2017’s Best Places to Raise a Family in Arizona
Moving your family to a new state is a challenge on its own. Moving them for all the right reasons is another. If you’re looking for cultural diversity, a strong economy and adventure for your clan, Arizona is the obvious choice.
This Southwestern state is the 11th most racially diverse. It also holds the record for having the largest share of its land designated for Indian reservations — about a quarter of the state — occupied by 22 federally recognized Native American nations. If better earning, employment or entrepreneurial opportunities are your priority, Arizona’s economy beats out those of 34 states and earns high marks in categories measuring, among others, GDP growth, share of fast-growing firms and share of high-tech jobs. And you won’t run out of fun options for family activities in the Grand Canyon State — the nickname says it all.
But some Arizona cities are more family-friendly than others. To determine the places in Arizona that are most suitable for putting down roots, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 65 cities in the state based on 21 key metrics. Our data set ranges from median family income to school-system quality to housing affordability. Read on for our findings, expert insight and advice on family matters, as well as our full methodology.
Best Places to Raise a Family in Arizona
‘Family Life & Fun’ Rank
‘Education, Health & Safety’ Rank
|3||Paradise Valley, AZ||69.13||35||3||6||17|
|7||Oro Valley, AZ||68.03||54||4||9||6|
|8||Catalina Foothills, AZ||67.57||24||26||11||15|
|9||Tanque Verde, AZ||67.29||44||31||16||3|
|11||Queen Creek, AZ||66.67||29||33||5||13|
|15||Fountain Hills, AZ||64.28||42||20||23||8|
|16||Sierra Vista, AZ||63.61||19||19||10||35|
|17||Sierra Vista Southeast, AZ||63.57||43||10||15||30|
|18||Casas Adobes, AZ||62.62||8||46||24||29|
|20||New River, AZ||61.66||63||49||4||7|
|21||Valencia West, AZ||60.68||14||50||21||37|
|25||Sun City West, AZ||58.68||64||37||32||2|
|28||Sun Lakes, AZ||56.52||61||65||38||1|
|29||Rio Rico, AZ||56.37||22||29||39||44|
|31||Green Valley, AZ||56.01||62||56||27||9|
|32||Fortuna Foothills, AZ||55.58||32||38||58||5|
|34||El Mirage, AZ||55.14||28||36||26||48|
|37||Lake Havasu City, AZ||54.10||47||16||59||28|
|38||Prescott Valley, AZ||53.75||55||23||53||25|
|41||Drexel Heights, AZ||53.10||9||63||36||56|
|43||San Tan Valley, AZ||52.30||50||61||33||31|
|44||Casa Grande, AZ||51.99||27||51||43||36|
|45||Verde Village, AZ||51.86||17||57||45||45|
|46||Sun City, AZ||51.72||65||58||34||14|
|49||Flowing Wells, AZ||50.88||5||53||41||62|
|50||Bullhead City, AZ||50.57||45||27||47||54|
|51||Tucson Estates, AZ||50.56||59||54||30||43|
|52||Show Low, AZ||50.12||52||28||49||46|
|53||Fort Mohave, AZ||49.68||58||41||46||38|
|54||Apache Junction, AZ||49.34||53||47||37||47|
|56||New Kingman-Butler, AZ||47.58||4||25||51||63|
|57||Chino Valley, AZ||47.32||60||39||55||34|
|60||San Luis, AZ||46.18||1||24||65||59|
|63||Camp Verde, AZ||43.71||56||35||60||55|
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 Arizona 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 Arizona?
- How can local officials in Arizona make their cities more attractive to young families?
- Looking just within Arizona, to what degree is child development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the city they live in?
- Families should investigate the school’s commitment to “real” teaching, that is integrated curriculum, innovative project-based learning, field trips and teachers with experience and creativity.
- See how many teachers at a school have been there for a long time.
- They should also seek out schools that are diverse ethnically and linguistically. If the neighborhood school offers bilingual or dual-language education, that’s the best option. If not, there may be other schools in the same district that provide such a program (linked to deeper academic achievement, as well as bilingualism and biliteracy development).
- Sometimes a school’s library is a good measure of its attention to literacy. Families should visit the school and the library.
- Finally, try to gage how welcoming a school is to families, whether schools have a “no involvement” approach, or actually a role for parents on the school site and in the classroom.
- Develop city-school partnerships in a variety of areas (public spaces like parks and gardens, service-learning opportunities, e.g., soup kitchens, volunteer opportunities between schools and refugee families, etc.).
- Not so much a suggestion for local officials, but state officials. Legislators have to step up and fund schools and school districts equitably. Arizona is now 49 out of 50 in terms of per-pupil appropriation. Also, legislators need to pay teachers a decent salary. We have lost many teachers because we are 50 out of 50 in terms of teacher pay.
If a city values families through services, open public spaces, slow-growth policies, arts and music venues, it will be a better place to live.
In general, consider the type of school you want -- public, charter, private. The location of your neighborhood need not be tied to schools in the neighborhood. Note also there are many different types of charters. They range from strong academics, to civics based, to arts, to STEMs, to experiential, and so on.
- Go to AZ department of education website and look at the recent ratings of public schools.
- Go to charter schools website to learn about charters in the area.
A safe city is crucial. But in addition, get government out of the way and allow entrepreneurial activities to flourish. Don't burden new ideas with zoning, licenses, and other restrictions. Reduce property and other taxes. Encourage private education and charters and home schooling.
Looking just within Arizona, to what degree is child development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the city they live in?
I have not done research in this area, but from reading others, I would say child development depends mostly on structure of family and cultural values pertaining to family, neighborhood and city. Quality childhood development comes not from government programs but from individual family activities. Judeo Christian values have always been a harbinger of success in development in America and it remains that way In Arizona today.
To help families find the best Arizona cities in which to put down roots, WalletHub’s analysts compared 65 cities in the state across four key dimensions: 1) Family Life & Fun, 2) Education, Health & Safety, 3) Affordability and 4) Socioeconomics. 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.
We then calculated the overall score for each city based on its weighted average across all metrics and used the resulting scores to construct our final ranking.
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: 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 Children Aged 0 to 17 Lacking Health-Insurance Coverage: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
- 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.
Socioeconomics – 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 Below Poverty Level: 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.
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