2015’s Best & Worst Cities for Families

by John S Kiernan

WH-2014-Best-and-Worst-Cities-for-FamiliesFamilies move often and for varied reasons. In fact, the average American can expect to move an estimated 11.7 times during his or her lifetime, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Moving can be a sign of either opportunity – a new job or long-term wealth accumulation, for instance – or of instability like foreclosure or job loss. The key in either case – whether you’re a newly married couple or a victim of America’s economic transition – is to choose an area conducive to economic prosperity and the overall pursuit of happiness.

With that in mind, WalletHub compared the 150 most populated U.S. cities based on 30 key metrics that take into account essential family dynamics such as the relative cost of housing, the quality of local school and health care systems, and the opportunities for fun and recreation. While obviously not perfect – given the intrinsic value of each city, personal preferences and the limitations of publicly available data – our findings will hopefully give prospective movers a sense of which areas offer the greatest opportunity to achieve wallet wellness and, of course, live a long and happy life. You can check out the results, additional insight from experts and our detailed methodology below.

Main Findings

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Overall Rank City "Family Activities & Fun" Rank "Health & Safety" Rank "Education & Child Care" Rank "Affordability" Rank "Socioeconomic Environment" Rank
1 Overland Park, KS 80 5 32 8 4
2 Plano, TX 62 15 8 7 3
3 Virginia Beach, VA 68 2 3 43 14
4 Lincoln, NE 17 19 66 1 8
5 Sioux Falls, SD 64 42 57 2 12
6 Madison, WI 53 33 26 13 21
7 Fremont, CA 58 1 81 23 1
8 Chesapeake, VA 101 6 3 35 13
9 Colorado Springs, CO 10 74 36 12 18
10 Grand Prairie, TX 48 52 8 23 24
11 Irvine, CA 25 3 81 29 6
12 Amarillo, TX 73 87 8 10 38
13 Arlington, TX 57 72 8 14 41
14 Gilbert, AZ 38 21 125 3 2
15 Omaha, NE 5 65 66 5 30
16 Fort Worth, TX 8 83 8 15 58
17 Boise, ID 9 27 65 21 19
18 Rancho Cucamonga, CA 106 11 81 18 7
19 Corpus Christi, TX 60 73 8 11 59
20 Irving, TX 76 48 8 42 26
21 Wichita, KS 47 113 32 9 54
22 Austin, TX 55 54 8 37 49
23 Anchorage, AK 4 107 111 16 10
24 Chandler, AZ 28 46 125 6 5
25 Lubbock, TX 51 101 8 20 56
26 Aurora, IL 85 23 52 40 46
27 San Jose, CA 16 8 81 71 15
28 Garland, TX 98 63 8 48 33
29 Santa Clarita, CA 134 7 81 31 16
30 Des Moines, IA 46 75 34 17 94
31 El Paso, TX 6 47 8 74 85
32 Seattle, WA 99 90 48 19 37
33 Minneapolis, MN 12 112 28 33 65
34 Peoria, AZ 133 41 125 4 11
35 San Antonio, TX 42 117 8 41 61
36 Raleigh, NC 18 62 115 38 39
37 St. Paul, MN 11 82 28 65 70
38 Huntington Beach, CA 148 12 81 49 9
39 Columbus, OH 30 13 39 62 88
40 Scottsdale, AZ 74 30 125 21 17
41 Fontana, CA 66 43 81 47 34
42 Denver, CO 24 111 36 52 55
43 San Diego, CA 41 39 81 72 23
44 Aurora, CO 78 98 36 56 36
45 Bakersfield, CA 1 102 81 25 66
46 Chula Vista, CA 33 28 81 77 30
47 Laredo, TX 31 76 8 69 91
48 Lexington, KY 71 17 123 39 50
49 Newport News, VA 132 24 3 97 73
50 Santa Rosa, CA 81 4 81 100 28
51 Pembroke Pines, FL 140 29 70 54 27
52 Oklahoma City, OK 22 129 68 28 48
53 Salt Lake City, UT 56 136 60 26 44
54 Pittsburgh, PA 100 80 30 34 105
