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.
|Rank||City||Jobs||Work-Life||Housing and Livability||Education||Health and Safety|
|1||Des Moines, IA||1||84||56||7||61|
|8||San Jose, CA||2||80||97||60||25|
|10||Green Bay, WI||26||45||21||123||39|
|14||Grand Rapids, MI||24||17||47||137||40|
|15||Fort Wayne, IN||78||72||8||10||96|
|17||Sioux City, IA||59||74||16||17||112|
|23||San Francisco, CA||3||90||78||88||73|
|25||Sioux Falls, SD||6||51||74||85||118|
|32||San Diego, CA||18||78||135||48||22|
|33||New York, NY||63||105||39||79||12|
|34||Lake Charles, LA||81||98||15||19||114|
|44||Salt Lake City, UT||9||40||107||55||149|
|54||South Bend, IN||97||42||4||98||125|
|56||Grand Forks, ND||59||5||92||81||109|
|60||Little Rock, AR||54||149||19||94||54|
|69||San Antonio, TX||17||141||100||21||144|
|75||Kansas City, MO||34||127||55||135||46|
|79||Baton Rouge, LA||98||132||39||30||92|
|81||St. Louis, MO||52||103||68||141||37|
|89||Rapid City, SD||44||62||93||90||126|
|102||El Paso, TX||125||87||110||5||51|
|103||Corpus Christi, TX||114||113||76||3||131|
|104||Los Angeles, CA||70||59||141||97||33|
|110||Great Falls, MT||85||33||90||68||153|
|114||Wichita Falls, TX||117||58||103||41||111|
|120||Oklahoma City, OK||39||135||70||150||140|
|123||Fort Smith, AR||130||133||4||105||138|
|124||Colorado Springs, CO||38||146||142||131||64|
|139||New Orleans, LA||135||148||127||13||79|
|147||Grand Junction, CO||124||28||150||133||78|
|148||Las Vegas, NV||120||122||135||83||139|
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.
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
- Des Moines, IA
- San Jose, CA
- San Francisco, CA
- Madison, WI
- 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
- Medford, OR
- Missoula, MT
- Waterloo, IA
- Columbia, MO
- 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
- Charleston, WV
- Huntsville, AL
- Mansfield, OH
- Knoxville, TN
- 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
- Roanoke, VA
- Brownsville, TX
- Corpus Christi, TX
- Dubuque, IA
- 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
- Worcester, MA
- Boston, MA
- Lynchburg, VA
- Portland, ME
- 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.
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
- 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