reduce myself to bonding with my kids remotely.

  12. How much of the extra time with the kids is the result of keeping them in the house, rather than letting them run around the neighborhood with other kids?

    I wondered the same thing. It seems to me that some of this may come from modern parents’ habit of scheduling some sort of organized activity to fill up every free second and otherwise be “helicopter parents.”

  13. “And meals should NOT be counted as something that takes away from our leisure time. People who spend a hour dawdling over dinner at the table with the family are not enjoying less leisure time because they didn’t wolf down hot pockets in five minuts while watching TV.” – joe

    Word!

    “How much of the extra time with the kids is the result of keeping them in the house, rather than letting them run around the neighborhood with other kids?” – joe

    But how is urbanization GOOD for this? Aren’t you the guy who thinks suburbs suck? That people should live crammed together in cities under the brilliant rule of city planners in city planned “urban environments?” Dude, I’m confused by this… Maybe I’m just not seeing your statement in the correct light…

  14. rob,

    Thinking that kids in urban neighborhoods don’t have places to play outside with other kids is a misconception common to people who don’t know anything about city life.

    Have you ever, in your life, been to a city? Not to a downtown office building – to a city neighborhood, where people live?

  15. Where are parents going to be more comforable letting their kids play outside – somewhere where they know their neighbors, and there are lots of people around?

    Or somewhere where their neighbors are strangers and they kids will be off by themselves, with no one around?

    If anything, kids in the city – except maybe the high-rise city – are probably outside more.

  16. Pro-LIb

    Since your rightful place in the family structure is at the poker table, or on the toilet for thirty minutes with a newspaper, any time you give is quality time. Consider it bonus time.

    Next time though, don’t go so easy on the lad. And make sure he doesn’t come within ten feet of any tofu.

    Othere then that, you are doing a fine job. He could be The One.

    🙂

  17. Psst…somebody tell Nick that he accidentally wrote kind words for a government school.

  18. “Thinking that kids in urban neighborhoods don’t have places to play outside with other kids is a misconception common to people who don’t know anything about city life.” – joe

    No, it’s an idea common to many people who live and work – or have done so – in cities.

    “Have you ever, in your life, been to a city? Not to a downtown office building – to a city neighborhood, where people live?” – joe

    Of course not! That’s for Morlocks like you! (Sheesh, dumbest pseudo-rhetorical question you’ve popped in a while…)

    “Where are parents going to be more comforable letting their kids play outside – somewhere where they know their neighbors, and there are lots of people around?” – joe

    Uh, no. Because even when you know your neighbors, you never truly know your neighbors. Jeffrey Dahmer lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, an actual city, and did all sorts of horrible things mere feet away from his neighbors- through an apartment wall.

    “Or somewhere where their neighbors are strangers and they kids will be off by themselves, with no one around?” – joe

    My turn – ever lived in a suburb or rural area? It’s a lot more likely to be a place where you know your neighbors and interact with them than a city nieghborhood where people flow through without anyone ever knowing who those people are. Cities are anonymous, suburbs less so, rural areas are pretty much what small town America is stereotyped as.

    “If anything, kids in the city – except maybe the high-rise city – are probably outside more.” – joe

    Right on through the Looking Glass, joe… I grew up in rural and suburban areas and spent most of my life running around outside, fearlessly riding bikes for miles and miles and running across roads and streets without having to “look both ways” because you would HEAR a vehicle before you SAW it. Try that in Milwaukee or even San Francisco…

    I later lived in “Uptown” Minneapolis -probably the “hippest” areas, if any place in Minnesota can be called that – spent a summer in a rather nice neighborhood in Denver, and couldn’t find the house I lived in when I was in San Francisco with a map, and I’ve also lived in downtown Newport News, Va.

    I wouldn’t recommend any of those urban cities to someone with a family, even though Uptown was about as urban trendy/family friendly an environment as I can imagine in a city. Newport News on the other hand? The sound of gunfire was not much of a surprise…

  19. joe, you are right on about dinner. I spend the best hour of my day eating dinner with the kiddos.

    rob, downtown Newport News, huh? It’s a big drop from living in San Fran to the living in the News.

  20. “No, it’s an idea common to many people who live and work – or have done so – in cities.”

    No, not really. At least, not among people who have either had kids, or lived in neighborhoods with people who have kids.

    “Of course not!” Not surprised. It shows.

    “Because even when you know your neighbors, you never truly know your neighbors. Jeffrey Dahmer lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, an actual city, and did all sorts of horrible things mere feet away from his neighbors- through an apartment wall.” Wow, what a sad way to go through life, terrified of people. BTW, in the real world, the answer is “Parents are more comfortable letting their kids outside when they know their neighbors.”

    “My turn – ever lived in a suburb or rural area?” Yup, grew up in one.

    “Cities are anonymous…” You should really stop now. You’re just advertising that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    I grew up in rural and suburban areas and spent most of my life running around “outside, fearlessly riding bikes for miles and miles and running across roads and streets without having to “look both ways” because you would HEAR a vehicle before you SAW it.”

    Yup, ditto. It’s sad the the suburban parents of today are so terrified of sexual predators, satanic cults, or whatever the boogey men of the day are to be as laid back as our own parents were.

    “Try that in Milwaukee or even San Francisco…”

    Nope, they don’t ride their bikes for miles without looking for traffic. They find ways to play better suited for the environments they live in. If you had a broader experience to draw from, you wouldn’t have so much trouble imagining them.