55 Charlotte, NC 35 86 115 46 57
56 Fort Wayne, IN 89 79 58 32 82
57 Oxnard, CA 27 33 81 106 43
58 Cape Coral, FL 146 18 70 84 29
59 Brownsville, TX 13 69 8 104 117
60 Vancouver, WA 109 61 48 67 90
61 Henderson, NV 72 36 147 27 47
62 Spokane, WA 83 125 48 36 96
63 Riverside, CA 50 78 81 82 52
64 Houston, TX 75 140 8 68 84
65 Nashville, TN 130 109 44 57 60
66 Norfolk, VA 81 44 3 123 111
67 Durham, NC 65 77 115 60 64
68 Sacramento, CA 2 67 81 91 98
69 Dallas, TX 62 97 8 110 104
70 Port St. Lucie, FL 149 13 70 87 45
71 Portland, OR 90 32 122 85 62
72 Ontario, CA 79 53 81 101 53
73 Greensboro, NC 33 55 115 88 72
74 Toledo, OH 70 26 39 92 142
75 Mesa, AZ 115 84 125 30 30
76 Anaheim, CA 61 51 81 121 40
77 Tulsa, OK 15 132 68 50 95
78 Worcester, MA 120 35 24 102 122
79 Oceanside, CA 144 37 81 108 20
80 Jacksonville, FL 94 88 70 59 71
81 Jersey City, NJ 135 44 1 125 103
82 Garden Grove, CA 124 25 81 118 35
83 Santa Ana, CA 54 38 81 131 51
84 Louisville, KY 105 66 123 53 67
85 Moreno Valley, CA 96 64 81 89 68
86 Tampa, FL 37 68 70 78 114
87 St. Petersburg, FL 84 125 70 55 75
88 Boston, MA 110 31 24 123 112
89 San Francisco, CA 125 91 81 103 25
90 Kansas City, MO 59 149 54 58 89
91 Phoenix, AZ 7 108 125 64 81
92 Honolulu, HI 114 9 110 143 22
93 Glendale, CA 147 10 81 141 42
94 Richmond, VA 128 39 3 129 138
95 Winston-Salem, NC 52 92 115 93 106
96 Fayetteville, NC 93 100 115 86 79
97 Glendale, AZ 45 131 125 50 78
98 Tallahassee, FL 116 89 70 76 107
99 Knoxville, TN 137 124 44 95 93
100 Tacoma, WA 139 139 48 60 102
101 Milwaukee, WI 20 121 26 136 121
102 Albuquerque, NM 14 122 140 62 80
103 Stockton, CA 39 115 81 94 110
104 Buffalo, NY 44 71 61 105 140
105 Tempe, AZ 119 118 125 44 63
106 Reno, NV 3 94 147 78 77
107 Huntsville, AL 104 95 141 44 74
108 Indianapolis, IN 92 143 58 75 101
109 Los Angeles, CA 69 50 81 146 87
110 Cincinnati, OH 19 104 39 127 133
111 Long Beach, CA 49 59 81 137 109
112 Modesto, CA 107 116 81 90 92
113 Grand Rapids, MI 87 57 138 78 86
114 Fresno, CA 21 81 81 120 123
115 Akron, OH 138 55 39 115 139
116 New York, NY 111 16 61 147 113
117 North Las Vegas, NV 36 119 147 73 69
118 Columbus, GA 67 99 112 95 120
119 Yonkers, NY 150 20 61 132 97
120 Chicago, IL 113 70 52 142 119
121 Rochester, NY 29 85 61 114 144
122 Springfield, MO 118 147 54 111 83
123 Chattanooga, TN 123 134 44 107 127
124 Orlando, FL 40 135 70 132 100
125 Memphis, TN 108 142 44 109 132
126 Cleveland, OH 86 120 39 132 145
127 Newark, NJ 122 93 1 148 150
128 Philadelphia, PA 121 110 30 144 131
129 Augusta, GA 127 49 112 98 143
130 Tucson, AZ 26 127 125 113 115
131 Las Vegas, NV 23 150 147 70 76
132 Montgomery, AL 91 22 141 81 129
133 Oakland, CA 102 123 81 139 108
134 Baltimore, MD 126 106 35 130 149
135 Providence, RI 32 58 121 145 137
136 Atlanta, GA 97 145 112 99 124
137 Little Rock, AR 142 137 137 66 99
138 San Bernardino, CA 43 130 81 128 128
139 St. Louis, MO 112 144 54 122 125
140 Hialeah, FL 143 60 70 150 116
141 Washington, DC 129 113 145 83 126
142 New Orleans, LA 76 105 134 140 130
143 Fort Lauderdale, FL 145 141 70 126 118
144 Shreveport, LA 116 103 134 116 136
145 Mobile, AL 131 96 141 112 134
146 Baton Rouge, LA 103 128 134 117 141
147 Miami, FL 136 133 70 149 135
148 Detroit, MI 95 146 138 119 146
149 Birmingham, AL 141 138 141 132 147
150 Jackson, MS 88 148 146 138 148

