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:
- Omaha, NE
- Oklahoma City, OK
- El Paso, TX
- Virginia Beach, VA
- Albuquerque, NM
- Kansas City, MO
- Colorado Springs, CO
- Austin, TX
- Raleigh, NC
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.