They say home is where the heart is, and the heart of America lies in Missouri. While that quality doesn’t automatically make this state the perfect place to put down roots, growing families gravitate toward Missouri for many reasons.
Combining Midwestern sensibility with Southern charm, Missouri balances urban and rural traits well with its richly diverse culture, economy and landscape. Two major U.S. cities, Kansas City and St. Louis, border the eastern and western sides of the state, while a popular tourist destination, the mountainous Ozark region, dominates its southern half. The plains to the north are perhaps what many outsiders imagine when Missouri comes to mind. But each of these areas serves an important role and contributes heavily to the state’s strong economy.
Missouri boasts the 15th lowest unemployment in the U.S., while personal-income growth remains healthy. And with the fourth lowest cost of living in the U.S., affordability in Missouri puts more money back in parents’ pockets — perhaps to save for a comfortable retirement in the state or invest in long-term educational goals for their children. Missouri is home to several of the best and cheapest colleges and universities in the Midwest.
But not every corner of the Show-Me State is so lovable. To determine the best places for families in Missouri, WalletHub’s data team compared more than 80 of its biggest cities across 21 key indicators of family-friendliness. Our data set ranges from housing affordability to quality of school system to unemployment rate. Read on for our findings, expert commentary on family matters and a full description of our methodology.
Best Places to Raise a Family in Missouri
(1 = Best)
|City||Total Score||‘Family Life & Fun’ Rank||‘Education, Health & Safety’ Rank||‘Affordability’ Rank||‘Socio-economics’ Rank|
|1||Dardenne Prairie, MO||70.34||54||42||1||1|
|4||Webster Groves, MO||67.66||27||7||8||14|
|6||Fort Leonard Wood, MO||67.27||1||3||69||13|
|9||St. Peters, MO||65.78||67||30||3||4|
|11||Creve Coeur, MO||65.13||57||24||2||21|
|13||Lee's Summit, MO||63.96||40||26||27||8|
|15||Town and Country, MO||63.19||82||4||7||17|
|17||St. Charles, MO||62.56||31||29||21||25|
|19||Grain Valley, MO||62.20||18||17||44||18|
|21||Lake St. Louis, MO||60.18||76||22||16||15|
|27||Maryland Heights, MO||57.98||48||46||31||20|
|30||Blue Springs, MO||57.35||46||47||33||24|
|31||Webb City, MO||57.26||32||18||37||43|
|32||Jefferson City, MO||56.93||19||44||34||39|
|41||St. Joseph, MO||52.23||8||61||47||53|
|43||Excelsior Springs, MO||51.70||47||41||38||56|
|48||Cape Girardeau, MO||50.88||43||38||57||58|
|49||St. Ann, MO||50.86||44||50||19||75|
|57||Old Jamestown, MO||49.08||85||80||10||27|
|68||West Plains, MO||45.80||28||40||78||76|
|70||University City, MO||44.88||75||59||62||46|
|71||Kansas City, MO||44.48||9||79||61||69|
|73||Poplar Bluff, MO||43.36||12||54||82||77|
|80||Spanish Lake, MO||39.46||30||73||63||82|
|81||Bellefontaine Neighbors, MO||36.33||81||81||30||83|
|85||St. Louis, MO||28.25||38||84||85||81|
Ask the Experts
Families share a number of common priorities when choosing a new place to call home. With that in mind, we asked a panel of experts in fields such as family studies and public health to share their insight regarding the process of evaluating prospective Missouri cities on a family’s shortlist. Click on the experts’ profiles below to read their bios and their thoughts on the following key questions:
- What are some tips for young families looking for quality public schools and affordable housing in Missouri?
- How can local officials in Missouri make their cities more attractive to young families?
- Looking just within Missouri, to what degree is child development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the city in which they live?
Ask the Experts
To help families find the best Missouri cities in which to settle down, WalletHub compared a sample of 85 cities in the state across four key dimensions: 1) Family Life & Fun, 2) Education, Health & Safety, 3) Affordability and 4) Socio-economics. Our sample considers only the city proper in each case and excludes cities in the surrounding metro area.
We evaluated the four dimensions using 21 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most suitable conditions for family life.
Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order the cities in our sample.
Family Life & Fun – Total Points: 25
- Playgrounds per Capita: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
- Number of Attractions: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
Note: “Attractions” includes, for instance, museums, theaters and zoos.
- Share of Families with Children Aged 0 to 17 Years: Double Weight (~8.33 Points)
- Weather: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
Note: Based on WalletHub’s Cities with the Best & Worst Weather ranking.
- Average Commute Time: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
Education, Health & Safety – Total Points: 25
- Quality of School System: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
- High School Graduation Rate: Half Weight (~1.47 Points)
- Air Quality: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
- Pediatricians per Capita: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
- Share of Uninsured Children: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
Note: “Children” include the population aged 0 to 18 years.
- Violent-Crime Rate per Capita: Double Weight (~5.88 Points)
- Property-Crime Rate per Capita: Double Weight (~5.88 Points)
Affordability – Total Points: 25
- Housing Affordability: Full Weight (~12.50 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated as follows: Housing Costs (accounts for both rental and sale prices) / Median Annual Family Income.
- General Affordability: Full Weight (~12.50 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated as follows: Median Annual Family Income / Cost-of-Living Index.
Socio-economics – Total Points: 25
- Separation & Divorce Rate: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
- Share of Two-Parent Families: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
- Share of Families Living in Poverty: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
- Share of Households Receiving Food Stamps: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
- Unemployment Rate: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
- Wealth Gap: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
- Foreclosure Rate: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Environmental Protection Agency, County Health Rankings, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Renwood RealtyTrac, SchoolDigger.com, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Areavibes and WalletHub research.