Best-Cities-for-Families-Artwork

Ask the Experts

Raising a family can be a decidedly scary proposition. And with so many important decisions to make, seemingly few “right” answers available and everything on the line, it’s often difficult to determine where to turn for help with family matters. With that in mind, we turned to leading experts in the fields of family studies, psychology and household finance for tips, insights and a few cautionary tales. Click on the experts’ profiles below to read their bios and thoughts on the following key questions:

  1. To what degree is child development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the city they live in? How?
  2. What advice do you have for young families looking to start their lives together on the right foot financially?
  3. How can local officials make their cities more attractive to young families?
  4. What should families consider when choosing a place to set down roots?
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  • Preston A. Britner Philip E. Austin Endowed Chair and Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at University of Connecticut
  • Joyce Serido Associate Professor in the Family Social Science Department at University of Minnesota
  • Felton Earls Emeritus Professor of Human Behavior and Development at Harvard School of Public Health
  • D. Bruce Carter Associate Professor of Psychology and Child & Family Studies at Syracuse University
  • Daniel Hubler Assistant Professor of Child and Family Studies at Weber State University, and President of the Family Science Association
  • Rebekah Levine Coley Professor in the Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology Department at Boston College
  • Alan Reifman Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Texas Tech University
  • Karen K. Melton Assistant Professor of Child and Family Studies at Baylor University
  • Anne Douglass Assistant Professor in the College of Education and Human Development at University of Massachusetts at Boston

Preston A. Britner

Philip E. Austin Endowed Chair and Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at University of Connecticut
Preston A. Britner
To what degree are child development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the city they live in? How?

Zip code tends to be a strong predictor of child development outcomes and quality of life indicators for all members of a family. Why? Family income, quality of schools and other public services, and opportunities for advancement and employment are inter-related. Cities, and especially neighborhoods, remain fairly segregated, especially in terms of family income.

How can local officials make their cities more attractive to young families?

Investments in quality schools can really pay off. Education remains a key to advancement for individuals in the society, and plenty of research shows that education spending also benefits the city or community in terms of improved participation in the labor force and fewer costs associated with social welfare, the criminal justice system, and the like. In addition to schools, families also look for parks, recreational facilities, and other community programming. Those investments can attract young families and also retain them as they engage in their communities, build friendships and bonds, and then decide to stay.

Joyce Serido

Associate Professor in the Family Social Science Department at University of Minnesota
Joyce Serido
What advice do you have for young families looking to start their lives together on the right foot financially?

Understand that many of the day-to-day decisions we make have financial implications: not just where we shop and what we buy (consumer choices), but what we do. Example - buy a new car to drive to work or take public transportation; live in town, where taxes are higher, but easy access to schools, parks, and other amenities or live in the suburbs, and spend more time driving.

