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The Best Cities for Millennial Families

Take a look at our deep dive into determining which US cities are best for young, millennial families.

Deciding the best place to live can be a complicated task of weighing many factors. Yet for young families, it can seem even more complex to consider everything from jobs to schools to pediatricians.

Plus there’s the quest to find a city that offers aspects of the new American Dream with work-life balance, short commutes, a successful relationship, and happy children. (Is it too much to ask for good weather too?)

Our analysis of the best cities for millennial families combined 16 different datasets to develop a strong set of options where young families can grow their family.

Top 150 Cities for Millennial Families

The data below reveals the cities that offer the best living environments for young families. Review each city’s overall scores as well as how they ranked in the six categories analysis.

RankCityJobsWork-LifeHousing and LivabilityEducationHealth and Safety
1Des Moines, IA18456761
2Columbia, MO324594134
3Raleigh, NC20107142650
4Lincoln, NE279632597
5Dubuque, IA581135491
6Lynchburg, VA118329154
7Fargo, ND10195254108
8San Jose, CA280976025
9Huntsville, AL4263251115
10Green Bay, WI26452112339
11Rochester, MN3340843438
12Madison, WI4231058545
13Waterloo, IA683592394
14Grand Rapids, MI24174713740
15Fort Wayne, IN787281096
16Pittsburgh, PA7385273623
17Sioux City, IA59741617112
18Waco, TX5614841683
19Albany, NY3635809910
20Gainesville, FL7923672847
21Lexington, KY51541745115
22Cincinnati, OH5499135652
23San Francisco, CA390788873
24Richmond, VA221061261220
25Sioux Falls, SD6517485118
26Minneapolis, MN757997268
27Roanoke, VA7613557118
28Boulder, CO19361543726
29Austin, TX5142961181
30Charlotte, NC49127184560
31Knoxville, TN4611748059
32San Diego, CA18781354822
33New York, NY63105397912
34Lake Charles, LA81981519114
35Omaha, NE23527282102
36Erie, PA1447245817
37Springfield, MO6555265798
38Burlington, VT1327155845
39Boston, MA2769122963
40Toledo, OH107301067101
41Dallas, TX16146981487
42Buffalo, NY96155812221
43Lubbock, TX45341119140
44Salt Lake City, UT94010755149
45Wilmington, NC9549733253
46Atlanta, GA35144504789
47Williamsport, PA14229502216
48Portland, ME30120123756
49Syracuse, NY11121691118
50Seattle, WA291278620127
51Columbus, OH41953212075
52Amarillo, TX43108838135
53Washington, DC211308713415
54South Bend, IN9742498125
55Akron, OH12174205232
56Grand Forks, ND5959281109
57Athens, GA9484411072
58Nashville, TN81386214257
59Portland, OR401101154443
60Little Rock, AR54149199454
61Dayton, OH12639236166
62Honolulu, HI141131456641
63Jacksonville, FL66154473856
64Tallahassee, FL11621891883
65Lewiston, ID91103665148
66Columbia, SC48727664127
67Bismarck, ND159310978132
68Louisville, KY691221174122
69San Antonio, TX1714110021144
70Hartford, CT80611473519
71Indianapolis, IN1212554108145
72Brownsville, TX1451263293
73Chattanooga, TN8490712785
74Asheville, NC88676543107
75Kansas City, MO341275513546
76Worcester, MA83801061011
77Evansville, IN92111533995
78Rochester, NY1091910211813
79Baton Rouge, LA98132393092
80Houston, TX62135956129
81St. Louis, MO521036814137
82Charleston, SC251251019582
83Orlando, FL571151174071
84Peoria, IL132165911727
85Denver, CO111521346276
86Olympia, WA741311042762
87Lansing, MI102237414642
88Abilene, TX90773893105
89Rapid City, SD44629390126
90Duluth, MN13338812490
91Springfield, IL104563612174
92Philadelphia, PA508212711329
93Milwaukee, WI3742112132104
94Cleveland, OH12389317044
95Trenton, NJ64451211559
96Sacramento, CA475013014428
97Mansfield, OH14663349N/A
98Billings, MT315311971152
99Providence, RI93459012614
100Missoula, MT53213869151
101Salem, OR11367828836
102El Paso, TX12587110551
103Corpus Christi, TX114113763131
104Los Angeles, CA70591419733
105Allentown, PA87631189124
106Pensacola, FL110150715035
107Jackson, MS1031193453146
108Eugene, OR122301255869
109Birmingham, AL7215525119117
110Great Falls, MT85339068153
111Baltimore, MD6711511410049
112Savannah, GA751424612987
113Youngstown, OH147881277N/A
114Wichita Falls, TX1175810341111
115Binghamton, NY1401811211611
116Wichita, KS101934315463
117Topeka, KS896328151150
118Chicago, IL619714613631
119Miami, FL771511473177
120Oklahoma City, OK3913570150140
121Memphis, TN1129665102123
122Muskegon, MI139132814899
123Fort Smith, AR1301334105138
124Colorado Springs, CO3814614213164
125Bridgeport, CT100921381517
126Medford, OR128114962105
127Tulsa, OK8214041124147
128Macon, GA1297030140124
129Reno, NV999912987103
130Charleston, WV152152173143
131Augusta, GA1061017914786
132Redding, CA131361517667
133Huntington, WV1551173210430
134Spokane, WA1346011529121
135Cheyenne, WY7185135106142
136Stockton, CA1157013012864
137Detroit, MI10810310813958
138Montgomery, AL11911247138130
139New Orleans, LA1351481271379
140Rockford, IL149764214547
141Fresno, CA1272613315370
142Columbus, GA13612145109110
143Phoenix, AZ85139124125119
144Flint, MI1481018811455
145Mobile, AL1541242192137
146Shreveport, LA1531339333100
147Grand Junction, CO1242815013378
148Las Vegas, NV12012213583139
149Yakima, WA15144120103112
150Tucson, AZ1388313013080
151Anchorage, AK105145140107134
152Flagstaff, AZ1506152112120
153Pueblo, CO13779142115132
154Albuquerque, NM141109142149136

