Best Cities for Young Families in 2016

From economics and education to safety and healthcare and beyond, there are myriad important factors to consider when choosing where to live. Seeking to capture these factors and to determine the best American cities for young families, we considered 16 data points from eight sources and interviewed three experts. Below you will find our results, as well as a detailed methodology explaining how we arrived at them. 

Best 150 Cities for Young Families

Make that 156. Here is how every city captured in our study ranks in the five categories of data that affect young families most. 

Overall

CityFor Working ParentsFor Buying or Renting a HomeFor Education and EnvironmentFor Outdoor ActivitiesFor Safety and Healthcare

1

Austin, TX10103317121

2

Houston, TX17473128134

3

Raleigh, NC1198740146

4

Des Moines, IA3513010284

5

Dallas, TX26791513129

6

Sioux Falls, SD1721314457

7

Seattle, WA201331127121

8

Omaha, NE43128125114

9

Green Bay, WI8693213418

10

San Diego, CA28152121125

11

Fargo, ND2755115041

12

Washington, DC141303361130

13

Rochester, MN1269414020

14

San Antonio, TX32502923133

15

Salt Lake City, UT71083611690

16

Bismarck, ND9722415316

17

Kansas City, MO21474479107

18

San Francisco, CA33150103123

19

Dubuque, IA2591411310

20

Albany, NY171213512424

21

San Jose, CA4014814116

22

Boston, MA1614311173100

23

Pittsburgh, PA27262310972

24

Madison, WI51299214266

25

Minneapolis, MN611666145106

26

New York, NY341565015140

27

Urban Honolulu, HI291424837152

28

Columbus, OH226410587117

29

Columbia, MO30105858637

30

Billings, MT23915412852

31

Denver, CO1311869132119

32

Lincoln, NE19807013891

33

Cincinnati, OH4343277288

34

Corpus Christi, TX632145882

35

Baltimore, MD301318577120

36

Phoenix, AZ46557238142

37

Burlington, VT1512049155152

38

Milwaukee, WI23125148111115

39

Grand Rapids, MI35472136146

40

Cheyenne, WY42383714613

41

Atlanta, GA59914324118

42

Philadelphia, PA451399046128

43

Charlotte, NC56745633146

44

Nashville, TN448611569112

45

Charleston, SC66114621743

46

Trenton, NJ481471196623

47

Allentown, PA51126578327

48

Boulder, CO49151229622

49

Richmond, VA57106206476

50

Grand Forks, ND3986711529

51

Buffalo, NY365213013380

52

Providence, RI381361569971

53

Rochester, NY40857713667

54

Sacramento, CA7014921599

55

Portland, OR611442642132

56

Bridgeport, CT55154966264

57

Indianapolis, IN50687494141

58

Hartford, CT3613714913163

59

Los Angeles, CA69155832135

60

Amarillo, TX801395662

61

El Paso, TX8639191398

62

Waco, TX8429583140

63

Waterloo, IA578011311833

64

Sioux City, IA6774212635

65

Lexington, KY62769185102

66

Lubbock, TX8140584473

67

Rapid City, SD527810214928

68

Olympia, WA731238893

69

Missoula, MT461419915429

70

Little Rock, AR721311867101

71

Portland, ME521318814714

72

Colorado Springs, CO64826112108

73

Peoria, IL7822348845

74

Brownsville, TX971546956

75

Chicago, IL541409596139

76

Evansville, IN76101039059

77

St. Louis, MO655712310193

78

Baton Rouge, LA79661174397

79

Oklahoma City, OK82207258124

80

Worcester, MA6012713412048

81

Abilene, TX1072382139

82

Columbia, SC83651246960

83

Great Falls, MT716114213419

84

Knoxville, TN9515985574

85

Huntsville, AL9925415385

86

Akron, OH765212711858

87

Tulsa, OK92126474110

88

Anchorage, AK6712213156109

89

Orlando, FL1001094022102

90

Fort Wayne, IN8813911789

91

Birmingham, AL915415146105

92

Fresno, CA103124557104

93

Spokane, WA87109179585

94

Louisville, KY851714379136

95

Jackson, MS93341226877

96

Syracuse, NY739411214147

97

Lynchburg, VA102591075716

98

Duluth, MN758911615025

99

Miami, FL1051197612113

100

Roanoke, VA11140166044

101

Stockton, CA11013553692

102

Wilmington, NC1081171012046

103

Topeka, KS94239910765

104

Wichita, KS901811098152

105

Binghamton, NY89104611392

106

Ta, FL11786511196

107

Memphis, TN1044313951126

108

Albuquerque, NM9511310874130

109

Erie, PA101431141148

110

Asheville, NC112100945432

111

Wichita Falls, TX1312253530

112

Savannah, GA12390853079

113

Williamsport, PA11562641061

114

Las Vegas, NV11510213235149

115

Flagstaff, AZ9712812014326

116

Redding, CA137138181931

117

Charleston, WV113614112321

118

Chattanooga, TN120351546570

119

Jacksonville, FL132844716137

120

Pensacola, FL14731631014