Once you get that, you can make decisions that are consistent with your own values. Of course knowing your values is probably the first step.
  • Set financial goals that are in line with your values;
  • Because life is full of surprises, be proactive – think ahead, plan for emergencies;
  • Recognize that you have choices – in most situations, doing nothing is often a choice. It can give you time to think things through. There are pros and cons to every choice – do some digging and thinking - before you decide;
  • If you have children - or plan to - remember that children learn by observing and imitating you. When parents make choices, even very young children learn about financial values and financial behaviors. When parents teach them how to spend/save money, they learn how to make choices and feel more competent.

Felton Earls

Emeritus Professor of Human Behavior and Development at Harvard School of Public Health
Felton Earls
To what degree are child development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the city they live in? How?

I call it intergenerational closure: the sense that adults in the neighborhood know and help supervise children and adolescents.

How can local officials make their cities more attractive to young families?

Neighborhood schools.

What should families consider when choosing a place to set down roots?

Child care and primary schools located in the neighborhood, recreational space, sidewalks, an active neighborhood association, evidence that a high degree of collective efficacy exists.

D. Bruce Carter

Associate Professor of Psychology and Child & Family Studies at Syracuse University
D. Bruce Carter
To what degree are child development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the city they live in? How?

The development of children is strongly influenced by the environment in which they are raised. And, of course, the family's overall quality of life plays a major part in both the physical and the emotional environment that children experience. Parents who are stressed, who are working to make ends meet, who are experiencing poverty, illness or a variety of other conditions may not have the emotional energy or physical capacity to provide children with the type of enriching environment that leads to optimal development.

If the physical environment is dangerous due to contaminants or crime, parents may not allow their children to experience their neighborhoods or interactions with their peers, preferring to keep them inside where they are safe from harmful outside influences (which is sensible) but depriving them of the social and physical interactions that may encourage their overall development of social skills, positive self-concepts, and physical health.

Neighborhoods should be diverse and provide children with experiences that prepare them for interacting in an increasingly diverse environment in the future.

What advice do you have for young families looking to start their lives together on the right foot financially?

Budget. Carefully review your resources and recognize how much money you have available for necessities and how much you will have available for pleasure.

Save. As part of your budget, be sure to save funds for your children's future educational activities (college and the like) and for your own retirement. You also will need to budget to have adequate savings to cover the cost of living for you and your family, should illness or unemployment become an issue.

Recognize the difference between the things that you need and the things that you want to have because others have them or because they're available. Not every kitchen needs quartz or granite countertops. Not every family needs a 70 inch TV (probably none need one). Families do need to have adequate food, shelter, and social interactions. If the children are young, the adults will make many of these decisions; as children grow and develop, they can participate in ways that are developmentally appropriate.

How can local officials make their cities more attractive to young families?

I believe that there are 3 major routes to making cities more attractive to young families.
  1. Creating a safe environment. A sense of safety in the environment is largely a function of perception. Young parents need to know that their children are safe when they play in their neighborhood and attend schools. Crime reduction is very helpful in this regard. Police, fire, and other city services need to be present, visible, and available.
  2. Creating a clean and interesting environment. Children need safe and green spaces in which to play. Neighborhood playgrounds are an input venue to develop. There should be swings and slides, and lots of grassy areas in which children can play. Baseball diamonds, soccer fields, and basketball courts can offer both older children and adults the opportunity for playing other, more organized sports. Playgrounds should be well-lit with clear sight lines that allow parents to monitor their children and to see if there are any causes for concern. (Keeping such areas well-lit and open should discourage the development of areas where drug cultures and other undesirable activities will occur. Lighting should continue overnight to diminish such activities.) These playgrounds also will require benches for parents to sit on and trash cans/recycling bins to encourage patrons to keep the parks neat. Also required will be maintenance by the city to make certain that the facilities remain open and inviting. Neighborhood watch groups might be encouraged to adopt a neighborhood playground as part of their activities.


