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The 10 Best Cities to Raise a Family in America

You can raise a child anywhere, but some places can make it easier. Check out Movoto's top 10 cities to raise a family.

David Cross

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237 articles, 24 comments

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There’s been an abundance of new mothers and fathers in the Movoto family during the past couple of months. This started the Movoto bloggers thinking about families and where we’d like to live when we eventually started down that long path known as parenthood. Our answers were varied. Some of us wanted to stay put in the Bay Area. Others, fearing Silicon Valley’s absurd housing situation, wanted to move. But to where? That was a conundrum. We put our heads—and math skills—together to find an answer.

What did we find? Based on seven criteria, detailed below, Texas has a surprising number of large cities that are great for raising little ones. In fact, three out of 10 cities on our list are in the Lone Star State. If there is anything Texas should be proud of, it’s making itself hospitable toward America’s future. But enough suspense; what 10 cities are best for families? Our list:

  1. Omaha, NE
  2. Oklahoma City, OK
  3. El Paso, TX
  4. Virginia Beach, VA
  5. Albuquerque, NM
  6. Kansas City, MO
  7. Colorado Springs, CO
  8. Austin, TX
  9. Raleigh, NC
  10. San Antonio, TX

How Did We Do It?

To come up with our list of the 10 best cities for families, we surveyed the 50 most populous cities in the country based on seven criteria. As with our previous top 10 pieces, we ranked each city from 1 to 50 for each criterion, with 1 being the best score. We then took the average rank across the criteria. The city with the lowest average score—in this case Omaha, NE—was crowned the winner. The criteria we surveyed were:

  • Cost of living
  • Public schools rank
  • Park space
  • Home ownership
  • Crimes per capita
  • Unemployment
  • Commute time

You can find the winners and losers in each criterion below.

Cost of Living

Kids are expensive. According to the Agriculture Department’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, it costs $235,000 to raise a child for 17 years. That’s a lot of greenbacks.

For this category, we looked at Sperling’s Best Places, a website that, among other things, calculates the cost of living in a city. The website starts with the national average cost of living, marked by 100, and then compares cities to it. In this case, the lower the number, the cheaper the living. Memphis, TN had the lowest cost with a rank of 75. Conversely, the Movoto bloggers’s home of San Francisco, CA was the most expensive with a score of 199. We cried a little bit when we found that out.

School Rank

We’re big proponents of education. We think that parents everywhere are, too. For this category, we used Greatschools.org to rank each city. This not-for-profit website ranks public school systems from 1 to 10, with the higher the number the better. According to its data, Mesa, AZ public schools are No. 1 with a score of 7. Memphis, TN and Detroit, MI were tied for last; each had an underwhelming score of 2.

Parks Per Person

We mentioned above that kids cost a ton. Add more than one and any hobbies you or your significant other have could go flying out the window. Because of this, we looked at the number of park acres per person. It’s important to have a place to go that is both cheap and fun. Not only that, we’re betting those rugrats will have some extracurricular activities that will take place in these green spaces. Virginia Beach, VA took home the top score in this category.

Homeownership

We’re not saying that you can’t raise kids in an apartment. There are millions of people who do it, but we’re biased toward owning a home. It provides more open space for the little ones, whether it’s their own room or a back yard. We used Census data to find which cities had the highest percentage of home ownership. Virginia Beach, VA was at the top of the list. Unsurprisingly, New York, NY is at the very bottom.

Crime

You want your kids to be safe. The lower the crime in an area, the better. To calculate this, we divided the total number of crimes in a city by its population. Tucson, AZ isn’t crime free, but it is the safest place on our list. Meanwhile, Las Vegas, NV easily earned its Sin City nickname, as it came in dead last on our list of safe places.

Unemployment

We hate to keep harping on this, but children really do cost an arm and a leg, and you’ll need a place to work so you can pay for all those trips to the doctor’s office and toy stores.

In this category, cities with low unemployment ranked higher. What did we find? People in Omaha, NE have incredibly low unemployment. Just 4.6 percent of people in the Omaha metro area (this includes the area outside Omaha proper) are unemployed. To put this into context, in April 2013, 7.5 percent of people in the United States were unemployed.

