2017’s Best Places to Raise a Family in Washington State
It’s home to some of the wettest places in the U.S., but Washington State boasts enough sunny qualities to make it livable for parents and their kids. This Pacific Northwest state simply has everything a family could dream of: a healthy job market paired with big paychecks, high educational attainment, a natural environment that promotes an active lifestyle and more.
To start off the list, Washingtonians earn the 12th highest per-capita personal income in the U.S. and experienced the fourth highest growth in income between 2015 and 2016. As a bonus, they don’t have to pay state individual income tax. Those who aspire to work for some of America’s biggest and most admired employers will also be pleased to know that Amazon, Costco, Microsoft and Starbucks are all headquartered here, where strong employment growth is expected for the next two years.
Besides being one of the rainiest, Washington’s one of the brainiest, too. And it isn’t nicknamed the “Evergreen State” for no reason. The state’s endless possibilities for outdoor fun, such as abundant forests, a coastline and mountains, complete this family-friendly package.
But certain places in Washington offer more of these positive qualities compared with other cities in the state. For a local breakdown of the best, WalletHub compared 111 of the largest Washington cities based on 21 key indicators of a suitable environment for raising children. 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 Washington State
‘Family Life & Fun’ Rank
‘Education, Health & Safety’ Rank
|1||West Richland, WA||73.02||19||8||1||39|
|5||Bainbridge Island, WA||65.56||81||1||21||29|
|9||Maple Valley, WA||63.26||71||12||4||9|
|12||Cottage Lake, WA||61.44||51||74||12||3|
|16||Union Hill-Novelty Hill, WA||59.93||53||58||15||6|
|17||Fort Lewis, WA||58.29||1||47||111||4|
|19||Silver Firs, WA||57.93||36||77||38||5|
|21||Lake Tapps, WA||57.50||62||48||13||26|
|23||Fairwood (King County), WA||56.43||88||96||6||24|
|25||Mill Creek East, WA||56.01||55||81||17||21|
|28||East Wenatchee, WA||55.24||41||18||54||58|
|31||Lake Forest Park, WA||55.07||109||19||22||31|
|33||Oak Harbor, WA||54.35||28||2||91||63|
|34||Mill Creek, WA||54.09||52||14||81||18|
|35||Mercer Island, WA||54.08||68||10||65||36|
|39||Bonney Lake, WA||53.53||95||30||18||56|
|42||Port Orchard, WA||52.95||8||50||30||82|
|44||East Renton Highlands, WA||52.90||92||102||23||19|
|47||Walla Walla, WA||51.82||5||62||16||98|
|49||Prairie Ridge, WA||50.99||99||73||32||37|
|52||South Hill, WA||50.05||73||94||29||35|
|53||Salmon Creek, WA||50.01||39||66||52||49|
|54||Bothell West, WA||50.00||61||97||50||11|
|56||Lake Stevens, WA||49.85||69||28||70||52|
|57||Spokane Valley, WA||49.06||44||78||25||64|
|58||Lakeland South, WA||48.72||70||106||58||20|
|59||Moses Lake, WA||48.63||3||95||47||67|
|65||University Place, WA||48.06||89||25||63||70|
|66||Battle Ground, WA||47.95||30||31||97||80|
|68||Elk Plain, WA||47.19||102||107||39||44|
|69||Five Corners, WA||46.74||24||66||85||61|
|72||Mountlake Terrace, WA||45.79||47||36||100||66|
|79||Lakeland North, WA||45.15||103||102||56||45|
|82||Martha Lake, WA||44.71||56||93||92||42|
|84||Port Angeles, WA||44.61||11||87||69||89|
|88||Des Moines, WA||43.46||108||53||82||62|
|89||Mount Vernon, WA||43.25||21||64||95||95|
|98||Federal Way, WA||39.09||100||83||89||72|
|99||North Lynnwood, WA||38.64||91||68||101||73|
|102||Hazel Dell, WA||37.83||48||91||104||85|
|106||Bryn Mawr-Skyway, WA||34.67||90||109||87||100|
|111||White Center, WA||25.34||93||104||110||108|
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 Washington 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 Washington?
- How can local officials in Washington make their cities more attractive to young families?
- Looking just within Washington, to what degree is child development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the city they live in?
To help families find the best Washington cities in which to put down roots, WalletHub’s analysts compared 111 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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