121

New Orleans, LA1259812029111

122

Montgomery, AL129331254683

123

Reno, NV1091077712275

124

Springfield, IL12656798250

125

Springfield, MO12728927969

126

Cleveland, OH1069515011594

127

Youngstown, OH119111351277

128

Lake Charles, LA13986025152

129

Yakima, WA12496749234

130

Toledo, OH11337144108138

131

Shreveport, LA135241335078

132

Athens, GA1308213832143

133

Lewiston, ID1386288716

134

South Bend, IN1201915312949

135

Gainesville, FL142115972655

136

Dayton, OH133361457853

137

Lansing, MI1189712812938

138

Columbus, GA14627824187

139

Atlantic City, NJ1281531528412

140

Detroit, MI12277137103127

141

Grand Junction, CO1341096711011

142

Mobile, AL15329793495

143

Eugene, OR13614510844151

144

Fort Smith, AR14341409354

145

Tucson, AZ14410110638150

146

Medford, OR1411461037642

147

Tallahassee, FL149112844981

148

Salem, OR148134815267

149

Muskegon, MI1526068915

150

Rockford, IL1406712910061

151

Augusta, GA1454313063143

152

Mansfield, OH15091471044

153

Macon, GA1565712659143

154

Huntington, WV1515155105152

155

Flint, MI1554214612136

156

Pueblo, CO1547113614851

Top (and Bottom) Five Cities for…

Every family has its own set of values for the place they want to call home. With this fact in mind, let's break down and explain where cities rank in four categories that are of importance: weather, commuting, education and buying/renting a house.

Best vs. Worst Weather

To rank America's best cities according to climate, we combined three metrics provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: the number of days of measurable precipitation; the number of days of a minimum temperature of 32 degrees or less; and the number of days of a maximum temperature of 90 degrees or more. We defined the best as those cities that recorded the fewest days of each. In other words, these are the cities are not too cold nor too hot and are more often dry than wet. Surprise, surprise: California led the way.

Best vs. Worst Commuting

The U.S. Census Bureau's provides a nice, tidy statistic noting how much time it takes, in minutes, for residents of America's cities to get from home to work. If you abhor the slow train or the clogged highway as much as we do, consider moving to the country's most commuter-friendly places.

Best vs. Worst Education/Environment

Perhaps the most important consideration for young families and the city in which they choose to live, education quality is not easy to quantify. With the best of intentions, we cobbled together four categories to comprise an education score: the number of children in a city; the percentage of families in poverty; the rating of the school systems (as performed by GreatSchools.org); and the proximity of state universities. Our belief is that kids should grow up with other kids, go to good elementary and secondary schools and have the option of paying discounted in-state tuition for their undergraduate degrees. These five cities do that best.

Best vs. Worst Buying a Home

A city can have everything that a young family desires, but it still needs to be affordable. In this category, we considered four data points that speak to the ability of buyers -- and renters -- to find a suitable place to live: the cost of living index; the average amount of real estate taxes paid; the ratio between income and mortgage amounts; and the percent of residents who spend 40% or more of their income on rent. The following five cities averaged a top-25 ranking for each of the four categories.

How Do the Data Points Influence Each Other?

After culling together 16 data points from eight reputable sources in the process of producing this study, we asked ourselves whether any of pair of them showed correlation. For exle, how does the average commute time for residents in a given city affect that city's economic strength, if at all? Here are four such data interactions worth analyzing.

Methodology

To determine the best cities for young families in 2016, we sought out recent data from reputable sources. We ended our search with 16 data points from eight such sources that fit nicely into five separate categories of concern to all families. Below, we breakdown each statistic and point to its origin. In parenthesis is the stat's weighting, and those marked with an asterisk are state-based (not city-based).