    “I later lived in “Uptown” Minneapolis -probably the “hippest” areas, if any place in Minnesota can be called that – spent a summer in a rather nice neighborhood in Denver, and couldn’t find the house I lived in when I was in San Francisco with a map, and I’ve also lived in downtown Newport News, Va.”

    Wow, hipster kid lives downtown, so he knows what it’s like to grow up on the city! LOL, say hi to you “homies” for me, rob.

  21. “rob, downtown Newport News, huh? It’s a big drop from living in San Fran to the living in the News.” – Cab

    Yeah. I was enlisted in the Navy during that time frame. I just lived where they sent me…

    “No, not really. At least, not among people who have either had kids, or lived in neighborhoods with people who have kids.” – joe

    Really? Just because you live in a nice enough area to live your urban, city-planned dream doesn’t mean it’s a good deal for everyone, or is the sort of thing other people would want. It’s not my cup of tea, for example. Though I’m not against people living in cities in any way they’d like to (as long as I’m not forced to pay for it), I don’t think it’s the best place for me an mine.

    “Not surprised. It shows.” – joe

    Sorry my sarcasm – and the list of cities I’ve lived in – slipped past you.

    “Wow, what a sad way to go through life, terrified of people.” – joe

    I don’t think burying your head in the sand about what people who live in relative anonymity in a crowded environment can get up to equates to “terror.” More like a realistic view of human nature. You should give it a try sometime?

    “BTW, in the real world, the answer is ‘Parents are more comfortable letting their kids outside when they know their neighbors.'” – joe

    Agreed. But somehow you believe that someone is going to get to know all the people who live in their urban environment? Including the ones who just pass through there every day? Please tell me you don’t actually believe you can get to know everyone in your urban neighborhood and everyone who passes through it in an urban environment… That strains even my willingness to believe you live in a parallel universe.

    “Yup, grew up in one.” – joe
    Then you should know that most rural and kids tend to see the outside a bit more than their urban counterparts.

    “Suburban school age children
    – spent more time outdoors, with 87% of suburban children spending 4 or more days outdoors per week compared with 54% of urban children
    – more frequently participated in a community sport league, 62% of suburban children vs. 23% of urban children
    Urban school age children
    – watched more TV or videos, with 25% of urban children watching more than 3 hours or less per day vs. 100% of suburban children watching 3 hours or less per day”

    “Suburban preschool children
    -spent more time outdoors, with 86% of suburban children spending 4 or more days outdoors per week versus 52% of urban children
    – were read to more frequently, with 97% of suburban children being read to 4 or more days per week versus 83% of urban children
    – visited the library more frequently, with 66% of suburban children visiting the library at least 1 to 3 times per month versus 47% of urban children
    – and more often attended summer camp”

    http://www.publichealth.pitt.edu/supercourse/SupercoursePPT/8011-9001/8341.ppt

    “You should really stop now. You’re just advertising that you don’t know what you’re talking about.” – joe

    No, you’re just trying to claim something that is clearly ludicrous. See stats above.

    “Yup, ditto. It’s sad the the suburban parents of today are so terrified of sexual predators, satanic cults, or whatever the boogey men of the day are to be as laid back as our own parents were.” – joe

    I think that the “suburban parents of today? so terrified of sexual predators, satanic cults, or whatever the boogey men of the day” is more mythical than real. You should try getting out of the city and interacting with people outside your bubble? It’s the kind of stereotypical nonsense that people eager to reinforce their belief that urban is superior to suburban and rural eagerly embrace, but I really don’t buy into it.

    “Nope, they don’t ride their bikes for miles without looking for traffic. They find ways to play better suited for the environments they live in.” – joe

    Such as? Frankly, I think that it’s sad that the urban parents of today can’t let their kids ride their bikes on the street for fear of traffic, but hey, if they’re happier in an urban environment, more power to them. Sad that they are apparently also (although perhaps reasonably so) less willing to let their kids play outside for fear of real dangers: traffic, strangers, etc. See stats from above.

    “If you had a broader experience to draw from, you wouldn’t have so much trouble imagining them.” – joe
    Apparently you can’t either?

    “Wow, hipster kid lives downtown, so he knows what it’s like to grow up on the city! LOL, say hi to you ‘homies’ for me, rob.'” – joe

    Hipster? Wow, you have no idea. I’ll always be hipper than you, because it’s hip to be in touch with reality. Love the way you take one place I’ve lived and try to apply it to my entire life experience. Stereotype much?

    Contemporary suburban mindset about letting kids ride their bikes:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-williamson29mar29,0,803913.story?coll=la-opinion-center

    I call BS, citing the same stats from the above citation. A couple of other things are interesting about your use of this article… Couple of other common sense qualms with your citation?

    First, no mention is made of where the writer actually lives, but it’s an article for the LA Times, not exactly a rural area – or even suburban. LA is a city, last I checked.

    Second, I love how your LA Times article has two anecdotal stories to demonstrate what you consider to be a big trend, but which the article has no stats that show this is a major trend and certainly trying to prove the causality of WHY people might keep their kids in doors more would be tough to show…

    Third, though the writer somehow still manages to “dig up” stats about how the rate of such crimes is actually decreasing to demonstrate that the fear is over-rated. I agree with the writer that anyone who keeps their kids indoors out of fear of this sort of thing isn’t playing the odds. I also agree with the writer that kids should be allowed to go outside and play. Admittedly, my reasoning is not because of the writer’s equally goofy scaremongering about childhood obesity rates, but simply because it’s something that’s obviously a good thing for kids to do. (Unsurprisingly, the author can find more stats on childhood obesity and the low rate of child abduction and sexual abuse and that it’s getting lower than for the number of suburban parents who fear to let their kids go outside!)

