Social stigma in rich people's housing
April 28, 2006 4:06 PM   Subscribe

Will a child face social stigma for living in a condo?

I live in Vancouver, Canada. The housing market here has gone wild. The average house price in the metro area is 757,750, but, in "nice" neighbourhoods, it's now about $1M. You could live further out, but the housing prices remain high, since people want more for their money. Also, living further out means you'd need 2 cars instead of one -- so add another $500+ a month.

My friends and I both currently live downtown. The schools downtown are pretty bad, so this isn't where we want to stay with our small children. Today, at a toddler group, a couple of us were discussing whether it made sense to move to a nice area and live in a condo, instead of a house. My friend (psychiatrist married to a chartered accountant) was concerned that her son would face social stigma for living in a condo when all the other families had houses. She was worried he'd be treated like a poor kid. I said that the people I knew who lived over there -- even the ones who'd bought before the upswing and had just $500k or $600k mortgages -- were struggling under the strain of their payments, rising interest rates, increasing fuel costs, and the like. I said her son and my son would be in a much better position to be the kids with nice clothes, vacations, trips to museums and all the things that you'd hope upper-middle class families would enjoy...except for a house. Meanwhile, the other kids would be from house poor families. However, I don't know if this is true. My husband and I are not originally upper-middle class and we grew up in small towns where everyone had houses.

So, what does AskMefi think? Will a child face social stigma for living in a swanky 2BR condo on the nice side of town, if their friends live in houses?
posted by acoutu to Human Relations (35 answers total)
No. It the place is clean and nice no one worth caring about will give it a second though.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:09 PM on April 28, 2006

Optimus is right. Even those not worth caring about will probably not care.
posted by JekPorkins at 4:14 PM on April 28, 2006

Kids will face hazing for having hair, eyes, fingers, toes, a name that's too funny or not funny enough, wearing clothes, going to school, and generally being a kid.

You may face some kind of social stigma for living in a condo. Your kids can worry about real estate when they're ready to enter the market themselves.
posted by lekvar at 4:15 PM on April 28, 2006

The greater issue is that social stigma is not a thing to be avoided.
posted by birdie birdington at 4:17 PM on April 28, 2006

lekvar has it right. Every kid gets hazed for something. There's no getting around it.
posted by I Love Tacos at 4:37 PM on April 28, 2006

My friend is concerned that no one will play with kids who don't have a yard.

I know kids get ostracized for a variety of reasons. I think my friend was just thinking this was planning for disaster. I, on the other hand, don't see why other kids would care. And I don't care about how the parents view us, since we make just as much, but would prefer to be able to, oh, I don't know, actually have more than groceries and mortgage payments.
posted by acoutu at 4:43 PM on April 28, 2006

I remember the rich kid in 6th grade bragging about her condo. It had a pool, a rec room, they even had a big party room there for her birthday. Of course, we tried to make fun of her parents, "They bought an apartment?" but that was only after she kept bragging about it over and over again and we got jealous as hell.

We live in an attached SF house and my six-year-old daughter lives in envy of my friend who lives in a swanky condo complex downtown. "Mom, can *we* live in a hotel, too?"

I'm sure a lot of that has to do with the condo amentities (the pool, the party rooms, the computer lab, etc.)

I grew up in terrible apartments in the worst Hollywood ghettos and I never felt the stigma of living in an apartment, only the larger neighborhood/zip code.

Also, trick or treating is SO much better in apartments/condos.
posted by Gucky at 4:45 PM on April 28, 2006

My friend is concerned that no one will play with kids who don't have a yard.

We're in a townhouse in Vancouver, and our four-year-old son's had several playdates with preschool classmates who live in houses. Hasn't been an issue so far. Our townhouse complex has some green space in the middle of the complex, so that the kids can play outside. And there's playgrounds nearby.

If real estate prices stay high, I imagine your child will have plenty of classmates who are also in condos.

We sometimes fantasize about moving to Edmonton, where the average price of a house is more like $250,000. Having a $300,000 mortgage, let alone a $750,000 mortgage, seems insane.
posted by russilwvong at 4:49 PM on April 28, 2006

If the condo is considered to be the same social stratus as the majority of the school, it won't be a big deal.
But if the condos are considered to be a lower social stratus, then yes, your kids are going to be stigmatized for it.

