Which US cities spoil their children: are we spending too much on our kids?

We're going to need a bigger cart.

New York, you are making a few too many trips to FAO Schwarz. In Wisconsin, on the other hand, kids apparently get by in hand-me-downs, playing with discarded pieces of string.

Well, I suppose we don't have that level of detail. But some number-crunching by the stats web site Bundle yields a list of which cities' households appear to spend the most on "extras" for their kids. Bundle looked at per-household spending at toy stores, kids clothing stores, and a catch-all "other services" for kids category. (Basics of life like food and health care, in other words, were not included.)

Here are the top and bottom five, with their percentage above/below the national average:

  • 1. Manhattan, NY (90%)
  • 2. Brooklyn, NY (67%)
  • 3. Miami, FL (58%)
  • 4. Minneapolis, MN (46%)
  • 5. Tulsa, OK (35%)

...

  • 32. Columbus, OH (-49%)
  • 33. Indianapolis, IN (51%)
  • 34. Milwaukee, WI (54%)
  • 35. Saint Paul, MN (-56%)
  • 36. Madison, WI (-58%)

Interestingly, from Bundle's full list of 36 cities, only 11 are above the national average. Truly exceptional spending by the cities at the top, especially Manhattan, is pulling up that average, and the large majority of cities are quite frugal by comparison.

The Bundle folks note that it's surprising to see Minneapolis up near the top, and even stranger to see its "twin" city only a few miles away, Saint Paul, at the opposite end of the list. A few thoughts from this Minnesotan: First, if Minneapolis or Minnesotans have a reputation for frugality, this is news to me. Let's not forget: these are the people who built the largest mall in the country. The amount of cash we all drop each year at the State Fair alone suggests we are anything but tight-fisted.

It's also true that since the cities are so close, a lot of Saint Paulites do plenty of their shopping in Minneapolis and its suburbs.  Since the Bundle folks seem to have relied at least in part upon store sales data, in that situation it's hard to tell who is actually spending the money.  Given that a lot more shopping in general probably happens in Minneapolis, that would naturally inflate the figures there. Might have been wiser to just do the Twin Cities as a single metropolitan unit.

That said, yes: Saint Paulites are much more responsible. Everybody knows that. :-)

Also occurs to me that this same spending-based calculation could be conflating the issue in Manhattan. If people from other boroughs travel there to do lots of their kiddie shopping, that could skew the stats and make Manhattanites look even more profligate than they already are. (I kid because I love, New York.)

What do you think about how your city stacks up? Are we spending too much on our kids, anyway?

About the author

Jeff Horwich is the interim host of Marketplace Morning Report and a sometime-Marketplace reporter.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...