    Money quote: “My son’s school has a written rule that students in grades K-4 may not ride their bicycles to school. My son and I cheerfully ignore this restriction; I think school rules belong on campus, not off.”

    Amen to that. Such a sensibly rebellious posture is to be admired in the face of what is clearly nonsense – much like being too worried to let your kids out to play. But at the same time, I don’t think you can possibly demonstrate that the fear of child predators keeps suburban/rural kids inside more than urban kids.

  22. Aren’t you the guy who thinks suburbs suck?

    I’m a guy who thinks suburbs suck. I honestly think the advantages to raising children that parents claim to see there are mostly in their imagination. For example, my brother is raising two kids on a prototypical cul-de-sac. There are maybe 10 houses there. The street empties out into a six-lane highway. There are no sidewalks. Now I know that nobody lets their kids play alone anymore… and that’s a shame. The typical suburban design means that parents have no choice but to ferry their kids around to planned activities.

    I, however, grew up in a residential “city” neighborhood. Lots of kids within easy walking or biking distance. Plenty of room in back yards to play. Now one could make a case that Manhattan might not be the best place for kids to play, yet even there kids make do.

  23. rob: nice refutation – facts and reasoning

  24. OK, I can’t completely digest all the preceding, but based on recent posts, I gather joe is somewhat anti-suburb. Not the NYC suburb (which is actually “urb”), but the cul-de-sac infested variety.

    I actually may have to agree with him. I myself grew up in the deep country. Not much in the way of “cultural” stimulation, but my brother and I sure had lots of fun playing in woods where wild animals roamed (including–yes I wrote this, and no, I’m NOT that old–skinny-dipping in lakes where poisonous snakes swam), raiding peach orchards, learning to deal with poison ivy, and (very important this) learning the rules of escaping a charging bull. All this really built character.

    My kids are growing up in the deep city. They’re learning nothing I did, but they are having lots of fun getting along with 200+ different ethnic groups, learning more languages than I ever could, getting “street smarts”, memorizing train timetables, learning all sorts of sports, and getting a kick out of theatres and aquariums and planetariums and museums and zoos, and (very important this) learning how to negotiate anything with anyone.

    So I grew up in a very very very rich environment. They’re growing up in a completely different, yet equally very very very rich environment. The town and the country produce different kinds of kids, but they all grow up pretty cool.

    I worry about the cul-de-sacs, though. Neither town nor country. People too close together for my sort of childhood, yet too far apart for my sons’. I would be very interested in a study of nut-cases (like the Columbine kids) to see what proportion lived in the cul-de-sac suburbs. I think such places may be wonderful for singles and young couples, but crap for kids.

    This may sound poetic, but I think growing kids should either be able to see the stars or the city lights at night. If they cannot see one or the other with clarity, they might be in trouble.

  25. Rhywun

    I like to take my kids across the Hudson into Manhattan. We have a great time there. They “show me around”, and then I take them upstate so I can “show them around”.

  26. rob,

    “Really? Just because you live in a nice enough area to live your urban, city-planned dream doesn’t mean it’s a good deal for everyone, or is the sort of thing other people would want.”

    My, you’re changing the subject a lot.

    As genuinely fascinating as your diversion into discussing your feelings is, they have no bearing on the point – kids in cities manage to play outside, too, even if your limited experience makes it difficult for you to imagine how.

    “relative anonymity in a crowded environment” Repeating your ill-informed prejudice isn’t an argument; at least, not a very good one. Urban environments – with the exception of the auto-oriented high-rise city – are not anonymous. They are far less anonymous, and fare more neighborly, than many suburban environments.

    “But somehow you believe that someone is going to get to know all the people who live in their urban environment?” No, but they will likely know more of them, compared to many suburban environments. Again, it varies depending on the type of urban and suburban environments, but the traditional urbanism I enjoy and defend is very effective at allowing people to encounter and get to know their neighbors – much moreso than the garage-to-parking-lot-and-back landscape of isolated houses and nowhere to walk that characterizes many modern suburbs.

    The study you cite has been criticized for its methodology. “4 or more days outdoors per week” counts only time dedicated to outdoor recreational activity, and ignores the time spent walking as part of daily activities. It also lumped together highrise-style urbanism with traditional small-lot urbanism, as those unfamilar with cities are wont to do.

    “I think that the “suburban parents of today? so terrified of sexual predators, satanic cults, or whatever the boogey men of the day” is more mythical than real.” I think you have very bad timing, and should stay away from the thread above.

    “You should try getting out of the city and interacting with people outside your bubble?” You mean like visit my mother, or sisters? Oh, wait, I do that every week.

    “Such as?” Playing in back lanes, running down the sidewalk, playing in the much-more-convenient playgrounds, ducking in and out of each other’s houses, hiding in the little nooks only they know (or think that only they know)…it’s pretty endless. That you’d even have to ask demonstrates how little you know about kids in the city.

    “First, no mention is made of where the writer actually lives, but it’s an article for the LA Times, not exactly a rural area – or even suburban. LA is a city, last I checked.” A largely suburban city, surrounded by the largest suburban areas in the country, as anyone with a passing familiarity realizes.

    “certainly trying to prove the causality of WHY people might keep their kids in doors more would be tough to show…” Funny, you had no problem imaging what, supposedly, leads urban parents to keep their kids indoors. But intellectual honesty and consistency have never been your hallmarks.