Commute Time

If you have kids, you know the importance of actually being with them. This means you have to make it home before 9 p.m. In this category, we used this impressive map from WNYC to estimate each city’s drive time. The map breaks down commute time based on zip code. For our survey, we picked a centrally located zip code to base our numbers on. Omaha workers have a miniscule commute time of 15.5 minutes. On the other hand, New Yorkers must really hate their kids because they commute for 41.7 minutes a day on average.

Conclusion

If you haven’t figured it out already, raising a family is difficult and expensive, but based on our research you’ll have an easier time in one of these 10 cities. We aren’t saying there won’t be fights–that’s what teenagers do–but you might be a little happier. And if you aren’t ready to settle down we know of a couple places that where you might meet your future co-parent.

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Looking for a new home? Movoto’s got you covered. With millions of listings, plenty of property information, and established agents all over the country, we make finding your future home simple. And when you’re ready to take a break from browsing homes, you can always come back here to learn more about your favorite cities.

posted on: May 17, 2013
226,840 views, 32 comments

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32 Comments

  1. Cassie Thomas

    We are a family of four who just moved out out another California into a suburb of Omaha. We loved out! The cost of living is much less, the people are friendly, the atmosphere is just all around better for loud children. I couldn’t agree more with your ranking.

    • Cassie Thomas in response to Cassie Thomas

      *out of southern California.

  2. eddie

    noooo. not el paso the schools system here is corrupt! Just read all the news about it.

    • James in response to eddie

      I love El Paso, The kids do learn and yes they are safe and a great place for children to be raised. I am from Northern New Mexico and find it awesome here in El Paso.

    • Ginger in response to eddie

      Eddie, that’s one school district in El Paso out of several.

    • dreamer in response to eddie

      I agree on the El Paso thing! I’m wondering how both El Paso and Albuquerque made it on the list. Safe, NO. School systems in both places horrible!

    • Raul Mendez in response to eddie

      You can’t judge every school because of a few, use common sense. Some people try to leave El Paso because they have lived here there entire life yet they don’t really leave. Why? maybe El Paso is better than you think. Have some pride in your city and look at all the positives and I promise it will out weight the negatives.

  3. Des

    Are you with the tourist board of “places no one wants to live?” I lived in EP and a large number of parks does not mean that they can be used. It’s too hot most of the time. What about accessibility to health care? General health of the population, pollution?

  4. Richie

    I live in El Paso, and it is more than just one corrupt school district. It is the biggest scandal in Texas education history, and perhaps the U.S. There is multiple districts involved in the scandal including Soccorro, YISD, Clint, they are all being independently audited right now. El Paso is also one of the biggest drug corridors in all of the United States and Juarez, Mexico is it’s sister city. I find this list very inadequate.

    • Lon in response to Richie

      I also live in El Paso and love it. The parks are great. Like anywhere else, most teachers are caring and do a great job. The controversy is with certain administrators in a few schools out of almost one hundred. Though, sadly, students on those campuses were affected, it is NOT the entire school district. I <3 El Paso!

    • JessicaB in response to Richie

      Don’t forget the Canutillo School District on the list of recently defrauded districts (also in el paso county).

  5. Lorilye Hayes

    Grew up in El Paso and got stuck here again after my husband left the service. As someone who has lived in other countries and other parts of the U.S. El Paso stinks. We have people randomly shooting across the border and hitting civilians and city hall. I don’t know what school system you checked out, but if your kids have disabilities they are not treated well at all. I have been in legal battles with EPISD, just trying to get them to follow federal standards since 2005. Some forms of crime are lower, but I grew up here and never had a problem before, last year a 13-yr-old was shot on my street because of a drug transaction dispute. The cost of living is also not lower than many other places like Georgia. The city has so many ordinances you can’t even breathe here. In other parts of the States you can fix up cars and sell them, here the city council is so greedy to get their $50 million dollar new stadium built they have to cut off ways that other people usually make spare money just to get by. Also that great “job growth” in Texas is dominated by jobs that do not make a living wage. We may have lower unemployment, but Texas has a higher rate of SNAP users than even California, because they aren’t making a living wage. money.cnn.com/2011/08/12/news/economy/perry_texas_jobs/index.htm

    • Eddie in response to Lorilye Hayes

      I love El Paso, but it is a wasteland for nurturing children. Let’s not forget the greedy administrators tore down the children’s science museum to build a money pit of a ball park. Kids here do not get an adequate education and UTEP has basically a 100% admission rate, and huge drop out rate, meaning they are willing to shake you down for your student loan money and leave you in massive debt with a bleak future. El Paso, basically suffers from irresponsible and corrupt leadership on many different levels.

