These Are the Best and Worst Cities for Families in America
There's more to it than just good schools and a good job. WalletHub reviewed a whole slew of categories to determine the best places to settle down right now—weighing everything from the number of parks per person to the quality of healthcare in the area.
Best cities for families
One of the secrets of happy families is living in a safe, healthy environment with lots of economic opportunity and plenty of other young families for an active social life. To come up with their rankings of best cities for families, Wallethub’s team of advisors—including psychology professors from around the country—rated the top 150 metropolitan areas in the country on 41 key metrics, including education systems, affordability, and a rosy financial outlook.
Overall, the top cities for families included Overland Park (also rated highest for affordability), Madison (rated tops for education and childcare), and Fremont (top ranked for both health and safety and socioeconomic factors).These are the top five:
- Overland Park, Kansas
- Madison, Wisconsin
- Plano, Texas
- Seattle, Washington
- Fremont, California
Worst cities for families
The financial landscape kept some of the lowest-ranked cities at the bottom of the list. Birmingham was rated the worst city in the U.S. for families—it was near the bottom for both health and safety and socioeconomic factors. Detroit ranked dead last for socioeconomic factors, while San Bernardino was near the bottom for both health and safety and affordability. These are the bottom five:
- Birmingham, Alabama
- Detroit, Michigan
- San Bernardino, California
- Shreveport, Louisiana
- Hialeah, Florida
Highest median family salary
Best: Scottsdale, Arizona
Worst: New York City
As every parent knows, every increase in pay can make life more comfortable and enriching for their kids, so living in a place where you earn a more generous salary pays off for your family. (And here’s how to ask for a raise.) “More family income means higher standard of living—better nutrition and greater ability to pay for tutors, extracurricular activities, family leisure activities, family travel, and other activities that enrich a child’s life and increase brain power,” says John Mayer, PhD, clinical psychologist at Doctor On Demand.
Most kid-friendly attractions
Best: New York City
Worst: Moreno Valley, CA
The Big Apple is often a vacation destination for families, thanks to a slew of museums, zoos, and more for kids to enjoy—and that can help stretch the minds of their youngest citizens. “Children’s cognitive abilities increase when they are presented with variety and stimulation,” Dr. Mayer says. “A large amount of kid-friendly attractions provides this stimulation and variety.”
Most playgrounds per capita
Best: New York City
Worst: Hialeah, FL
It’s probably no surprise that New York City, where most city dwellers have little to no yard space for their kids, ended up at the top of this category. “Access to public parks and playgrounds offers young children beginning from age 12 months and up the golden opportunity for sensory experiences, cognitive experiences, socialization, and boundaries and discipline,” says Fran Walfish, PhD, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author, The Self-Aware Parent. Here’s how nature improves your brain power.
Most affordable housing
Best: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Worst: San Francisco, California
It’s easier to get a great house in Pittsburgh, while San Francisco’s tech boom has made affordable housing hard to come by.
For families, a good home is a safe haven for their kids. “A safe and comfortable home provides emotional security and builds self-esteem,,” Mayer says. “It gives kids the ability to explore the world because they always have the confidence that they can return to their safe home.” These are the surprising costs every first-time home buyer needs to know about.
Highest percentage of families with young kids
Best: Aurora, Illinois
Worst: Scottsdale, Arizona
Scottsdale, one of the best places to retire, scored lowest in this category, while young families abound in the winner, Aurora, Illinois. “Most young families prefer to live in neighborhoods with the highest numbers of families with kids so that their children will have playmates to socialize with,” Dr. Walfish says. “They also want other couples they can be friends with. Often, these create social groups and they celebrate holidays and other milestones together in large groups.” Here are some great ways to make new mom friends.
Lowest violent crime rate per capita
Best: Irvine, California
Worst: St. Louis, Missouri
Violent crime impacts more than just the actual victims. “Studies show that living in areas where children witness or even hear about high crime and violence leads to higher levels of mental disorders, social maladjustment, and lowered school performance,” Dr. Mayer says. Check out the creative ways cops are cutting down on crime.
Lowest percentage of families living in poverty
Best: Overland Park, Kansas
Worst: Detroit, Michigan
Overall winner Overland Park scored highly here, while Detroit, which has had plenty of media coverage for its issues with poverty, scored dead last.
It’s pretty obvious how less poverty benefits kids. “Less poverty means better nutrition, better education, better access to the arts, sports programs, recreational activities,” Dr. Mayer says. “All enrich a child’s cognitive abilities and emotional well-being.”
Lowest divorce rate
Best: Fremont, California
Worst: Cleveland, Ohio
Children in families that stay together tend to do better, most studies show. “The incidences of family conflict and acting out—including child abuse and neglect—are lower in intact families,” Dr. Mayer says. ‘Less conflict and acting out correlates with higher levels of adjustment and life success in children.” Here are some little things you could do right now to make your marriage happier.