    “Third, though the writer somehow still manages to “dig up” stats about how the rate of such crimes is actually decreasing to demonstrate that the fear is over-rated. I agree with the writer that anyone who keeps their kids indoors out of fear of this sort of thing isn’t playing the odds.” As opposed to urban parents, apparently.

    “Such a sensibly rebellious posture is to be admired in the face of what is clearly nonsense”

    Yes, the chickenshit suburban mindset of terror – for example, thinking that your next door neighbor is Jeffrey Daer – is nonsense, and should be mocked and ignored at every opportunity.

    Hence, my thrashing of you.

  27. Passim,

    I’m not “anti-suburb.” I actually live in an area of my city that I consider suburban (although rob would doubtlessly shrink from it as an urban hellhole). I simply dissent from the city-bashing that people like him indulge in, which makes me a fanatic anti-suburbanist.

    If I’m not with him, I’m against him, you see.

  28. joe

    I may have to correct you. I gather you live in the Boston Metro. I live in the NYC Metro. What we call “suburban” here really is very urban in the South and West. I still balk at Queens or Staten Island being called suburbs, as most people in Manhattan do. I’ve seen areas outside Atlanta and Phoenix which are filled with nice, huge, houses with very nice back yards, remote from all nature, remote from all city life….

    If I were single and childless, I might like it. I would sooner die that raise a child there.

  29. I find it funny that the gentleman arguing with Joe mentioned “kids can’t bike in urban areas” then cited the experience of living in Minneapolis, I’ll call BS on that one. Bigtime:

    http://www.minneapolisparks.org/grandrounds/home.htm

  30. Passim,

    No correction necessary. The inexactitude of the terminology can make things difficult.

  31. I guess I am nostalgic. I just would not want to be a kid in one of those cookie-cutter neighborhoods.

    And eventually, someone is going to fault my parents for letting me and my brother swim naked in a place where copperheads, cottonmouths, and coral snakes ran free. I suppose if I tell them I was bitten by a rattlesnake once, they’ll probably storm my 70-ish parents’ home looking for evidence of other “child abuse”.

    And then they’ll come after me for letting my kids ride the subway alone.

  32. Passim,

    If the cookie-cutter neighborhood backs up on some real open space where the kids can bike and get to know the woods, they can be all right. Actually living the country certainly has its charms.

    But just street after street of houses – what are the kids going to learn from that? Who’s house is nicer?

  33. Living in the country is great! Nothing like lying out in a field (careful to avoid cow pats) at night and competing about who can name the most constellations accurately, while fighting off mosquitoes.

    (Naturally, one might note that DDT would be effective at eliminating those bugs, were it not for the urban communists’ having banned the substance because of their desire to murder third-world babies. But that’s another thread.)

  34. “Yeah. I was enlisted in the Navy during that time frame”

    Hi Rob – you managed to miss out on Great Lakes? Bummer!

    Passim – what part of upstate NY do you call home? (spent time near Malone, NY – not at the big house there, etc. etc. etc.)

  35. no part of upstate NY

    I feel more “at home” in the country there, as opposed to the NYC area, but my home was southern GA. The nearest town (pop 5,000) was 40 miles away by “back roads”.

    Been in NYC metro for years now. Before they get too old, I’m going to take the rugrats back to the country–even though they’ll intially hate me for it. Haha!

  36. but everybody should learn the first rule of escaping a charging bull, don’t you think?

  37. Don’t talk about escaping a charging bull!!!

  38. take away his credit card?

    cool!

  39. haha!

    The first rule is “RUN!”

  40. Actually, that’s usually taken as a given, and the first rule is “Strip!”

    Seriously, run away and start stripping off anything you can (shirt, undershirt, hat, anything, and forget modesty). Throw it away. The bull will usually stop, at least momentarily, to inspect, thus giving you valuable escape time.

  41. Passim – I think your post at 12:50 is very apt. I think that both have advantages and disadvantages. I wouldn’t want to be forced to live in an urban area by people who hate rural areas and suburbs, anymore than I think joe would appreciate someone forcing him to live in a rural/subruban area. The difference is that I’m not the city planner who thinks he knows what is best for other people…

    Here’s what I said: “I wouldn’t recommend any of those urban cities to someone with a family, even though Uptown was about as urban trendy/family friendly an environment as I can imagine in a city.” – my statement

    Dakota – How is what I wrote somehow the same as saying you can’t ride your bike in Mpls? Even so, I’ve ridden parts of that trail (back before it became inter-connected) and I know that it’s not the same as going for a bike ride around your neighborhood. It’s kind of like trying to claim a game of backyard football and a game of high school football are the same.

    “My, you’re changing the subject a lot.” – joe

    No, merely engaging in a tit-for-tat on your stereotypical statements.

    “As genuinely fascinating as your diversion into discussing your feelings is, they have no bearing on the point – kids in cities manage to play outside, too, even if your limited experience makes it difficult for you to imagine how.” – joe

    I never said kids in cities didn’t play outside, I merely refuted – with facts (something you should familiarize yourself with before you jump into any more threads and have your ignorance displayed to the world once again by folks like me) – that urban kids spend more time outdoors.

    Then I showed how your stereotypical belief in an “urban myth” about “suburbans too terrorized to let their kids play outside” was unproveable BS. You’re the guy who is confusing your beliefs with facts.

    ” Repeating your ill-informed prejudice isn’t an argument; at least, not a very good one. Urban environments – with the exception of the auto-oriented high-rise city – are not anonymous. They are far less anonymous, and fare more neighborly, than many suburban environments.” – joe

    Surely you can provide statistics or some sort of FACTS for this, otherwise I think common sense easily leans toward not knowing all your neighbors and those who pass through your neighborhood is more likely in a dense, urban area rather than suburban or rural areas.