  3. Cities must also provide easy access to nutritious food (like grocery stores), medical/dental facilities, and other amenities. This may involve creating tax breaks for the development of such facilities in certain neighborhoods or the provision of travel services (buses, etc.) that transport people to the services. I know that in many cities, health care professionals are not practicing in sufficient numbers in inner city areas and are over-represented in the suburbs.

    Cities should provide access to libraries, funding them at a level that will allow every child and every parent to have access to books and encouraging them to read both individually and together. Libraries and librarians can offer activities to engage children of all ages, especially during the summer when many children and adolescents are losing the valuable reading skills they acquired during the school year and are looking for activities to keep themselves entertained.
  4. Creating an effective school system. Parents of young children need to believe that the schools available to their children will provide children with the education they will need to function in our society as well as providing an environment in which effective learning can occur. Qualified teachers who are committed to the children in their care are perhaps the most important aspect. Although there is increasing pressure on schools and school systems to increase test scores, test scores alone are not the best indication of a functioning and effective school system. Indeed, they may reflect teachers’ "teaching to the test" (focusing on test performance alone) rather than providing children with the academic skills and intellectual curiosity that will insure their subsequent academic success. Facilities should, of course, be clean and provide a safe environment for learning, but it is the teachers and their abilities to inspire their students that will have the greatest impact. Schools need to provide positive academic experiences for children of all ability levels. And they need to engage parents as partners in their children's academic careers. School administrators may need to think strategically to encourage such involvement in contemporary society where so many parents are working full-time and even two jobs. Use of electronic media as a form of communication may help in some instances, but parental engagement requires that the messages to parents be personal, not merely generic notices of school activities. Research indicates that parental involvement in the schools is a good predictor of both academic success and reduction of behavior problems in school settings. The availability of non-academic activities (after-school or in clubs) for older children and adolescents is also important.
What should families consider when choosing a place to set down roots?

Decide first on geographic location. Do you want to live in an area that provides constant year-round temperatures (like Florida, California or the SW US) or do you want your children to experience the changing seasons, etc. Often, locale will be determined by employment opportunities but one can job-hunt selectively. Talk to people who have lived in your target areas; what opportunities exist for people in your occupational field, etc. Online resources will be very helpful in this regard.

Look carefully at the housing market and the neighborhoods in which houses you can afford are. Wonderful neighborhoods with well-manicured lawns and lots of amenities are great if you can afford to live in those neighborhoods. But if your finances restrict your housing choices to less desirable neighborhoods, the presence of great housing you can't afford is irrelevant. There are advantages to urban (easier access to a variety of resources) and suburban (less congestion, etc.) areas. Decide what are the variables of interest to you in making your housing decisions.

Look at schools and neighborhood resources. Look at the physical appearance of neighborhoods. Are the houses, yards, streets, and sidewalks well maintained? Use online and other resources to see if your target neighborhoods are up-and-coming, stable, or on a downward slide. Talk to everyone you can about their experiences.

Look for the presence of other young families with children. They will be your peers, your neighbors, and your friends. When you advocate for children, you are advocating for your children as well as theirs. They will be valuable allies in assuring that the housing choices you make remain viable over time.

Daniel Hubler

Assistant Professor of Child and Family Studies at Weber State University, and President of the Family Science Association
Daniel Hubler
To what degree are child development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the city they live in? How?

When choosing a place to live with children, one often considers the school system and neighborhood safety. However, we must also be aware that there are those who don't have the luxury of considering these, as the young parents search for housing that's affordable, close to work, or close to transportation infrastructure.

What advice do you have for young families looking to start their lives together on the right foot financially?

It's one thing to have a budgeting style. It's a completely different task to negotiate the budgeting styles of two partners. I would suggest that young couples identify each other's spending personalities, budgeting styles, and traits, and communicate these to each other in a healthy way. Taking a couple and relationship education class is vital for this type of process, so that young partners are able to learn healthy ways of negotiating wants and needs, be it sexual, emotional, or even financial wants and needs.

