Finding a new place to put down roots is hard enough when you’re single, let alone when you attach “mom” to that status and a kid, or several, to your hip. By then you’re dealing with a different ballgame and literally some extra baggage.
Not long ago, the two-parent system standardized our family-centric society. Single moms and single parents in general were a bit of a social rarity, even frowned upon by mainstream groups. But as cultural perspectives have warmed up to this once-unconventional family structure, moms choosing to rear their children alone are no longer deemed social pariahs. Today, single-mom families account for a quarter of all U.S. households, at nearly 10 million, far outnumbering their single-dad counterparts by a good eight million.
But whether by volition or otherwise, the role of an unattached parent can be somewhat of a financial tightrope act, especially if you’re a single mom relying on a single income. In 2014, the median income for a home led by an unmarried mom totaled $24,403, not even a third of the $84,541 for families headed by married parents, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. And solo-mom families are more likely than single-dad units to live under poverty, with child-care costs that exceed the cost of rent in every state eating a good chunk of their earnings.
In light of Women’s History Month and National Single Parent Day on March 21, WalletHub’s analysts decided to honor single moms by identifying the most suitable cities for their families. Our comparison of the 150 largest U.S. cities is based on 17 key indicators of an ideal environment in which single moms have access to ample job opportunities and earn a livable income while their children receive the best and most cost-effective care. Scroll down for the winners, additional expert commentary on single motherhood and its challenges, as well as a full description of our methodology.
‘Single Moms’ Economic & Social Well-Being’ Rank
‘Child-Friendly Environment’ Rank
|4||San Francisco, CA||63.23||31||2|
|6||Pembroke Pines, FL||61.95||3||102|
|9||Sioux Falls, SD||61.61||18||10|
|10||Overland Park, KS||60.63||6||100|
|12||Des Moines, IA||59.64||17||23|
|16||Huntington Beach, CA||57.32||10||71|
|18||Little Rock, AR||56.94||76||1|
|20||Rancho Cucamonga, CA||56.34||11||87|
|27||Baton Rouge, LA||54.84||93||9|
|28||Virginia Beach, VA||54.52||13||81|
|30||St. Paul, MN||54.50||29||59|
|32||Salt Lake City, UT||54.32||46||29|
|37||Santa Clarita, CA||53.70||14||112|
|45||Cape Coral, FL||52.27||59||48|
|49||San Jose, CA||51.80||61||39|
|50||Fort Wayne, IN||51.73||19||128|
|51||Fort Lauderdale, FL||51.63||69||38|
|52||St. Petersburg, FL||51.61||72||32|
|57||Santa Rosa, CA||51.18||63||57|
|58||San Diego, CA||51.16||77||34|
|65||Garden Grove, CA||50.43||33||122|
|69||Las Vegas, NV||50.09||47||84|
|70||St. Louis, MO||50.07||119||20|
|76||Port St. Lucie, FL||49.55||78||77|
|77||Colorado Springs, CO||49.44||22||129|
|86||Grand Prairie, TX||48.04||66||105|
|95||Kansas City, MO||46.71||85||89|
|97||San Antonio, TX||46.40||67||106|
|101||Jersey City, NJ||46.02||123||61|
|105||New Orleans, LA||45.69||143||26|
|107||Newport News, VA||45.62||83||116|
|109||Grand Rapids, MI||45.51||89||113|
|110||Corpus Christi, TX||45.35||60||119|
|111||El Paso, TX||45.35||91||98|
|112||New York, NY||45.21||133||55|
|115||Oklahoma City, OK||44.43||95||104|
|116||Chula Vista, CA||44.39||106||97|
|125||Moreno Valley, CA||43.02||105||132|
|127||Long Beach, CA||42.78||112||110|
|138||Fort Worth, TX||41.03||121||125|
|142||Santa Ana, CA||39.56||130||141|
|143||North Las Vegas, NV||38.52||94||150|
|146||Los Angeles, CA||37.39||146||120|
|150||San Bernardino, CA||35.31||148||139|
Ask the Experts
Solo motherhood comes with a unique set of challenges. For insight regarding those issues and how best to address them, we turned to a panel of experts in women’s and family studies as well as local administration. Click on the experts’ profiles to read their bios and thoughts on the following key questions:
- What financial advice do you have for a young single mother?
- What is the most common financial mistake that single mothers make?
- What strategies can help single mothers attain high-quality and affordable child care?
- Why has there been such a dramatic growth in the proportion of households headed by a single mother in recent decades?
- What can local authorities do to better support and meet the needs of single mothers?
Ask the Experts
In order to identify the best cities for single mothers, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 150 most populated U.S. cities across two key dimensions, namely “Single Moms’ Economic & Social Well-Being” and “Child-Friendly Environment.”
First, we compiled 17 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was given a value between 0 and 100, wherein 100 is the best value for that metric and 0 is the worst. Data for metrics marked with an asterisk (*) were available at the state level only.
We then calculated the overall score for each city using the weighted average across all metrics and ranked the cities accordingly.
Single Moms’ Economic & Social Well-Being – Total Points: 70
- Working Single Moms: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of employed single moms with underaged children.
- Median Annual Income for Single Moms (Adjusted for Cost of Living): Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
- Cost of a Babysitter: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
- Housing Affordability for Single Moms: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated as (“Median Annual Income for Single Moms” divided by “Median House Price”) plus (Median Annual Income for Single Moms” divided by “Median Price of Rent”)
- Financial Insecurity of Single-Mom Households: Double Weight (11.67 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of single moms with underaged children living below the poverty level.
- Access to Welfare for Single Moms*: Half Weight (~2.92 Points)
Note: This metric measures the state’s welfare generosity toward single moms.
- Single Moms’ Educational Attainment: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of single moms who have earned at least a bachelor’s degree.
- Lack of Access to Health Insurance for Single Moms: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of single moms without health-insurance coverage.
- Single Moms’ Mental-Health Status*: Half Weight (~2.92 Points)
- WalletHub “Women’s Equality” Ranking*: Half Weight (~2.92 Points)
- WalletHub “Working Moms” Ranking*: Half Weight (~2.92 Points)
- WalletHub “Singles” Ranking: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
- Social Support for Single Moms: Full Weight (~5.83 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of single-parent groups per number of single moms.
Children-Friendly Environment – Total Points: 30
- Childcare Workers to Children Ratio: Full Weight (~7.50 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of childcare workers per 1,000 children aged 13 and younger.
- Access to Adequate Child Care: Full Weight (~7.50 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of child- and day-care establishments per 1,000 children aged 13 and younger.
- Outdoor Fun for Kids: Full Weight (~7.50 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of playgrounds per 10,000 children aged 13 and younger.
- Access to Parks: Full Weight (~7.50 Points)
Note: This metric measures parkland acreage as a percentage of city area.
Sources: Data used to create these rankings were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the National Center for Children in Poverty, the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, Meetup, Yelp, Care.com, The Trust for Public Land and WalletHub research.