Safest Cities for Kids in 2017

 
 
 
 

by Douglas Burger

It's a perennial priority to protect our children from the worst aspects of urban life, such as crime, while exposing them to the best, including schools that nurture them and a community that's well-equipped to provide support and intellectual stimulation. President Trump's controversial statements about inner-city violence have further stoked curiosity about the respective safety and livability of America's cities for their youngest residents. Our study is a statistical stab at creating just such a comparison.

The Safest Cities for Kids

The 18 data points we used, for 200 U.S. metropolitan areas, included a half-dozen or pure safety stats, from rates of several classes of crime to the number cops per capita. But we gave equal weight to two other dimensions of security and nurturing: how well schools are functioning, including enrollment and graduation rates, and how completely the overall urban environment supports kids, including keeping them free from poverty and able to access services from day care to health care to libraries and museums. Here are the top five cities overall in our study, as well as how each ranked for the three categories--safety, schools, and community.

  • Barnstable Town, MA

    • Safety: 4
    • Schools: 18
    • Community: 16
  • Trenton, NJ

    • Safety: 19
    • Schools: 13
    • Community: 11
  • Norwich-New London, CT

    • Safety: 11
    • Schools: 2
    • Community: 31
  • Burlington-South Burlington, VT

    • Safety: 37
    • Schools: 14
    • Community: 1
  • Portland-South Portland, ME

    • Safety: 42
    • Schools: 8
    • Community: 12

The Full List

Here are the top 5 cities, along with 195 others we compared and ranked alongside them. Where did your community rank?