  6. Juan

    All you haters on El Paso. Bite me. Yeah we are behind on city development and job development but this place is an awesome place for a family. It is safe The culture is like no other. We have no severe Mother Nature threats. Just like any other place, it is what you make it

  7. Mari

    I have lived in both Omaha, NE and El Paso, TX. I believe both are great places to raise children. I believe that it does take a village to raise children. If you want your children to grow up safe, get involved. Meet their friends’ parents, go to ALL school and extra curricular activities. All cities have some type of corruption, but it’s up to you to get wrapped up in all of it.

  8. Chris

    El Paso is awesome! This is my home I love it. Don’t get me wrong there are certian things we lack but our current council is working on making El Paso a great place to live. If us el pasoans work hard and understand that the bonds that wee passed are for the better. El Paso will be number one on this list.

  9. myramonna

    I’m from El Paso and I think the list must be off. You should make a survey on how many people in El Paso like living there. How many people plan to leave ASAP. How many are there because of their ties to the city, whether it’s a job or family. If you’ve been to El Paso I think you would probably take it off your list. And I love everyone I know from there, but not the city :/
    Sorry

  10. Megan

    Why is Kansas City MO on this list??? I wouldn’t live there again if you paid me. There is too much crime, the school system is horrible, not to mention all the rundown neighborhoods and drive by shootings. You literally hear about a murder everyday on the news or a shooting or something of the sorts its not a great place maybe a suburb of KCMO is ok depending on which one you choose.

  11. Mandi

    The Kansas City Missouri school district isn’t even accredited.

    • vbohn in response to Mandi

      I have also heard that the Kansas City MO school district isn’t accredited (from a number of people that live in the KS suburbs. As a matter of fact, when I was a child (MANY years ago) my dad was transferred to Kansas City. My parents chose to live in Johnson County KS where the schools were good. The K.C. MO schools weren’t even good back then!

  12. dreamer

    Who made this list? Obviously someone that has never lived in these places. I lived or been to a few of these places and most are NOT safe cities and not good places to raise families. Albuquerque has extremely high crime rate, gangs, and the public school systems are terrible!(not to mention lots of stabbings and crimes in the schools!)OH and as for parks… ya sure there is parks here, a little girl was shot recently by some gangs having a shoot out AT THE PARK!! I’m trying to get out of here, I do not want to raise my son in this h*ll hole. Oh ya and the pay rate sucks unless you work for Intel or Sandia Labs! Do yourself a favor and DO NOT MOVE YOUR FAMILY HERE!

  13. Jodi

    Ok, so I’m excited that Omaha was named number one, but I’m actually offended by the end of this article where it states “New Yorkers must really hate their kids because they commute for 41.7 minutes a day on average”… what does having a long commute have to do with loving your kids?! Talk about rude. I know people who work with me and drive over an hour to work, and they love their kids more than life itself. I considered sharing this, but after really reading the article and what they say about other cities, I’m not going to.

  14. Ihavefriendsthere

    Pretty sure you mean KC KS, not MO. Schools in the KC suburbs, in Kansas, are great, from what I’ve heard. And you’re close to the “big city” of KC MO.

  15. Harlemgurl

    Yes, some New Yorkers have 41 min commutes but at the end of that commute comes the pot ‘o gold: we live in New York!

  16. MimWix

    I’m a bit confused. Movoto blogs has a top 10 list (http://www.movoto.com/blog/top-ten/the-10-best-cities-to-raise-a-family-in-america/#.Usv4AGLl70w.facebook) AND a top 11 list (http://www.movoto.com/blog/real-estate-tips/top-11-cities-for-raising-a-family/) of best cities in which to raise a family. Virginia Beach & Raleigh are the only two that are on both lists. So which is it??? Why not make it the top 20 cities and list both lists???

