Report: Best and Worst Cities for Raising a Family

WalletHub releases top places for families for 2015

Best U.S. Cities WalletHub
WalletHub has released their 2015 list of Best Cities for Families. Did yours make the cut?. Tang Ming Tung

A quick question for parents: What do Overland Park, KS; Plano, TX; Virginia Beach, VA; Lincoln, NE; and Sioux Falls, SD  all have in common? They are the top five entries on WalletHub's 2015 list of the best and worst cities for families to live. Considering important factors such as housing costs, schools, health care, and recreation, WalletHub looked at 150 of America's most populated cities and ranked them, giving families a resource for if and when they decide to relocate.

Here are the top 10 and bottom 10:

 Best Cities for Families    

  1. Overland Park, KS
  2. Plano, TX
  3. Virginia Beach, VA
  4. Lincoln, NE
  5. Sioux Falls, SD
  6. Madison, WI
  7. Fremont, CA
  8. Chesapeake, VA
  9. Colorado Springs, CO
  10. Grand Prairie, TX

Worst Cities for Families    

  1. Washington, DC
  2. New Orleans, LA
  3. Fort Lauderdale, FL
  4. Shreveport, LA
  5. Mobile, AL
  6. Baton Rouge, LA
  7. Miami, FL
  8. Detroit, MI
  9. Birmingham, AL
  10. Jackson, MI

"The development of children is strongly influenced by the environment in which they are raised," said D. Bruce Carter, an associate professor of psychology and child & family studies at Syracuse University, and one of WalletHub's experts. "And, of course, the family's overall quality of life plays a major part in both the physical and the emotional environment that children experience. Parents who are stressed, who are working to make ends meet, who are experiencing poverty, illness or a variety of other conditions may not have the emotional energy or physical capacity to provide children with the type of enriching environment that leads to optimal development."

Aside from ranking the cities, the study also took a look at specific factors that are important to families with children and ranked those as well. For example, Madison, WI ranked first in "Most Playgrounds per Capita," while Plano, TX was tops for "Most Affordable Housing." Aurora, IL (ranked 26 overall) is the city with the most kids under the age of 18, and Fremont, CA had the lowest divorce rate.

For more statistics, read the study.

If you are thinking about moving, there are a lot of different factors to consider, from geography to schools and more.

"Parents need good job opportunities, with as many family-friendly policies as possible (e.g. onsite daycare)," said Alan Reifman, professor of family development and human studies at Texas Tech University, and an expert for WalletHub. "Other features of a city, such as good public transportation and low crime rates are desirable too. The challenge is that cities offering these amenities also tend to be very expensive to live in."

The median family annual income adjusted for cost of living is four times higher in Plano, Texas, than Hialeah, Fla. (which is ranked 140 on the list), and the percentage of families living below the poverty line is 10 times higher in Detroit than in Overland Park, Kan.

Still, other experts say, start with a place you think you'd like to live, then start narrowing down your choices.

"Decide first on geographic location," said Carter.

"Do you want to live in an area that provides constant year-round temperatures (like Florida, California or the SW US) or do you want your children to experience the changing seasons, etc. Often, locale will be determined by employment opportunities but one can job-hunt selectively." Carter also suggests family look at the housing market, as well as neighborhoods where you would like to live, and you can afford. Next evaluate the schools and everything that is available in the neighborhood. What do these places look like?

"Look for the presence of other young families with children. They will be your peers, your neighbors, and your friends. When you advocate for children, you are advocating for your children as well as theirs. They will be valuable allies in assuring that the housing choices you make remain viable over time," Carter said.


Visit WalletHub for more information about the rankings and methodology behind this report.

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