For Working Parents

1. Economic strength (1.5)Policom Corporation -- 2015
2. Unemployment rate (1)United States Census Bureau (Table S2301) -- 2010-2014
3. Commute time (0.5)United States Census Bureau (Table S0804) -- 2010-2014
4. Divorce rate (1)United States Census Bureau -- 2008-2012
For Buying/renting a Home
5. Cost of living (1)The Council for Community and Economic Research -- 2014
6. Real estate taxes (1)United States Census Bureau (Table B25103) -- 2010-2014
7. Income versus rent (1) United States Census Bureau (Table B25070) -- 2010-2014
8. Income versus mortgage (1)United States Census Bureau -- 2010-2014
For Education and Environment
9. School ratings (2.5)GreatSchools! -- June 2015
10. Children in population (0.5)United States Census Bureau (Table B09001) -- 2010-2014
11. State universities rankings (0.5*) *U.S. News & World Report* -- 2016
12. Families in poverty (0.5)United States Census Bureau (Table S1702) -- 2010-2014
For the Outdoors
13. Weather (1.5)National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -- 2015
14. Proximity of stadiums (0.5*)Sean Rowland's Stadium and Arena Vists -- 2015
For Safety and Healthcare
15. Crime (1.5)Federal Bureau of Investigation -- 2015
16. Hospital rankings (0.5*) *U.S. News & World Report* -- 2013-2015

Family Experts Weigh in

Angela Todd headshot

To expand upon our coverage of the best cities for young families, we put the data aside and reached out to three experts, including two psychology professors, for answers to three questions of interest to all families. Here is what they had to say.

Do you recommend any cost-cutting strategies for young families?

Angela Todd, Senior Consultant, Family Culture and History:

“As a family inclined toward the library, museum and arts events in our city -- and with a computer connection -- we have found it really easy to abstain from paid television of any kind.

"We also bought one family membership each year to a different arts institution: art museum, zoo, science museum, botanical conservatory, aviary, natural history museum, even a summer water park.”

What should young families consider when buying their first home?

D. Bruce Carter, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology and Child & Family Studies at Syracuse University:

D. Bruce Carter headshot

“Recognize that you are buying your first house and not the only house you are likely to own in your lifetime. Also recognize what are the things you need in a house and those things that you want. TV shows on home and garden networks often depict couples who want open floor plans, granite or quartz countertops and swimming pools. All of these things can be expensive, and you may want to trade some practical things for some of these luxury items… For exle, many houses built before the 1960s had a single bathroom that was shared by four to six family members. While I'm not advocating a move back to the single-bathroom house, each family member probably doesn't need his or her own bathroom or sink. Children can learn to share by making adjustments in shared bathroom usage. Recognize that children's needs for privacy change over time and plan accordingly. Each child may not need her or his own bedroom before adolescence, but sharing private space (bedrooms and bathrooms) becomes increasingly difficult with age. A first house, when children are younger, may not have as many bedrooms or bathrooms as a house full of teenagers.

"If you can afford it, you should consider neighborhood and, perhaps even more importantly, school district. The school your child attends will be an important determinant of how well the child will do in life. Children from schools that provide poor preparation are less likely to succeed academically and professionally later on in life. Become engaged in your local PTA or other organizations that monitor the educational system in order to assure that your child is receiving the best education possible. Consider neighborhood safety and composition as well. Think about the possibility of playmates for your child and safe areas in which your children can play.”

Dr. Allison Buskirk-Cohen
How should parents help ease their children's adjustment?

Dr. Allison Buskirk-Cohen, Psychology Chair and Associate Professor at Delaware Valley University:

"Involve children in the move so that they feel like they are apart of the process and understand what's happening. Depending on the age of the child, parents should find ways that are appropriate. For exle, a young child might be encouraged to give a favorite toy a "tour" of the new neighborhood, while an older child could "research" fun activities for the family to do in the new town.

"Recognize that children can have complex feelings, and encourage them to express their emotions. Someone might be excited at the thought of moving to a new house, but sad to leave friends. The movie "Inside Out" does a wonderful job portraying the emotional experience of a young child. As the movie shows, all of emotions have a role, so parents should not put pressure on children to feel a certain way.

"Maintain consistency where possible. If every Tuesday was 'Taco Tuesday' in your old home, make sure to keep that tradition once you move. These little things can help create a sense of stability and provide an anchor during a time of change.

"Remember that moving is a process. Children -- and adults -- adjust at different rates. A child who seems fine during the first few weeks might suddenly start experiencing difficulties. Another child might have trouble in the beginning, but do well after some time. Signs that children are having trouble adjusting often include regressing into immature behaviors like more temper tantrums or even physical symptoms like stomach aches. Parents needs to pay attention to these signs and respond with empathy. Social support can be one of the best predictors for transition success."

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