    ” No, but they will likely know more of them, compared to many suburban environments.” – joe

    1.) Knowing more people doesn’t mean you know which neighbors are trustworthy.
    2.) Knowing more people doesn’t mean you know them as well as you would a smaller number.

    “Again, it varies depending on the type of urban and suburban environments, but the traditional urbanism I enjoy and defend is very effective at allowing people to encounter and get to know their neighbors – much moreso than the garage-to-parking-lot-and-back landscape of isolated houses and nowhere to walk that characterizes many modern suburbs.” -joe

    I’m glad that you live in a manner that pleases you. Why are you so bent on making everyone live the way you see fit?

    “The study you cite has been criticized for its methodology.” – joe

    Groovy. Some citations that counter it would show this. Otherwise you’re just blowing smoke.

    “4 or more days outdoors per week” counts only time dedicated to outdoor recreational activity, and ignores the time spent walking as part of daily activities.” – joe

    Walking and playing outside are not the same thing. Sounds like your criticism sources are off to a shaky start?

    “It also lumped together highrise-style urbanism with traditional small-lot urbanism, as those unfamilar with cities are wont to do.” – joe

    How many people live in urban areas that are “highrise-style” as opposed to “small-lot?” I’d be interested in those numbers, wouldn’t you? I mean, as a city planner this is your area of expertise, surely you have lots of handy data on the subject.

    “I think that the “suburban parents of today? so terrified of sexual predators, satanic cults, or whatever the boogey men of the day” is more mythical than real.” I think you have very bad timing, and should stay away from the thread above.

    “You mean like visit my mother, or sisters? Oh, wait, I do that every week.” – joe

    Really? Why is that? I would figure they would want to come visit you in your urban paradise!

    “Playing in back lanes, running down the sidewalk, playing in the much-more-convenient playgrounds, ducking in and out of each other’s houses, hiding in the little nooks only they know (or think that only they know)…it’s pretty endless. That you’d even have to ask demonstrates how little you know about kids in the city.” – joe

    Hmmm? Playing in back lanes – sounds great! Unless you’ve walked a back lane and seen kids playing amongst reeking garbage dumpsters. Running down the sidewalk – you can do that in the ‘burbs, but if you stray from the sidewalk chasing a football, your odds of getting run over are probably a bit lower. Ducking in and out of each other’s houses? Well at least they’re KIND of outside. Hiding in little nooks only they know (or think that only they know)? I always thought trees were pretty good for this, too.

    My point is not to paint urban living spaces as uniformly being hell-holes, simply to counter your arguments that this is the best way for human beings to live. The fact that it’s not too tough to meet this standard, and thus defeat your “joe knows best” approach, is just gravy.

    ” A largely suburban city, surrounded by the largest suburban areas in the country, as anyone with a passing familiarity realizes.” – joe

    Granted. But I love how you side-step the fact that the article relies on two unsourced, anonymous anecdotes for the only thing in the article I disagree with. Weak, weak, weak?

    “Funny, you had no problem imaging what, supposedly, leads urban parents to keep their kids indoors. But intellectual honesty and consistency have never been your hallmarks.” – joe

    Tu quoque much, joe? When I do this, it’s because you’re doing it and I only think it karmically fair. Don’t you hate it when your BS tactics are turned on you? Besides, I didn’t say that I KNEW that this was a FACT, but that I could see it as PLAUSIBLE. It was an extrapolation mirroring your “urban myth” stereotyping of burb-dwellers.

    “As opposed to urban parents, apparently.” – joe
    Actually, I think kids should be let out to play.

    “Yes, the chickenshit suburban mindset of terror – for example, thinking that your next door neighbor is Jeffrey Daer – is nonsense, and should be mocked and ignored at every opportunity.” – joe

    Actually, Dahmer didn’t live in the burbs. Nice try. Also, don’t confuse my use of that example as an extreme outcome of living in anonymity in an urban area as indicative of my personal fears. (I truly, deeply hope that if there is someone who poses a threat to you and yours that he stops by my family’s house first. My family will be just fine, and he’ll never make it your place.) What really needs mocking here is your failure to engage in critical thinking, and the laziness and sloppiness of engaging in stereotypes. There’s a big difference here, and the guilt is all on your side of the table.

    “Hence, my thrashing of you.” – joe

    Everyone sing along with joe!

    “To dream the impossible dream
    To fight the unbeatable foe
    To bear with unbearable sorrow
    To run where the brave dare not go
    To right the unrightable Left?”

    “then they’ll come after me for letting my kids ride the subway alone.” – Passim

    That would be joe’s pals, yeah.

  42. VM – I wouldn’t exactly say I missed out on Great Lakes, I went to Boot at Orlando RTC – the only one with girls at the time (if I’m not mistaken). I actually think I’d have preferred the insane heat of the Florida sun out on the grinder as opposed to freezing to death!

  43. rob:

    🙂

    cool. “I wouldn’t exactly i’ve been missing work, Bob”

    Waukegan leaves a lot to be desired.

  44. VM – I heard that about GL RTC. Though I can definitely say that most of the female Navy recruits who were training in my “sister company” left a lot to be desired (and I only greatly desired a few of them), so you probably didn’t miss out on much either.

    In my current gig I get a lot of opportunities to make Office Space jokes – even the commander makes them. (You know it’s no longer hip when your boss gets the joke, sigh…) It started with an EOD guy who I work with and his e-mail signature parody of an Office Space routine:

    “The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care?I have eight different bosses right now. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to ream me about it. My only real motivation is not to be court-martialed; that, and the fear of being blown to smithereens. But you know that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get thrown in jail or killed.”

