Everyone knows today’s post-adolescents are supposed to be the lost tribe: they hop from unpaid internships to temp work, arriving at new subleases every six months with little more than a MacBook and a bindle. They, as a rule, flee the suburbs.
So, how true is this trend in Westchester? To find out, we cooked up a survey for graduates of Westchester high schools from the classes of 1997 to 2005, receiving about 60 responses. The results? Well, alums are certainly fleeing. Only 30 percent of respondents said they currently live in Westchester.
“After college, I wanted to have the experience of living in the City,” says Melissa Singer, a 37-year-old psychologist and Cornell graduate who grew up in Chappaqua. Even though she was working in Westchester, Singer and her husband, Scott, stayed in New York City until their oldest daughter was born in 2003.
Still, the bright lights down south may not be what’s drawing many of the others who left the county: a mere 25 percent of respondents said they’d headed to the Big Apple from Westchester, and, while about 40 percent of those who left the county cited proximity to culture and entertainment as a reason, 54 percent of those who left said they went for jobs.
The other big complaint for all age groups loomed large. “I can’t imagine earning enough money to pay for the taxes and the general cost of living,” said one survey respondent about Westchester. Indeed, many who have left agreed that taxes made it difficult to contemplate moving back. Surprisingly, though, only 19 percent of respondents outside Westchester said the high cost of living actually drove them out. Some even point out that, for renters, the cost of living was lower here. Not surprisingly, well over 60 percent of those who stayed say they rent living quarters, and many renters live with roommates.
And the news seems less gloomy on other fronts than the doomsayers would have it. Among those who stayed, the “best of both worlds” living situation was important. In addition, many respondents, pointing to the reputation of our schools and the availability of space, said they’d think about moving back when they started families (only 38 percent live with a partner right now).
“Westchester is a great alternative to city living, but probably more suitable for those with families than those without,” said another respondent. “Until I am married with children, I probably would not consider returning to Westchester.”
For Singer, who graduated from Horace Greeley High School in 1991 and seems to be beyond her transient post-adolescence, it’s now important to live “in a small community where you always see a friendly face.” She notes that she often runs into fellow alumni who seem to have come back according to their own time-line as well. “We enjoyed growing up in the suburbs and wanted to give our children a similar experience,” she says of herself and her husband, Scott, who graduated Greeley in 1990. “We wanted more indoor and outdoor space than would be possible in the City, and we knew our children would get a great education.”