For example, if one partner enjoys fishing and another partner finds enjoyment in shopping for new clothes, a discussion about these priorities will help this couple to negotiate in a healthy way. It also reduces the risk of being caught off guard by an unknown spending habit.

How can local officials make their cities more attractive to young families?

Young couples are often looking for financially amenable locations, so affordable housing with a safe neighborhood could definitely help. Having access to transportation could also be a big bonus.

Rebekah Levine Coley

Professor in the Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology Department at Boston College
Rebekah Levine Coley
To what degree are child development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the city they live in? How?

There is growing evidence that place matters - that is, that the community a family lives in influences parents' and children's lives. Communities, and more broadly, cities, vary immensely in terms of the resources they offer to families - high quality schools, accessible public transportation, green space, cultural activities, public safety services, plentiful and well-paying job opportunities, and laws and regulations that govern civic life. These types of resources help to support families' economic and social well-being and support their children's healthy development.

Communities also differ in terms of contexts and experiences that can stress and harm families and children, such as high levels of crime, air and water pollution, poor quality schools, limited social trust and social connections, and economic and regulatory environments that inhibit families' ability to be economically secure. These characteristics can increase psychological stress in parents and children and also directly affect physiological functioning and health.

What advice do you have for young families looking to start their lives together on the right foot financially?

Many core pieces of advice for financial stability really require advanced planning. Key steps include beginning to save money early for key life experiences (such as a down payment on a house), and attaining an education and some economic stability before having children.

For young families with children, central concerns include decisions regarding employment and child care (which is extremely expensive in most communities in the U.S.), and choosing a community to live in. Families with young children often prioritize living near relatives who can help with family demands if possible, finding a home in a safe community with a good educational system, and balancing the high time and monetary costs of child rearing with other career, financial, and personal or family demands.

Given these competing demands, it's important to really think through your personal priorities and values and try to make choices that support those priorities, which often means giving up or holding off on other activities/purchases/goals until circumstances allow.

How can local officials make their cities more attractive to young families?

There are a variety of services, resources, and opportunities that are essential to young families. For caring for children, important resources include accessible and affordable child care, high quality education systems, safe communities, open space and recreational programs, and cultural programs. On a broader economic level, affordable housing, reliable transportation options, and a strong economic are central to all families.

What should families consider when choosing a place to set down roots?

In the current age, one's career and job opportunities sometimes drive decisions about where to live. Others prioritize different concerns, such as being close to family, living in a particular area of the country, or finding a community that seems to "fit." Regardless of which overarching demand or priority drives one's decision, it is important to think about aspects of community that are important to you, and to try to match those with where you choose to live.

Alan Reifman

Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Texas Tech University
Alan Reifman
To what degree are child development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the city they live in? How?

We know a lot of the things necessary (or at least helpful) for healthy child development and family life. These include good nutrition, physical exercise (with the necessary facilities such as parks), and access to health care for all family members. In addition, children need good schools and leisure activities that are fun and also provide intellectual stimulation (e.g., museums, libraries).

What should families consider when choosing a place to set down roots?

Parents need good job opportunities, with as many family-friendly policies as possible (e.g., onsite daycare). Other features of a city, such as good public transportation and low crime rates, are desirable too. The challenge is that cities offering these amenities also tend to be very expensive to live in. A number of magazines and web sites produce Top 10 lists of best places to raise a family, and the places that tend to rank highly are college towns and mid-size cities. All of the above features, with relative affordability, are what young families should look for and city leaders should seek to make available.

Karen K. Melton

Assistant Professor of Child and Family Studies at Baylor University
Karen K. Melton
To what degree are child development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the city they live in? How?

Cities have a pronounced impact on development and quality of life. Cities that value families will strive to empower and support families in their philosophy, culture, and practices.

How can local officials make their cities more attractive to young families?

