Cheese connoisseurs, Packers fans and nature lovers flock to Wisconsin all year for special reasons. But America’s Dairyland, as the Midwest state is popularly known, offers far more incentives for visitors to stay — for good.
Ranked the No. 11 best state to raise kids by WalletHub, Wisconsin is particularly suitable for low-budget, child-focused family life. The state beats 47 others plus the District of Columbia in affordability, and children are guaranteed to receive some of the best K–12 education in the U.S. This year, the state’s education budget was set to be the highest in Wisconsin history. And there’s good news for family breadwinners, too: In the first quarter of 2017, the state reported strong wage growth, while the unemployment rate, ranked 11th lowest in the nation as of August, currently sits at a 17-year low.
But Wisconsin’s not all about work, school and no play. Besides the state’s economic and educational advances, Wisconsin boasts numerous fun activities to keep every member of the family entertained.
Every city is different, however. To determine the places that combine all of Wisconsin’s best qualities, WalletHub’s analysts compared more than 80 of the state’s largest cities across 21 key indicators of family-friendliness. Our data set ranges from median annual income to housing affordability to number of attractions. Read on for our findings, expert insight on family matters and a full description of our methodology.
Best Places to Raise a Family in Wisconsin
‘Family Life & Fun’ Rank
‘Education, Health & Safety’ Rank
|7||De Pere, WI||67.45||26||14||18||19|
|8||Whitefish Bay, WI||66.95||29||15||29||10|
|9||Menomonee Falls, WI||66.93||71||9||9||11|
|12||New Berlin, WI||66.02||79||12||3||5|
|15||Port Washington, WI||64.11||50||8||23||27|
|24||Sun Prairie, WI||62.00||9||28||44||42|
|29||Stevens Point, WI||61.02||8||36||37||58|
|32||West Bend, WI||60.55||38||51||36||28|
|35||Little Chute, WI||60.01||57||50||20||16|
|36||Fort Atkinson, WI||59.17||12||34||63||49|
|37||Eau Claire, WI||59.04||32||47||41||37|
|39||Pleasant Prairie, WI||58.81||70||42||28||22|
|48||Fond du Lac, WI||56.69||18||64||45||61|
|49||Mount Pleasant, WI||56.67||83||60||17||20|
|55||Beaver Dam, WI||54.82||34||27||57||73|
|56||Two Rivers, WI||54.68||72||53||35||55|
|57||River Falls, WI||54.10||43||56||58||60|
|59||La Crosse, WI||53.15||27||66||65||62|
|63||Wisconsin Rapids, WI||52.23||42||57||54||72|
|64||Chippewa Falls, WI||51.85||35||61||66||65|
|65||Oak Creek, WI||51.47||62||80||73||13|
|70||Green Bay, WI||48.78||22||79||60||74|
|78||Brown Deer, WI||43.29||76||82||75||21|
|79||South Milwaukee, WI||43.11||67||68||78||71|
|83||West Allis, WI||38.07||65||83||82||66|
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 Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin?
- How can local officials in Wisconsin make their cities more attractive to young families?
- Looking just within Wisconsin, to what degree is child development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the city they live in?
Ask the Experts
To help families find the best Wisconsin cities in which to put down roots, WalletHub’s analysts 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 total 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: 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 17.
- 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 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.