RankCitySafetySchoolsCommunity
1Barnstable Town, MA41816
2Trenton, NJ191311
3Norwich-New London, CT11231
4Burlington-South Burlington, VT37141
5Portland-South Portland, ME42812
6Cedar Rapids, IA22341
7Boulder, CO53114
8Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY312225
9Roanoke, VA342137
10Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT72199
11Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT86118
11Springfield, MA32766
13San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA213358
14Wilmington, NC263652
15Madison, WI106162
16Worcester, MA-CT791234
17Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ278229
18Manchester-Nashua, NH1101515
19New Haven-Milford, CT812040
20Binghamton, NY3010102
21Charlottesville, VA497423
22Appleton, WI892835
22Rochester, NY155582
24Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH114383
25North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL433580
26Fort Collins, CO916413
27Santa Rosa, CA975122
28Charleston, WV207976
29Pittsburgh, PA847630
30Jackson, MS138993
31Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL446689
32Ann Arbor, MI108877
33Asheville, NC478373
33Champaign-Urbana, IL1511375
35Raleigh, NC1363137
36Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC4942114
37Richmond, VA928728
38Green Bay, WI1224046
39Cleveland-Elyria, OH913268
39Jacksonville, FL3256121
41Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA974767
42Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ574136
42New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA1375424
44Salisbury, MD-DE316747
45Lynchburg, VA558578
46College Station-Bryan, TX2317180
46Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA6410155
48Columbus, GA-AL648167
49Utica-Rome, NY1462146
50Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY1203272
50Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC1175750
52Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA717545
53Providence-Warwick, RI-MA1008543
54Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA1128433
54Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC771151
56Columbus, OH118149
57San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA155735
57York-Hanover, PA2810996
59Columbia, SC2845162
59Waco, TX6030145
61Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI1425939
61Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA5317017
61Spartanburg, SC5634150
61Topeka, KS769569
65McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX488192
66Kalamazoo-Portage, MI1484657
67Savannah, GA6876111
68Erie, PA1017770
69Reading, PA6010298
70Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV8614135
71Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH4690127
72Lexington-Fayette, KY10413327
73Scranton--Wilkes-Barre--Hazleton, PA2161102
74Austin-Round Rock, TX1772960
74Port St. Lucie, FL1135148
76Tallahassee, FL1304988
77Laredo, TX714195
78St. Louis, MO-IL1586251
79Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI198678
80Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL7081123
81Canton-Massillon, OH6843165
82Amarillo, TX10072105
83Charleston-North Charleston, SC3998142
84Chico, CA37100147
85Montgomery, AL10053133
86Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD10612359
86Brownsville-Harlingen, TX6340185
86Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV3616587
89Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD12613726
90Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA16426100
90Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA1581239
92San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA15210732
93Durham-Chapel Hill, NC12012354
94Bremerton-Silverdale, WA6414985
95Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA8025196
96Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA1505795
97New Orleans-Metairie, LA9612978
97Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA23115165
99Lafayette, LA57147101
99Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA1625291
101Visalia-Porterville, CA3576197
102Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA11017920
103Akron, OH77108126
104Lubbock, TX13323157
105Peoria, IL10512683
106Lancaster, PA1719999
107Shreveport-Bossier City, LA11569134
108Olympia-Tumwater, WA7414897
109Macon, GA66135122
110Syracuse, NY81130115
111Evansville, IN-KY4919286
112Greensboro-High Point, NC7417184
113Kansas City, MO-KS15711661
114El Paso, TX1316198
114Greeley, CO60140135
116San Diego-Carlsbad, CA16764106
117Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN12815556
118Sioux Falls, SD13918219
118South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI23193124
120Lincoln, NE14218614
121Baton Rouge, LA12313189
122Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS12151181
123Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN19311142
124Ocala, FL12324200
125Kennewick-Richland, WA41197110
126Birmingham-Hoover, AL14070139
126Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL18060109
128Duluth, MN-WI10319453
128Merced, CA9368189
130Eugene, OR17011963
130Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL58104190
132Dayton, OH81134140
133Gainesville, FL78176102
133Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC45162149
135Tuscaloosa, AL39150170
136Killeen-Temple, TX94112154
136Toledo, OH84163113
138Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI1961646
139Boise City, ID11917871
139Vallejo-Fairfield, CA14499125
141Ogden-Clearfield, UT88151131
141Reno, NV11616094
143Lansing-East Lansing, MI17360138
144Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL17172183
145Rockford, IL131105137
146Fort Smith, AR-OK9596184
147Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL72118187
148Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL16893117
148Provo-Orem, UT125145108
150Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN18912763
151Chattanooga, TN-GA15697129
151Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL90120172
153Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX18436164
154Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX18327179
155Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX10890194
156Colorado Springs, CO17317348
156Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL14550199
158Stockton-Lodi, CA18144171
159Huntsville, AL16193144
160Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL127114159
160Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC67158175
162Fayetteville, NC59191153
162Oklahoma City, OK16915777
164Fort Wayne, IN133155118
165Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA19918921
166Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN18618044
167San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX19039182
168Springfield, MO97185132
169Winston-Salem, NC145144128
170Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA15480186
171Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO19516562
171Urban Honolulu, HI147159116
173Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL176128120
173Tulsa, OK135137152
175Salt Lake City, UT153154118
176Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR17118473
177Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA18118365
177Wichita, KS19114692
179Prescott, AZ52187193
180Corpus Christi, TX16492177
180Mobile, AL151139143
182Salinas, CA129143167
183Modesto, CA166105169
184Bakersfield, CA137122190
185Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC140136176
186Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO179168107
187Anchorage, AK17520081
188Flint, MI194116155
188Fresno, CA188103174
190Memphis, TN-MS-AR184121163
191Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI200110159
191Yakima, WA118196155
193Clarksville, TN-KY158141173
194Albuquerque, NM163169141
194Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI187174112
196Salem, OR148198129
197Knoxville, TN178153161
198Tucson, AZ171188177
199Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV196195158
200Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ192190188

The Top (and Bottom) Five Cities for...

Here's a deeper dive into a few specific data points.

School Enrollment

The National Center for Education Statistics projects that public school enrollment will increase by 3%, up to 51.4 million students by the 2025-2026 school year. Cities in New England held seven of the top 10 spots in percent of children under the age of 18 enrolled in school, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The NCES projects overall enrollment to decrease in both the Northeast and Midwest, but increase in the South and West. On the other end of the spectrum, seven of the bottom ten come from states in the South. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2015/2015073.pdf

RankCityPercent Enrolled
1Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT86.3
2Portland-South Portland, ME86.2
3Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC86.1
4Barnstable Town, MA85.9
5Norwich-New London-Westerly, CT-RI85.9
RankCityPercent Enrolled
200Clarksville, TN-KY81.1
199Fayetteville, NC81.2
198Columbus, GA-AL81.9
197Provo-Orem, UT81.9
196College Station-Bryan, TX82

Police Presence

The number of police officers in a population helped us to determine the overall safety of a city. Charleston, WV, led the way with about 3.6 officers per 1,000 residents.