  17. Lara Miller

    Have you seen Nebraska’s high property, license, vehicle registration and renewal, and income taxes? Nebraska is the biggest taxing state for those just so you know, so yeah we may have the best unemployment, but they tax you heavily on the above, almost to a breaking point, so in reality, it’s not that great.

  18. Kris

    Okay, I have lived in El Paso all of my life, and I can tell you as a local I do not like my own city. I am here because of family-that’s it. Our school districts are in serious trouble for corruption, as well as our city government. Yes we have lots of parks, but are most of them of good quality? No. We have a high-rate of drug and human trafficking! We do not have many resources available for families to have fun together. Our University also has a very high drop-out rate. We are lacking in adequate healthcare facilities and specialists. I would not recommend El Paso to most wanting to raise a family. Unless you have family ties here, then it’s best to look elsewhere.

    • Raul Mendez in response to Kris

      I have lived in El Paso My entire life also. This is a great place to raise a family. You have to think out of the box when it comes to activities. As a teacher I will defend our great schools the majority at least. You would think that I would get bored in the summer time however there is plenty to do because of the cost of living is low, but like I said you have to think out of the box if you want to join the group of people all trying to stuff themselves in the eastern corner go ahead. If you exercise your imagination you could enjoy the rest of the city in safely. lets not forget it is one of the safest cities in the nation. Research it for yourself.

  19. Bob

    Ha! I live in the burbs of Omaha. They must have forgot to mention that it has the highest per capita murder rate for African Americans in the nation. Worse than Detroit or DC or Chicago. It is officially according the the FBI the black males murder capital of the nation. Shouldn’t even be on the list.

  20. Rey

    Of course everyone is going to have their perspective on this list and the cities it lists – as an insider and outsider. But, really, as some on this list allude to, it’s about perspective. We’ve lived and worked (as teachers or students) in Boulder and a suburb of Denver, Colorado, San Antonio, TX, Albuquerque, NM, Santiago, Chile. My family and I have lived in El Paso here for over 10 years now, and we love it. Why? Not necessarily for what the city and the region has to offer, or not, but because we CHOOSE to make our life as a family what we want from it. We actively CREATE our family experiences to get the most from them. Let’s take the issue of parks. Any city can have parks. But do families actually use them? And does the region allow for such usage? Here in El Paso, because of the nice weather, parks can be used almost year-round. In hot and humid places, like Houston or San Antonio, or states in the Deep South, you won’t find many families out during the day because of the intolerable heat and humidity. Here in El Paso, even in 100 degree heat, it is tolerable because of the dryness.

    The cost of living here in El Paso allows most “normal” families and income earners to actually have a life. There are plenty of children’s festivals, a nice zoo that is getting better all the time, parks, library events, museums (we will have a new children’s museum, thanks to the recent bond), outdoor hiking and biking, food trucks, minor league baseball, UTEP sports, etc. here in our city. And then you can go to Hueco Tanks, Las Cruces, White Sands, Ruidoso, and other places for day trips. Life is what you make of it. I find that most people who speak ill of El Paso won’t understand this way of thinking, and will choose not to. And so this will limit, and taint, their perspective on places like El Paso. And then there are those who simply feel uncomfortable living in a city that is not your “typical”, English-speaking, US city. If you took the right perspective, you can view the bilingual and bicultural aspects of the city as opportunities to enrich and educate your family and children. I think the new leadership is building on the so many positives of this city (See the “Only in El Paso” videos on Youtube), and see current movement in our city (the ballpark, the trolleys, etc.) as investments in our quality of life. Again, many will not understand this logic, but we will see positive fruits of these investments in our city. All cities that have undergone such investments have typically seen positive results in the quality of life in their city – attracting new (high-paying) jobs, people feeling pride in their city, etc.

    Again, life is what you make of it, as is the city where you live. Enjoy!

  21. Errol

    One of your criteria should be easy availability of guns for kids. Easy availability = bad place to raise family.

 

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