After combining the weighted datasets, the results reveals that Des Moines is the top-ranked city for young families. In particular, the city ranked well in the categories of jobs and education.

Des Moines has a growing population with low unemployment and a high GDP, said The Atlantic in a recent article. “The low unemployment rate has slowly but surely tipped the balance of power away from employers and towards workers, who here in the Hawkeye State have been able to demand higher wages, better working conditions, more generous benefits, training programs, and myriad other perks.”

Best Cities by Population

Do you prefer a small city, a large metropolis, or somewhere in between the two? These lists can help you identify the best place for your family and for your preferred city size.

List of Top 5 Cities for Families, 2018

Best Cities by Category

Because each family has different priorities, the cities that ranked highly in each of our categories of analysis can help you identify locations that are most suited to you.

Top Five Cities for Jobs

  1. Des Moines, IA
  2. San Jose, CA
  3. San Francisco, CA
  4. Madison, WI
  5. Austin, TX

To identify these cities with strong job markets, we combined data on economic strength, unemployment rates, and how unemployment is changing. The overall pick for young families, Des Moines, was also the top pick in the Jobs category, followed by the thriving tech hub of the Silicon Valley.

The Brookings Institute summarized that “the San Jose and San Francisco metro areas, which together comprise much of the Bay Area, have outperformed the national averages and nearly all other metro areas on job creation, productivity, and median wage growth over the past five years.”

Top Five Cities for Work/Life Balance

  1. Medford, OR
  2. Missoula, MT
  3. Waterloo, IA
  4. Columbia, MO
  5. Grand Forks, ND

Our analysis reveals that the top ranking cities for work-life balance are located in the Pacific Northwest, the Rockies, and the Midwest.

