Kid Beat

Kids live here, too? MIT maps most popular Austin neighborhoods for children

MIT maps most popular Austin neighborhoods for children

Bubblepalooza Austin 2013
MIT maps Austin's children. Photo by Jon Shapley

In between tubing, running the trail, sipping beers on patios and generally reveling in our Austin-ness, we sometimes forget that kids live here, too. In the most recent piece, You Are Here, an interactive project from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, mapped the most popular neighborhoods for Austinites under 18.

Using Census data, National Historical Geographic Information System and Zillow, MIT researchers analyzed population trends from 1970-2010 to determine where kids live. The result is a map that reflects the ebbs and flows of Austin as she changes, adapts and grows.

For example, the East Austin neighborhoods of Holly, East Cesar Chavez and Govalle were among the areas with the highest population of children in 1970. Today, they are among the smallest, echoing a trend of higher property costs and gentrification throughout the city. 

 The result is a map that reflects the ebbs and flows of Austin as she changes, adapts and grows. 

The map also echoes the trend of families moving out of Austin's urban core, settling in neighborhoods north and south of downtown. Unlike 1970, which saw the highest concentration of children in neighborhoods directly surrounding downtown Austin, today the areas with the highest concentration of children include Franklin Park (78744), McKinney (78744), and Heritage Hills (78753).

Though there are a few neighborhoods that have never had high populations of children (University of Texas, West University and downtown, for example), there are a few surprises. Hyde Park, with its stately Victorians, oak-lined boulevards and seemingly family-friendly feel, just doesn't have a high concentration of kids. Since 1970, the neighborhood has seen a steady decline in its younger population and today, only 9 percent of Hyde Park's residents are under 18. 

It makes sense that You Are Here would analyze things like Austin's immigrant population and the worst local streets for bike crashes, but what's the point of mapping where children live? As the project points out, mapping the younger population influences everything from city planners designing green spaces to city council members voting on school issues.

It's a sentiment echoed by Sep Kamvar, LG Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT and one of the project's creators. In an interview with CultureMap in July he said, "I want to create maps that [will] not only give a more complete picture of a city, and also help people to make their city a better place to live."

Ultimately, though, it's about examining how cities are designed. "On a macro-level, the pronounced and continued reduction of the population of children in the city over the past 40 years makes us question whether we are creating our cities to be less friendly to children and families," says the project.