It doesn't really matter if the condo is a better financial decision than a house or if all the people living in the houses are dead broke, all that matters is the perception.

So, to that end, how do the parents in the houses view the condos? Since that's who the children get their cues from, after all.
posted by madajb at 4:49 PM on April 28, 2006

Great googly moogly. Vancouver is a city A CITY. A real live grownup city where even many people of means live in condos.

I grew up in a city. I didn't have a front yard, nor did anybody I knew. Somehow, we all managed. Anybody I could have possibly known who would have had a front yard would have been so far away that I'd never go there to play anyhow.

I know that parents these days are a lot more paranoid, and perhaps this yard thing is because they wouldn't want to let their kids play in a park or on the sidewalk. Again, somehow, we managed. I've always felt this hyper-protectiveness results in a lack of street-smarts, part of the reason I was always contemptuous of suburban kids.

[/dismounts from soapbox]
posted by adamrice at 4:53 PM on April 28, 2006

My friend is concerned that no one will play with kids who don't have a yard.

I daresay millions of children live in condos or apartment buildings that don't have yards, and somehow still manage to play with their friends inside, at the park, etc.
posted by scody at 4:56 PM on April 28, 2006

I went to a variety of public schools in Vancouver and Richmond, trust me, it won't be an issue. At least it wasn't 7 years ago. Out of my close group of friends (which consists entirely of immigrants) only one person has lived in a house for the majority of his life, simply because his parents got here way way back. I wouldn't worry about this. Also, your prices are a little off. If you consider Richmond to be "metro", prices hover around 500,000. Delta, Surrey and New West are even cheaper. Anyway, HTH.
posted by aeighty at 4:57 PM on April 28, 2006

I'm from suburban St. Louis, and yeah, I always thought it was a little weird that one of my friends lived in a condo until she was in high school. Everyone else I knew lived in houses. But I also envied her complex's pool and how nice her place was.

I wasn't sure whether they had a condo to save money until they could get a house or if they had a condo 'cause they had a lot of money—but I did know that they lived in a richer area of town than I did, and that my friend had more spending money than I did.

So yeah, it depends on the area you're in. If only the relative "poor kids" in the area live in condos, your kid might get somewhat stigmatized if you decide to live in a condo in that area. But if only rich kids or kids with well-educated parents live in condos, then your kid will have an advantage.

Either way...even if some stigma results, a little stigma can help children develop into empathetic, understanding individuals. (Not being snarky—I think it's true.)
posted by limeonaire at 5:10 PM on April 28, 2006

Do grade school kids even know what condos are? I didn't really know 'til college, and I just assumed any non-house structure in an urban/metro area was an apartment. Heck, if you spin it right, the friends might think it's nifty for your child to live in a unique structure.

So while family==house in certain peoples' minds, unless you live on Wisteria Lane and are trying to teach your kid some wacky upper middle class value system*, don't worry about it.

*Are you? Not being rude, just wondering if there's some sort of class/social stratum thing I'm not understanding because this seems to be a very odd thing to worry about. Though if the parents of the friends are very "keep up with the Joneses" then I guess it makes sense.
posted by lychee at 5:11 PM on April 28, 2006

My family moved to Vancouver for a year when my twin sister and I were in first grade. We lived on the top floor of a townhouse. I loved living there, and never felt stigmatized - in fact, it's only just now, reading this question, that the possibility of its inferiority to an actual house has entered my head. Nobody ever said anything, and I can't imagine I had fewer friends than I would have had otherwise.

I lived in a house in a Los Angeles suburb before and after living in Vancouver, and given the choice, I'd much rather have spent my childhood in a townhouse or condo in Vancouver, especially if doing so saved my parents enough money to spend on trips and swimming lessons and all that.

