WalletHub recently compared 182 of the most populous cities in the United States to determine the best and worst places to raise a family in America. The rankings provide prospective community members with a helpful snapshot of their potential new homes, but the information can also be applied to quality of life.
According to a survey by the US Census Bureau, the average American moves 11.4 times during their lifetime. There are many reasons a family might choose to change the place where they live. It could be a sign of prosperity. They could be growing as a family, adding new members, graduating from renting to homeownership, or relocating for a better job. Other families might be looking to make a fresh start after suffering a foreclosure or job loss.
Whatever the reason for the move, families will likely be looking for a safe and affordable place to live with plenty of opportunities.
How the Rankings Were Determined
To determine the best and worst places to raise a family, the company took the 150 most populated cities in the United States plus at least two of the most populated cities from each state and compared the resulting 182 cities in relation to five key categories. The five categories included: Family Fun, Health & Safety, Education & Child Care, Affordability, and Socio-economics.
WalletHub evaluated the categories using a total of 48 relevant metrics. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with 100 being the best possible condition and one being the worst. The weighted average across all metrics was used to calculate each city’s overall score, which determined where it was placed on the list.
The Best Cities for Families
The five cities that ranked the highest on the list were:
- Overland Park, KS
- Fremont, CA
- Irvine, CA
- Plano, TX
- Columbia, MD
Overland Park, KS topped the list of the best cities to raise a family primarily because of its number one ranking in affordability. It tied with five other cities — including Plano, TX and Columbia, MD, which were also in the top 5 — for the highest median family income adjusted for cost of living. Overland Park also ranked in the top five for most affordable housing and the lowest percentage of families living in poverty.
California boasted two cities in the top five — Fremont and Irvine. Fremont was ranked number one for the lowest percentage of families living in poverty and the lowest divorce rate. Irvine ranked number one in the overall health and safety category, determined by metrics including air and water quality, the quality of hospitals in the area, and the level of crime.
The Worst Cities for Families
The five cities that ranked the lowest on the list were:
- Newark, NJ
- Hialeah, FL
- Memphis, TN
- Cleveland, OH
- Detroit, MI
Detroit, MI received the lowest ranking on the WalletHub list with an overall score that is less than half of Overland Park’s score. Detroit was tied with six other cities for the highest crime rate per capita, including Memphis and Cleveland, which also appeared at the bottom of the overall rankings. Detroit had the highest percentage of families living in poverty on the list, the second-highest divorce rate, and the third-lowest median family income adjusted for cost of living.
Only Half the Story
The company admits that its rankings are not perfect and should not be taken as the final word on the best or worst places to raise a family. Ultimately, these rankings are just a collection of numbers that give a broad and hazy reflection of the communities they are meant to represent. Deciding what community is best for your family is a complicated, nuanced issue that is unique to each family.
In an attempt to address some of these finer points, WalletHub also included the opinions of experts in the fields of family studies, psychology, and household finance to offer families some advice on choosing a new place to live. The experts were asked key questions regarding the impact of community on familial health and well-being.
To find out what they had to say, click the links below. You can also check out the company’s video under that.
- Jes Fyall Cardenas, Ph.D., IMH-E — Assistant Professor, Department of Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle Level, Literacy, and Special Education, Watson College of Education – University of North Carolina Wilmington
- Daniel J. Puhlman, Ph.D., LMFT — Assistant Professor of Family Studies; Head of the Parenting Relationships Research Lab, College of Education and Human Development – University of Maine
- Theresa J. Russo, Ph.D., CFLE — Chair, Department of Human Ecology, Professor Human Development and Family Studies – State University of New York College at Oneonta
- Susan M. Mchale — Director, Social Science Research Institute; Associate Director, Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute; Distinguished Professor of Human Development and Professor of Demography – Pennsylvania State University
- Alison Hooper, Ph. D. — Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education, Curriculum & Instruction – The University of Alabama
- Melodi Faris, Ph. D. — Lecturer, Early Childhood Education, College of Education – Texas Christian University