    Then our bosses’ boss read it and made him remove it. This of course had the effect of making everyone quote the movie at every opportunity… Heh!

  45. Wow, that was like three screens.

    I wonder if I can get him up to four?

  46. (Speaking of changing the subject…)

    joe – What can I say? It’s a slow day and I’ve had a lot of coffee… How was your lunch break?

  47. In between your straw men version of my argument, your stereotypes, and your dodges, rob, you raise one useful and interesting point; you actually acknowledge that there are different kinds of urban environments, which make your broad generalizations about how city people live worthless. So I’ll limit myself to discussing that.

    Unfortunately, quantitative data that breaks down different types of urban development patterns is sketchy. Most data sets break down into urbanized area vs nonurbanized area. Suburban vs. urban, too, though even that is unreliable, because the entirety of a city gets counted as urban, even its suburban areas, while the surrounding towns often get counted as suburban, even if they have an urban core, or if an urban neighborhood from the city crosses the border.

    My experience is limited to the northeast, so it’s probably only applicable to older cities, but I would estimate that in most such cities, urban residents who live areas predominated by houses (including apartment houses and row houses) out number those living in areas predominated by apartment building-style structures (highrises, garden-style buildings) by somewhere between 60/40 and 70/30. All by itself, however, NYC could throw these numbers off quite a bit.

  48. joe,

    Is there any data on population density by zip (or other geo buckets) that could serve that purpose?

  49. d s,

    Not really. For one thing, many of the high-rise urban renewal districts are based on the “tower in the park” idea, with lots of lawns surrouding the highrises.

    For another, zip codes often extend through many different types of development.

    Perhaps Manhattan vs. Staten Island and Queens would be a valid comparison.

  50. “you actually acknowledge that there are different kinds of urban environments, which make your broad generalizations about how city people live worthless. So I’ll limit myself to discussing that.” – joe

    In other words, what joe is really saying is that he’s had his head handed to him by my incessant use of facts and his inability to provide any facts that counter my statements.

    Instead, he’ll throw up a bunch of distracting chaff in the form of unfounded accusations (straw men version! stereotypes! dodges!)

    For his next trick, he’ll make a bunch of claims based on personal experience as an “Expert” city planner and hope no one notices that he can’t provide actual facts or link to anything that supports his “Expert” opinion while using “expert” terminology (quantitative data! urban development patterns!).

    Finally, to support his lack of citations and facts, he’ll fall back on the old “what is the definition of” saw: “even that is unreliable, because the entirety of a city gets counted as urban, even its suburban areas, while the surrounding towns often get counted as suburban, even if they have an urban core, or if an urban neighborhood from the city crosses the border.”

    In other words, there aren’t any facts to back up his claims, but he doesn’t need facts – he simply KNOWS. That’s normally referred to as “faith-based belief.”

    It makes sense, I suppose, because you can’t win a religious argument through rational discussion of fact. Maybe that’s what it is about joe’s philosophy/principles/system of thought (using the terms loosely) that make these discussions so difficult to have in a civil manner. For joe, it’s a matter of faith, whether it involves politics or urban v. non-urban, and anyone who thinks differently is a heretic.

  51. rob,

    Still in the flight suit, I see. Declaring victory in the absence of actual victory doesn’t make you look any more impressive. You might find this hard to believe, but going around and around as you keep changing your position isn’t very enjoyable. You haven’t won anything, you’ve just bored me with your lack of ideas.

    Your mis-statements of my arguments are plain enough for everyone to see, so I don’t see the need to belabor them. If you want to put up a Mission Accomplished banner, have at it. Everyone can read the thread and draw their own conclusions, and your shady argumentation is there for everyone to see.

  52. But it’s good to see that you’re responding to honest discussion about the problems with the data and the complexity of the issues with your usual smug certainty.

    Boy, that’ll teach me to try to discuss something fairly with you.

  53. “Declaring victory in the absence of actual victory doesn’t make you look any more impressive. You might find this hard to believe, but going around and around as you keep changing your position isn’t very enjoyable. You haven’t won anything, you’ve just bored me with your lack of ideas.” – joe

    Don’t you ever get tired of punking out, getting beaten, and crawling away to antoher thread after throwing out a bunch of chaff behind you?

    “Your mis-statements of my arguments are plain enough for everyone to see, so I don’t see the need to belabor them.” – joe

    Because they’re not there. No one is confused by your tactics here.

    “If you want to put up a Mission Accomplished banner, have at it. Everyone can read the thread and draw their own conclusions, and your shady argumentation is there for everyone to see.” – joe

    Appealing to the judges after being repeatedly knocked down during the fight isn’t helping you, joe.

    “But it’s good to see that you’re responding to honest discussion about the problems with the data and the complexity of the issues with your usual smug certainty.” – joe

    You tried to make points you have no facts to support. Trying to hide this with a smoke-screen about the “complexity of the issues” doesn’t win you credibility. Even when I asked you to cite a reference to the supposed criticisms of the study I cited, you had NOTHING. Pathetic.

    “Boy, that’ll teach me to try to discuss something fairly with you” – joe

    If only you could learn how…

  54. Actually, it’s Friday… I’m outta here.

  55. No ideas, no interest in ideas. Nothing but Gotcha.

  56. Heh. Suggest that people have a wide experience of living in different places, cities, environments, and countries before making grand sweeping generalizations about anything.

    Any city in the US is sparse compared to cities like Tokyo, or even a lot of cities in Europe.