Most of my friends in CA lived in houses, but I never looked down on the ones who didn't, especially if their apartment complex had a pool. In my childhood mental hierarchy, pools trumped normal backyards any day of the week.
posted by granted at 5:36 PM on April 28, 2006

I don't think "Will a child face social stigma for living in a condo?" is the correct question. If the child in question is one of the "cool" kids, he or she may likely face some occasional good natured ribbing, but no stigma. If the child in question is one of the kids that gets seriously picked on, he or she will likely face constant ridicule about it. But even if he or she didn't live in a condo, bullies would find something else to focus on.

In other words, living in a condo may be something the kid gets made fun of for, but it won't be something that causes the kid to be made fun of in the first place.
posted by Justinian at 6:09 PM on April 28, 2006

In Toronto, our kids have play dates in parks (even though we do own a house). We still have friends in our old townhouse/condo complex and either it's an indoor playdate or meet in one of the nearby parks.

Either way, I think people, including kids, aren't that judgemental about where you live.
posted by GuyZero at 6:13 PM on April 28, 2006

I'm so surprised that anyone would worry about this. I grew up in a condo/townhouse development, and every one of my friends lived in a single family home. No big deal; I never felt stigmatized for it or like "the poor kid." In fact, I suspect that some of my friends thought my parents were pretty wealthy.

About not having a large backyard: most condo developments have a playground or common park-type space for the residents. I always had plenty of places to play with my friends.
posted by amro at 6:18 PM on April 28, 2006

Condo complexes are generally great places for kids. I doubt that yours will be the only kids at their school who live in a condo. I am not going to say any more, because I would not be kind to your friend.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:20 PM on April 28, 2006

no one worth caring about will give it a second thought emphasis mine

Condos are great place for kids as there are generally many of them about. Frankly, your friend seems a little too caught up in image. It sounds to me more like your friend is too proud to live in a condo herself and searching for reasons why not to do it.
posted by caddis at 6:26 PM on April 28, 2006

I remember when I was in junior high school, one of my tertiary friends (that is to say, not one of my closest friends, but the next circle out) lived in a condo. It didn't even make sense to me for a long time. I actually though about it: "How could you own only part of a building?" But then one time, she had a party over there, and the condo was really nice, too fancy for me actually, and she even had a guy hired to twist balloons into animals at the party. Then I decided that you had to be really rich to only own part of a building and not have to bother with the whole thing.

I guess that my point is, there is no point in trying to guess or in worrying about what random things kids will think, because their thought patterns are just too arbitrary. It's unpredictable and can't really be helped either way.

P.S. Now I live in a condo. But in Japan, condos are called "mansions." Everyone thinks I must be very rich.
posted by donkeymon at 7:05 PM on April 28, 2006

Why would your kid be stigmatized for being poor when he's living in a condo that costs half a million dollars?
posted by reformedjerk at 7:36 PM on April 28, 2006

Oh, hell. The way housing costs are in both Vancouver, and in Greater Victoria, where I live, living in a condo is only going to become more and more common.

I've both owned and rented condominiums, and do not recall any stigma associated with being a condo-dweller.

Caveat: I have no children.

Caveat II: I am now living in a mobile home. How's that for social stigma?
posted by Savannah at 8:21 PM on April 28, 2006

The other kids will think it's cool. Dude, there's an ELEVATOR at your house? Their parents might get a bit sniffy if they're the judgemental type but eh, who cares.
posted by desuetude at 9:27 PM on April 28, 2006

Social stigmas based on abstract concepts like perceived status because of where they live, or how much wealth their family has, don't really even come into play until middle school or later. So even if your kids are the ones who will be picked on because of living in a condo, you've got at least a decade before it even *might* become an issue.

But, to echo most everyone else, not a big deal. Kids will adapt - maybe they can't shoot baskets because you don't have a hoop in the driveway, so they play video games at your house and play basketball at another kid's house.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:28 PM on April 28, 2006

get your kid a megadeth shirt -- untouchable.
posted by Satapher at 10:07 PM on April 28, 2006

unless you live on Wisteria Lane and are trying to teach your kid some wacky upper middle class value system*, don't worry about it.....*Are you?

My friend was the one concerned about social stigma. I was just curious about what Mefiville would think.