RankCityPolice
1Charleston, WV3.6
2Macon, GA3.5
3Columbia, SC3.4
4Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ3.4
5Savannah, GA3.2
RankCityPolice
198Modesto, CA0.86
197Olympia-Tumwater, WA0.93
196Manchester-Nashua, NH0.99
195Santa Rosa, CA1.02
194Merced, CA1.03

Children in Poverty

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 21.7% of the population under the age of 18 is living in poverty. That number rises to 24.5% for children under the age of five. The Census Bureau sets the poverty threshold for a household with two adults and two children at $24,036.

Unsurprisingly, Washington D.C., and San Jose, CA, held the lowest poverty rates in our study due to the industries they support. Conversely, Brownsville, TX, which sits right on the border with Mexico, has nearly 50% of its children living in poverty.

RankCityPercent in Poverty
1Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV10.6
2San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA11
3Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT11.2
4Appleton, WI11.4
5Cedar Rapids, IA11.5
RankCityPercent in Poverty
200Brownsville-Harlingen, TX47.4
199McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX45.9
198Laredo, TX42.8
197Fresno, CA38.2
196Visalia-Porterville, CA37.9

Experts' Take

To vary our coverage of the safest cities for kids, we put the data aside and sought out experts for answers to questions of concern.

Stay tuned for responses.

Have something to say? Let us know!

Methodology

We looked at the top 200 metropolitan statistical areas based on population, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data. In order to determine the safest cities for children in the U.S., we looked at 18 data points from seven reputable sources. Since populations vary widely, we calculated many data points per 1,000 members of the population.

We began with Safety considerations, including the rates of violent crimes and burglaries and the per-capita presence of police officers. (Certain city-by-city data such as the number of amber alerts issued was not readily available and thus is not included in this study.) Because children on every block, in every neighborhood spend their time differently, we also included further factors that affect childrens' safety and well-being. The first of these were their Schools. We considered not only the proportion of kids enrolled, but class sizes and graduation rates as well. Lastly, we looked at Community characteristics that affect a child’s overall wellness, including the likelihood they have health insurance, along with access to day care and cultural institutions.

Below, we breakdown each statistic and point to its origin. Those marked with an asterisk are state-based.

Schools

For this category, we broke down the enrollment data points into specific age groups to be able to focus on cities with preschool programs but also the retention rates of students all the way up to graduation. This category was important because, like adults spending time at work, children spend the majority of their time in school.

  1. Percent of children enrolled in school - U.S. Census Bureau (2015)
  2. 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in school - U.S. Census Bureau (2015)
  3. 5 to 9 year olds enrolled in school - U.S. Census Bureau (2015)
  4. 10 to 14 year olds enrolled in school - U.S. Census Bureau (2015)
  5. 15 to 17 year olds enrolled in school - U.S. Census Bureau (2015)
  6. Average class size in elementary schools * - National Center for Education Statistics (2008)
  7. Graduation rate for public school students * - Governing.com (2015)

Safety

We used the Federal Bureau of Investigation data for all 200 of our metropolitan areas. We calculated the number of police officers per 1,000 members of the population with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  1. Instances of violent crime per 100,000 members of the population - FBI (2010-2014)
  2. Instances of burglary per 100,000 members of the population - FBI (2010-2014)
  3. Number of police officers per 1,000 members of the population - U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015)
  4. Number of registered sex offenders per 1,000 members of the population* - Parents for Megan's Law (2016)

Community

Our final category focuses both on time students spend outside of school (day care, libraries and recreation) as well as resources and wellness factors that affect a child’s life (poverty, healthcare and youth services.) Each category and data point was weighted equally in the study.

  1. Percentage of total population under 18 years of age - U.S. Census Bureau (2015)
  2. Percentage of children living below the poverty level - U.S. Census Bureau (2015)
  3. Number of child and youth services per 1,000 children - U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
  4. Number of child day care services per 1,000 children - U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
  5. Percent of children under 18 with one type of health insurance - U.S. Census Bureau (2015)
  6. Public libraries per 100,000 residents * - StateMaster.com (2014)
  7. Number of art, entertainment and recreation establishments per 1,000 members of the population - U.S. Census Bureau (2014)

Comments and Questions