My wife and I are planning on moving from our condominium,as we have run out of living space. There have been several discussions about where we want to move, but none of them have involved the suburbs.
We did discuss moving to the suburbs early in our marriage. My wife grew up in Peoria while I grew up on the North Shore. Her upbringing included greater diversity than mine. While her parents socialized primarily with other Jews, her schools were multi-racial and she was one of the only Jews. My schools were almost all white and, during seventh grade, every weekend had at least one Bar or Bat Mitzvah to attend. We would like our son to socialize with other Jews, but we want him to have a diverse upbringing. I'll get back to that shortly.
My friends and I have a saying we came up with when we'd all moved from our parents' suburban houses to Chicago. "You know what the best thing about living in the city is? Living in the city." I like being around people. I like that there is always something going on. I remember picking a friend up from his mother's house recently in a north suburb and, when I got off the highway, I noticed something. It was dark! I mean, few street lights, few cars, and even the houses seemed dark. It wasn't even 9:30pm! It was almost scarry. In Chicago, I love being able to get a four-star meal at 1:00am or a burrito at 3:00am. Even though I'm a parent and only go out on nights my men's league hockey teams plays, I still like the liveliness of urban life. The music, the different languages heard, the different smells (food or otherwise...) Not everything is the way I like it, but that's the way I like it.
Some people will say that there are the museums and all of that. And there are. But I'm realistic enough to know that they cost money and can be a pain to get to. There are lots of parks. That's something that we will certainly take advantage of, which brings me back to our next choice of home and neighborhood.
Single family houses in the city tend to be smaller, while a high percentage will option for townhouses (as our family will do,) apartments, or condos. Some say the schools are worse. Some say that it is more dangerous.
Yes, the houses are smaller. There is no question a family can get more house and land as one moves further from Chicago. The land we are likely to have is little more than our home would rest on. Maybe a little yard, if any at all. That's why they have parks nearby. Our reality is that, if we did move to the 'burbs, then we would move where I grew up. We do not want my wife to have a suburban commute. We don't want her to have that extra hour or two per day spent on the road or in a train. At least not for ten or more years. If we move to the suburb I grew up in, it would likely be around the time our son goes to junior high or high school. If we're looking for nature, we'll go to Upper Michigan.
With proper research, we found three schools that are about as good as any on the North Shore. Those are Bell, Burley, and Blaine. (Based on 2006 Illinois Report Cards. For more info, see: http://iirc.niu.edu/). Based on our location needs, Burley or Bell will be the best options. There was something else that I found in that research: a significant percentage of the attending students are from "low income" households. (I do not know what criteria they use to determine "low income".) The data indicated that the low income students scored as well on the achievement tests as the other students. Again, those scores were almost as high as the best schools on the North Shore. That is what we want to give to our son. We want him to be able to learn in an environment where children from different backgrounds all expect achievement. It tells me that there are a lot of people working to help their kids have successful lives.
Finally, many believe that the suburbs are safer than the city. I would say that being mugged is the only crime one is more likely to experience in the city than in the suburbs. Otherwise, there is just as much access to drugs, adultery, and violent crimes in the suburbs. I would infer that most violent city crime occurs in impoverished neighborhoods. Columbine did not happen in a big city. Laurie Dann committed her crimes on the North Shore. Sadly, there is no place we can all agree is the perfectly safe place. What I believe living in the city does teach is the ability to read situations and people so that a person knows what situation they are in at all times.
Finally, many of our friends and siblings live here. We like it here and are comfortable. That's the most important thing - to be happy where you are. Who knows what the future holds for us. For now, we're just city-folk.