Three ways that 21st century cities can support families are through technologies, opportunities, and programs (TOP).
  • Technologies. “Smart Cities” use new technologies like broadband, sensors, surveillance, and smart grids in amazing ways that help us find parking spaces, avoid traffic jams, communicate, educate, charge electric cars, and keep us safe. Smart cities create efficiency, reduce stress, help us share (as in the “share economy”), and provide us more time with our families.
  • Opportunities. “Active Cities” provide opportunities for recreation and physical activities. Shared family time and physical health are important values for most young families. Families want recreational opportunities that entertain, educate, and enhance family relationships. Families are also interested in opportunities to maintain healthy habits. The way a city is designed impacts the physical activity of its citizens. Cities can have sidewalks or bike paths that connect homes with recreation, schools, employment, grocery stores, and other shopping areas. Active cities benefit from higher home values, increased economic performance, and lower obesity rates.
  • Programs. “Caring Cities” ensure programs are available to help families. We all need a little help with our family responsibilities in today’s fast-paced and specialized society. For example, you can “Rent-A-Husband” to help mow the grass, stain the deck, and move the furniture. Programs are the services and supports that assist families in family relationships, finances, childrearing, and other responsibilities. Programs can either empower families to fulfill these responsibilities or allow them to outsource these responsibilities to a specialist. Caring cities ensure that all families have access to quality programs.
So whether you are a young family looking for a new place to set down roots or a city official looking to improve your city, consider whether your city is a TOP City for families.

Anne Douglass

Assistant Professor in the College of Education and Human Development at University of Massachusetts at Boston
Anne Douglass
To what degree are child development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the city they live in? How?

We all recognize the huge influence families have on children’s development. The city or town a family lives in also plays an important role in healthy child development and a family’s quality of life. Cities can offer many resources, services, and supports for healthy child development. For example, consider the supply of quality outdoor play spaces. Parks and playgrounds are important public spaces for young children and their families. They provide opportunities for safe outdoor physical play, as well as nature exploration. They also offer places for families to meet and to build a sense of community.

Another important way cities influence child development is through accessible, high quality early childhood care and education. Cities can ensure that child care and early education programs are available to families, and that these programs meet standards for quality such as those set by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

How can local officials make their cities more attractive to young families?

Cities can attract families with young children through a variety of family-friendly services, resources, and activities. Ensuring high quality public schools is a top priority, and many families are attracted by districts that offer early childhood education or prekindergarten options as well. Public libraries with robust children’s sections and programming for young children is another marker of a family-friendly city. In regions with cold winters, it is important to offer indoor activity spaces for children and their families, such as swimming pools, gymnasiums, and children’s museums with playspaces. All of these resources create opportunities for children to learn and develop, and they have the added benefit of offering families of young children a place to connect with one another.

Methodology

In order to identify the cities that are most conducive to family life, WalletHub compared the 150 most populated U.S. cities across five equally weighted key dimensions: 1) Family Activities & Fun; 2) Health & Safety; 3) Education & Child Care; 4) Affordability; and 5) Socioeconomic Environment. We then identified 30 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights.Data for the metrics marked with an asterisk (*) were available only at the state level.

Please note that “city” refers to city proper and excludes surrounding metro areas.

Family Activities & Fun – Total Weight: 5

  • Number of Playgrounds per 100,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Number of Ice Rinks per 100,000 Residents: Half Weight
  • Number of Skate Parks per 100,000 Residents: Half Weight
  • Parkland Acreage per 100,000 Residents: Half Weight
  • Number of Attractions (e.g., zoos, museums, theatres): Full Weight
  • WalletHub “Weather” Ranking: Full Weight
  • Percentage of Families with Children Younger than 18: Double Weight
  • Average Commute Time: Full Weight

