True, New York boasts fantastic cultural advantages, hip downtown neighborhoods, and pleasures you can enjoy even if you don’t have much cash in your pocket—museums, parks, architecture. But the fact remains that living in Houston on $60,000 a year means a high-quality, spacious home, an air-conditioned commute, low local taxes, education options, and a decent amount of spending money left over. Living in New York City on $70,000 a year means a smaller, older home, a long and arduous commute, higher local taxes, fewer educational alternatives, and scrimping every day. For many middle-class families, at least those with kids, the amenities will be no substitute for a more comfortable life. In a sense, the real surprise isn’t that so many middle-income families are putting down roots in Houston (and in other fast-growing cities with similar characteristics, such as Atlanta and Phoenix); it’s that any of them remain in New York.