In these cities, there are short commute times, between 17 and 20 minutes on average. Residents have more time to spend with families because their workweek tends to be shorter, averaging about 36 or 37 hours per week.

In Missoula’s growing tech industry, one report noted that the local industry is attracting new employees to the area by leveraging the city’s recreational opportunities and employer’s focus on work-life balance.

Top Five Cities for Housing and Livability

  1. Charleston, WV
  2. Huntsville, AL
  3. Mansfield, OH
  4. Knoxville, TN
  5. South Bend, IN

In this category, we look at the combined factors of cost of living, housing, and weather. Each of these top-ranking cities has an overall cost of living is also lower than the national average. Housing costs for renters and homeowners are also below average.

As to weather, our analysis sought out cities with moderate temperatures that have relatively few days below freezing or above 90-degrees. Within top five cities for housing and livability, Knoxville had the most days with moderate temperatures.

Top Five Cities for Education

  1. Roanoke, VA
  2. Brownsville, TX
  3. Corpus Christi, TX
  4. Dubuque, IA
  5. El Paso, TX

Virginia and Texas have strong showings in our list for the best cities for education.

Our analysis primarily looked at achievement results of all students in math and reading/language. We also included rankings of the state’s public colleges to sway results for families positioning themselves for the full educational progression from grade 3 to undergrad.

An important note is that there can be a wide variety of school quality within cities. So while our rankings looked at overall averages, families can still seek out the best school district in a city that may have an overall mediocre education score.

Top Five Cities for Health and Safety

  1. Worcester, MA
  2. Boston, MA
  3. Lynchburg, VA
  4. Portland, ME
  5. Bridgeport, CT

Excluding cities that had partial data

The Northeast has a strong showing in this category. Notably, the cities have strong healthcare availability with a large number of pediatricians per the population of young people. Rates for both property crime and violent crime were also factored into this category

How Have These City Rankings Changed

We’ve updated our methodology this year as compared to our 2016 analysis of the Best Cities for Young Families. With a new ranking strategy and current data, we were curious which cities have rankings that have changed the most since our previous study.

Top 5 City Changes

Methodology: How We Chose The Best Cities for Millennial Families

Below, we share the data that is driving our city rankings for millennial families so that you can do further research on the things that you care about.

Note that the jobs category is weighted heavily in our overall rankings because economic vitality is a strong driver for a high quality of life.


  • Economic strength (2), Policom Corporation; 2018
  • Unemployment rate (2), Bureau of Labor Statistics; 2017 annual average
  • Year over Year Unemployment (0.75), Bureau of Labor Statistics; July 2017 to July 2018

Work-Life Balance

  • Hours spent working (1), US Census Bureau; 2016 American Community Survey
  • Commute time (1), US Census Bureau; 2017 American Community Survey
  • Divorce rate (1), US Census Bureau; 2017 American Community Survey

Housing and Livability

  • Cost of living (1), St. Louis Federal Reserve, Regional Price Parities, 2016
  • Income versus rent (1), US Census Bureau; 2017 American Community Survey
  • Income versus mortgage (1), US Census Bureau; 2017 American Community Survey
  • Moderate Temperatures (1), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climatic Data, 2015


  • Student Achievement in Math (1), US Dept. Of Education, All Grades, 2016-2017
  • Student Achievement in Reading (1), US Dept. Of Education, All Grades, 2016-2017
  • Public Universities Rankings (0.2), US News & World Report, 2019

Health and Safety

  • Violent and Property Crime (1), Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2016
  • Pediatric Healthcare (1), Association of American Medical Colleges, Number of Youths per Pediatrician, 2017
  • Child Mortality (0.2), Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016
Brian Quinn

Brian is a ValuePenguin Co-Founder. He previously worked in the financial services industry as an Associate at NASDAQ OMX and a Risk Analyst at Avenue Capital Group.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.