03 April 2013

Childhood in New York

The current issue of New York Magazine features an excellent article on the history of childhood in New York City. In 1913, it was determined that  95 percent of the city children played in the streets which created a vibrant and stimulating environment:

The autonomy children had was made all the more glorious by the emergence, at the same time, of a new consumer culture. Immigrant families might have been poor, but they were surrounded by staggering abundance. There were sweets and fruit and ribbons to buy; nickelodeons and penny arcades to haunt. Turn-of-the-century children were earning money at the moment that American capitalism was starting to develop amusements especially for them. Most children were expected to direct all their earnings into the family till, but most parents weren’t watching closely enough to enforce the rule.

A glimpse of the modern New York child:

It’s the New York City of today that’s the strange outlier: a land where Gymborees are nearly as plentiful as Starbucks and grown-up restaurants (Landmarc, City Hall) offer kiddie menus. New York’s child-­fatality rate today is much lower than the national average, and neighborhoods that were once outposts of bohemianism have earned themselves the tabloid moniker of “diaper districts.” To the professional’s eye, it looks like this city has finally achieved the dream the Progressive Era reformers had long sought, that New York is spilling over with happy, well-tended children.

Read the full feature at New York Magazine.

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