    Different types of suburbs: old-type, with sidewalks and stuff within walking distance as opposed to new-type suburbs–no sidewalks, carefully designed cul-de-sacs with 4-lane highways all around them.

    Most US cities and suburban areas are not designed for humans. They are designed for cars. If you want to get people to walk around and interact with each other, you’re going to have to make it easy for them to do so, with sidewalks and other pedestrian-friendly stuff. Areas will have to be close enough together that you can get to somewhere interesting by walking before getting worn out.

    I’d also suggest relaxing a lot of the zoning requirements. One of the fascinating aspects of Tokyo is I can go from a billion-dollar skyscraper to a Shinto temple to an apartment complex in all the same block.

  57. “No ideas, no interest in ideas. Nothing but Gotcha.” – joe

    Yeah, I think that’s a fair summation of your tactics. Apparently so do a lot of the people you harangue here.

    grumpy realist – you hit the nail on the head. I totally agree that there’s all kinds of areas and I also agree that joe has tried to point out the false dichotomies of rural vs. suburban vs. urban as well. The problem is that he uses that dichotomy to dodge having to provide facts for his position, in an intellectually dishonest rhetorical tactic, rather than to further the discussion.

    The reason that most cities are designed for cars in the U.S., I would posit, is that 1) U.S. cities are primarily designed not as places to live but as places to work – what other reason would there be to jam that many people into one place other than the incentive of collected effort? Certainly people who choose to live in cities have certain things more readily available to them, but the downside is that you have to live in an environment primarily designed for business reather than living. (True, you can “city plan” away from this, but generally that leads to a more suburban than urban environment, even within the city). 2) Because it takes heavier infrastructure to conduct business, cities are generally designed to be areas where people and goods are ferried in and out. This leads for areas that due to their function are more vehicle-friendly than people-friendly. Kind of like a factory floor is more industry-friendly than the kind of place you’d take your kids to go play. (This is why factories are factories and playgrounds are playgrounds, to belabor the obvious.) Areas designed for large numbers of people also require – especially if those people live there – more capability to ferry in more food, clothes, medicine, etc. When the ability to move is designed more for goods than for people, you have to move goods closer to people. This is what the whole walking distance, city planned approach is about in urban areas and on the face of it, this makes sense. But it certainly makes more sense, IMO, from a human habitat stance, to live in one place and work in another. To put it bluntly, humans have been learning to separate where they crap (or work) from where they live for a long time (pretty much since the post-agrarian era). Trying to reverse that process is just a plain bad idea and perhaps a somewhat Luddite one.

    “Most US cities and suburban areas are not designed for humans. They are designed for cars. If you want to get people to walk around and interact with each other, you’re going to have to make it easy for them to do so, with sidewalks and other pedestrian-friendly stuff. Areas will have to be close enough together that you can get to somewhere interesting by walking before getting worn out.

    I’d also suggest relaxing a lot of the zoning requirements. One of the fascinating aspects of Tokyo is I can go from a billion-dollar skyscraper to a Shinto temple to an apartment complex in all the same block.” – gr

    I agree with relaxing zoning requirements in theory, because it’s the right thing to do. But I think that relaxing zoning requirements might actually encourage people to separate the two things.

    The whole anti-burbs, anti-rural movement amongst some people seems to come from a very specific ideological, economic, cultural niche.
    City planners like joe are the sort of people who both buy into the unproven ideas surrounding this movement and execute this strategy becuase of a desire to mold the world and the people who live in it into their vision.

    It springs from a very authoritiarian urge, and it’s very disturbing to me. Trying to tell other people where they should live and how they should live is an urge that frankly creeps me out.

  58. “Apparently so do a lot of the people you harangue here.” Actually, you catch a lot more shit for your dickish tactics than I do. You seem to get called out for it pretty regularly when you’re doing your boring shtick.

    “1) U.S. cities are primarily designed not as places to live but as places to work – what other reason would there be to jam that many people into one place other than the incentive of collected effort?

    Bzzzt. Wrong answer. The dense cities the US has were founded, settled, and grew up before the recent phenomenon of people living and working in different places. Cities throughout time have been built densely for the specific purpose of allowing large numbers of people to live close to where they work.

    “2) Because it takes heavier infrastructure to conduct business, cities are generally designed to be areas where people and goods are ferried in and out. This leads for areas that due to their function are more vehicle-friendly than people-friendly.”

    Bzzzzt. That’s ridiculous on its face. Cities – at least, older urban-style cities – devote much less of their land area to transportation than modern, auto-centered suburbs. Just compare the acreage of parking lots around a mall designed for 5000 people to the lotline-to-lotline construction of a highrise designed for 5000 people in a city. This is why dense cities existed for millenia without superhighways, which eat up enormous amounts of land, while suburbia couldn’t exist without them. Cities rely on much more land-efficient transportation technologies, like sidewalks and rail, because the land-intensive nature of a highway-based transportation system would make it impossible to achieve the density of people, ideas, and economic activity on which cities depend.

    “I agree with relaxing zoning requirements in theory, because it’s the right thing to do. But I think that relaxing zoning requirements might actually encourage people to separate the two things.”

    Zoning was invented foe the purpose of separating business and homes, and homes for people of different economic statuses. Apart from the reforms of New Urbanists like myself, the regulation imposed in zoning is dedicated to segregating uses.

    rob’s theory is that eliminating the laws stopping people from putting housing in commerical zones, or stores in residential zones, would lead to fewer examples of people putting businesses and homes near each other. That’s certainly an interesting theory.