Health & Safety – Total Weight: 5

  • Air Quality: Full Weight
  • Water Quality: Full Weight
  • Number of Pediatricians Per 100,000 Residents: Full Weight
  • Percentage of Children (Newborn to Age 18) Lacking Health Insurance Coverage: Full Weight
  • Violent Crime Rate per 100,000 Residents: Double Weight
  • Property Crime Rate per 100,000 Residents: Double Weight

Education & Child Care – Total Weight: 5

  • WalletHub’s “Best & Worst School Systems” Ranking: Double Weight
  • High School Graduation Rate: Half* Weight
  • Day Care Quality: Half* Weight
  • Child Care Costs (Adjusted for Median Family Income): Half* Weight
  • “Parental Leave Policy” Score: Half* Weight

Affordability – Total Weight: 5

  • Housing Affordability (Median Annual Family Income Divided by Housing Costs — Accounts for Both Rent and House Prices): Full Weight
  • Median Family Annual Income Divided by Cost of Living Index: Full Weight
  • WalletHub “Best & Worst Cities for Wallet Wellness” Ranking: Full Weight

Socioeconomic Environment – Total Weight: 5

  • Separation & Divorce Rate: Full Weight
  • Percentage of Two-Parent Families: Full Weight
  • Percentage of Families Living Below the Poverty Line: Full Weight
  • Percentage of Households Receiving Food Stamps: Full Weight
  • Unemployment Rate: Full Weight
  • Wealth Gap: Full Weight
  • Foreclosure Rate: Half* Weight
  • “Social Ties” Ranking: Full Weight

 
Source: Data used to create these rankings were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Center for Education Statistics, the Child Care Aware of America, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Council for Community and Economic Research, the Trust for Public Land, the Environmental Working Group, Sharecare, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the National Partnership for Women & Families, Tripadvisor, CoreLogic and WalletHub research.

Author

User
John Kiernan is Senior Writer & Editor at Evolution Finance. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in Journalism, a minor in Sport Commerce & Culture,…
1591 Wallet Points

Discussion

 
By: Virginia1
Jun 20, 2015
The fact that there are no cities from Utah on here tells me that the survey was incomplete - they didn't survey if not all cities, at least one city from each state. Utah has a birth rate which rivals Bangladesh per capita - so the fact that it's not on "the most families with kids" list tells me that the list is not accurate.
 
By: Kellit
Jul 28, 2015
@Virginia1:
Did u see #53?
Reply Delete Flag
 
By: Duderonid
Jul 28, 2015
@Virginia1: Calm down Brigham. The freaky birth rate doesn't mean it makes the list automatically anyway. The fact the whole state is dominated by a cult may not sit well with many families...
Reply Delete Flag
 
By: Samc
Jun 17, 2015
This entire list is crap. Lincoln NE is number 17 for family activities & fun while Chicago is 113... Buffalo, one of the cheapest large cities in the US is less affordable than San Francisco?? WTF
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Jun 10, 2014
I'm sorry but this is just a Class A example of why data is sometimes just flat out wrong. Lubbock, Amarillo AND Corpus are better places to raise families than San Antonio?!? I'm sorry, but no. Not even close. I strongly (strongly) encourage you to visit these four cities and judge for yourself. Of course this survey also puts Amarillo ABOVE Austin. Those of us who have lived in those two cities are laughing at read more
 
By: Am954385
Jun 11, 2014
AGREED! Amarillo better than Austin? Not possible.
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Jun 11, 2014
Eh, on things to do I would agree. But Lubbock and Amarillo are far more affordable and have a safer environment. Plus, smaller school systems are usually less stratified and more stable. Don't get me wrong, I wish I didn't live here, but Austin and San Antonio are bigger and BETTER cities for adults, not necessarily for families as the title indicates.
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By: Am954385
Jun 11, 2014
Lubbock and Amarillo basically offer affordability - which may be partially due to the dire lack of activities for all age groups. They actually had the worse health and safety ratings when compared with San Antonio and Austin. Amarillo's education and childcare rating shocked me - it certainly does not jive with my experiences here. But their data are likely more valid than my experience.
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