As for an upper middle class value system, I grew up in a working class environment and my husband grew up in near poverty. I totally feel like an immigrant in my own country. The book Limbo by Alfred Lubrano really helped me understand this experience. So, anyway, yeah, my husband and I want to teach our offspring about the workings of the upper middle class stratum. This is not because I'm classist. It's because it's been painfully difficult for me to learn how even the middle class works, let alone the upper middle class. So, while I currently live in an area where everyone lives in condos, I was wondering what happens when you move to an upper-middle class area where they all live in $1M fixer-upper houses like this one (the cheapest on the market), except for the truly rich kids. (Note: I know that's an $800k house, but my friends going to open houses say that places are going for 15% above or higher with up to 30 offers!)

SuperSquirrel: I agree with you about these concepts not coming up till middle school. But I was still curious about what people think

Various: I actually currently live very happily in a condo. If it weren't for the icky schools down here, I'd stay here forever. I'm not entirely sure I would ever want a house. However, I'd like to live in a nice community with very good schools. I don't want to live more than a short drive from downtown, so this basically limits me to living in the areas with $1M homes. But I don't really want to spend my weekends fixing up a fixer-upper that cost $1M and still needs the lawns cut, yard gardened, eavestroughs cleaned, etc. So I'm thinking a nice condo (like, say, this one) would eventually be nice. For now, though, I'm living downtown and loving my urban lifestyle. If it weren't for the icky schools, I'd stay here forever...and all my son's friends would live in condos just like they do now.
posted by acoutu at 10:28 PM on April 28, 2006

Uh, no.
posted by delmoi at 2:37 AM on April 29, 2006

Given that there are children that live in absolute poverty without access to dental care, clean bedding, and so forth (I see them frequently as an educator) this hardly seems to be an issue.

Should this issue even arise... perhaps it would be a good time to teach your children the value of not associating with shallow ignorant people.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 6:54 AM on April 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Worry more about his haircut, weight, clothes, etc, than where he's going to live.

As long as the condo isn't a one room apartment with five non-working tvs stacked on top of each other, I doubt you need worry about this area as a stigma.
posted by Atreides at 7:22 AM on April 29, 2006

It depends which school you kid is going to attend. If you are planning to send him to St Georges, he might face some social stigma, but I don't think anyone will notice at any of the other public schools in the area. From my days growing up in Vancouver (Kitsilano area) I always had a lot of friends who came from entirely different backgrounds with entirely different living situations. I don't ever remember even thinking about what type of place they lived in. I'm sure I was more focused on whether or not they were fun.
posted by kechi at 11:52 AM on April 29, 2006

it would be a good time to teach your children the value of not associating with shallow ignorant people.

Yeah, I just wasn't sure if most of their classmates would be shallow, ignorant people. It's pretty hard to avoid them if they make up most of the class.
posted by acoutu at 9:28 PM on April 29, 2006

I know that it's a little late, but I had to weigh in.
My husband and I lived in a condo and loved it, but when we started talking about having kids, my parents had a conniption and guilted us into buying a house. We still haven't had kids yet, and yearn for the downtown condo - this after three years.
So don't cave to the social pressure to buy a house if you don't want to. It'll only make you unhappy, and I think a happy parent is much more valuable to a child than a house.

And as an aside to russilvwong: move to Edmonton! I did, after growing up in Vancouver, and I don't regret it. Disposable income is so much fun!
posted by meringue at 9:27 AM on April 30, 2006

Oh, I wasn't planning to buy a house in Vancouver. I really am not in love with the idea of spending $3500 or $4500 a month on mortgage payments, taxes, maintenance and utilities. I'd rather live in a smaller space and actually live a little. I just wondered what would happen if we moved to a condo in a non-condo area. We currently live in the densest area of North America (outside Manhattan), but this isn't where I want my child to go to school. However, I don't feel like having a $600k mortgage or whatever, just so I can have a little more space. Heck, a lot of the people with those $1M homes have rented out their basements, so they have as little space as I do now -- except they have a yard.

Edmonton is nice, but my family is on the Coast and I would never leave. :)
posted by acoutu at 9:16 PM on April 30, 2006

I actually did live in Edmonton for six years, and we still have lots of friends in Alberta. But like acoutu, our families are here.
posted by russilwvong at 10:57 AM on May 1, 2006

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