    Maybe you should find out something about the subject before you mouth off. Would you like me to find you some sources?

  59. “Cities – at least, older urban-style cities – devote much less of their land area to transportation than modern, auto-centered suburbs.”

    Actually, there’s an exception to this – cities that also contain a major airport that services the metro region, like Logan in Boston, often have a high % of their land area devoted to transportion. Since this is a resource that used to move goods and people into an out of the suburbs as well as the city, this land area should probably be left out of a discussion of which type of community devotes more land area to transportation, just as it should be in regions where the airport is in the ‘burbs.

  60. Wait, nevermind about point 2), rob. I thought you were talking about developed land, but you were making the opposite point.

  61. “Actually, you catch a lot more shit for your dickish tactics than I do. You seem to get called out for it pretty regularly when you’re doing your boring shtick.” – joe

    Really? Are you sure about that? I can’t count the number of threads that you’ve gotten slapped around for being … well, yourself. I do get taken to task on occassion here, but it’s usually for indulging in reciprocating against your less-scurvier tactics in like fashion. Funny how the people who take me to task, for engaging in a far milder version of what you regularly engage in here, seem to lack the ability to recognize that I’m merely reciprocating and in a comparatively mild fashion. I also think people have just come to accept that you are going to unrepentantly mis-behave in that fashion and don’t see any point to trying to correct you for the same reason people don’t confront the obviously insane homeless guy when he publicly pees on the subway.

    “The dense cities the US has were founded, settled, and grew up before the recent phenomenon of people living and working in different places. Cities throughout time have been built densely for the specific purpose of allowing large numbers of people to live close to where they work.” – joe

    Regardless of the debate you’d like to engage in over what cities were designed for throughout history, most modern cities are far more suited to automobile traffic, for the reasons I stated, than for pedestrian traffic. Next you’ll argue that highway medians were actually designed for foot traffic, and the four lanes of traffic on either side of the median are just unnatural by-products.

    “Cities rely on much more land-efficient transportation technologies, like sidewalks and rail, because the land-intensive nature of a highway-based transportation system would make it impossible to achieve the density of people, ideas, and economic activity on which cities depend.” – joe

    Huh? You’re trying to tell me that sidewalks are a better means of ferrying goods around than streets? Well, I guess if everyone who lives in the city were converted into pack mules, you might be be able to move a fraction of the goods 10 times slower…

    “Zoning was invented for the purpose of separating business and homes, and homes for people of different economic statuses. Apart from the reforms of New Urbanists like myself, the regulation imposed in zoning is dedicated to segregating uses.” – joe

    New Urbanists – the people who brought you Celebration, Florida! It’s a small world after all? Because we designed it to be that way, no matter how little it makes sense! It’s funny, though, because Celebration is really only designed for living, not business, though there are banks and restaurants and a bunch of Disney offices that are actual businesses. It’s suburban with a small-town America vibe, as only Disney designers could make it. (One of the things I like about the Shrek movies? It contains satire about exactly why trying to “plan” everything out, Disney-style, leads to stifling all the things they’re supposedly try to encourage.) I guess my real problem with the whole New Urbanist approach is that it is just as flawed as any of the others embraced by city planners over the last 100 years, and its real roots (like all city planning, regardless of modus operandi or how noble the goals) are in the authoritarian impulse to “advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles.” Technically, Chelyabinsk – also known as Tankograd – is a good example of a mixed use, centrally city planned environment. Doesn’t mean you’d want to live there, though.

    “rob’s theory is that eliminating the laws stopping people from putting housing in commerical zones, or stores in residential zones, would lead to fewer examples of people putting businesses and homes near each other.” – joe

    No, my theory is that people will tend not to want to live – given the choice and when they have the economic means – next to industrial areas. But people also don’t like to commute, since they view it as a waste of time. It’s a push and pull sort of arrangement, an the inherent contradictions in it are the kind of thing that human beings are better at solving on the individual level based on how they personally prefer to balance those inherent contradictions, rather than having decisions force upon them at the “city planning” level.

    “Maybe you should find out something about the subject before you mouth off. Would you like me to find you some sources?” – joe

    Any time you actually contribute facts rather than unsourced opinion it is always appreciated. Too bad it’s so rare and that you primarily spit out unfounded, unsourced, unverifiable opinions that are overflowing with snark towards anyone who dares question the Holy Writ of the Democratic Party, New Urbanism, Global Warming, or whatever your personal, faith-based position is.

  62. I like the idea that Savannah, Georgia, is an inspiration to New Urbanists, and I like the feel Savannah had when the NU’s were pointing to it as a utopianist example. The problem is that you can’t re-create something good that occurs spontaneously, any more than you can stop it from going bad: “Savannah today is a city with a high rate of violent crime. The mayor, Otis Johnson, has held three open fora on the issue. Murder rates have increased by 50% since 2004 and other types of crime, such as theft, have seen similar spikes.”

    Living in a crowd appears to have a negative effect on people – especially in poorly educated, non-gentrified areas or areas which slip away from being gentrified, well-educated areas. Savannah seems to be suffering from this. It may even happen someday to Celebration, FL, but it will be tougher because the people who live there are pretty wealthy, where a “median income for a household in the community was $74,231.”

    Remember that thread about Brutalism? How city planned efforts to create “a positive option for forward-moving, modern urban housing” instead “developed into claustrophobic, crime-ridden tenements” like Robin Hood Gardens? (I know you’d like to forget the rhetorical drubbing you took during that thread, but it’s actually analogous: heavy-handed, authoritarianism tends to lead to problems, regardless of good intentions.)

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