Anyone looking to raise a family these days might want to do whatever they can to stack the odds in their favor, and that could mean choosing the right place to live.
It’s not easy raising a family these days. Parents are still contending with covid and the baby formula shortage, along with the ongoing grief and anxiety of a rising number school shootings.
Decades after the post-war baby boom, the U.S. may be looking at a baby bust, according to the Pew Research Center. Birth rates in the U.S. dropped during the pandemic, and were already dropping before that.
A rising share of U.S. adults who are not already parents say they are unlikely to ever have children, according to a Pew Research survey in 2021. The reason? About 56% said they just don’t want to, and the rest cited other reasons, including medical, (19%) financial, (17%) lack of a partner, (15%) their age, (10%) the state of the world (9%) and climate change (5%).
Other challenges include the cost of childcare, which has risen by 41% since 2020, with families spending up to 20% of their salaries, Fortune reports, and more than half of all U.S. residents live in a child care desert, where need far outpaces supply, according to the Center for American Progress.
The maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is far worse than other industrialized nations, with a rate nearly three times higher than that of France, the country with the next highest rate.
Then there’s college. The average cost of college in the U.S. is $35,331 per student per year, including books, supplies, and daily living expenses. In 1963, the annual cost of tuition at a four-year public college was $243, the equivalent today of $2,207 when adjusted for inflation—an increase of 324%, adjusted for inflation.
So anyone looking to raise a family these days might want to do whatever they can to stack the odds in their favor. While bigger cities can be expensive, the suburbs aren’t always the ideal places to live for everyone either. Cities can be fun, educational, and prosperous for families, and many small and large cities are working to improve their family-friendliness.
To find the best places for families, personal finance site WalletHub compared 182 U.S. cities — including the 150 most populated U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populated cities in each state — across 46 metrics that consider essential family dynamics, such as the cost of housing, the quality of local school and health-care systems, and the opportunities for fun and recreation.
The top city is Fremont, Calif., which also ranks No. 1 for health and safety and for socioeconomics, as well as second for education and childcare. And despite being in the Bay Area, Fremont still makes the top 30 for affordability.
The cities with the most family fun are Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The city that ranks first for education and child care is South Burlington, Vt. The most affordable city is Overland Park, Kan., which ranks second overall.
WalletHub’s main categories for the ranking were:
Family fun—this includes weather, walkability, share of families with young children and the number of fun things like parks, playgrounds, sports, ice rinks, and mini golf. Health and safety, which includes air and water quality, crime rates, homelessness rate, pedestrian and driver fatalities, crime rates, hospital rankings, pediatricians per capita and vaccination ratesEducation and child care, which includes the quality of school systems, high school graduation rates, child care costs, parental leave policies and summer learning opportunitiesAffordability, which includes median family incomes, cost of living and housing costsSocio-economics, which includes divorce rates, the share of two-parent families, the number of families living in poverty, and employment and debt rates.
Here are the best cities for families.
1. Fremont, Calif.
Family fun rank: 81Health & safety rank: 1Education & child care rank: 2Affordability rank: 29Socio-economics rank: 1
2. Overland Park, Kan.
Family fun rank: 110Health & safety rank: 25Education & child care rank: 4Affordability rank: 1Socio-economics rank: 3
3. Irvine, Calif.
Family fun rank: 20Health & safety rank: 2Education & child care rank: 3Affordability rank: 59Socio-economics rank: 4
4. Plano, Texas
Family fun rank: 97Health & safety rank: 8Education & child care rank: 37Affordability rank: 3Socio-economics rank: 2
5. Columbia, Md.
Family fun rank: 87Health & safety rank: 10Education & child care rank: 41Affordability rank: 2Socio-economics rank: 35
6. San Diego
Family fun rank: 5Health & safety rank: 16Education & child care rank: 10Affordability rank: 80Socio-economics rank: 22
Family fun rank: 66Health & safety rank: 58Education & child care rank: 8Affordability rank: 20Socio-economics rank: 13
8. San Jose, Calif.
Family fun rank: 41Health & safety rank: 6Education & child care rank: 11Affordability rank: 67Socio-economics rank: 12
9. Madison, Wis.
Family fun rank: 85Health & safety rank: 34Education & child care rank: 52Affordability rank: 4Socio-economics rank: 17
10. Scottsdale, Ariz.
Family fun rank: 53Health & safety rank: 64Education & child care rank: 39Affordability rank: 12Socio-economics rank: 8
>> Also see: The 30 Best U.S. Cities for Renters
11. South Burlington, Vt.
Family fun rank: 179Health & safety rank: 73Education & child care rank: 1Affordability rank: 37Socio-economics rank: 9
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12. San Francisco
Family fun rank: 14Health & safety rank: 14Education & child care rank: 7Affordability rank: 89Socio-economics rank: 37
13. Gilbert, Ariz.
Family fun rank: 59Health & safety rank: 40Education & child care rank: 55Affordability rank: 11Socio-economics rank: 11
14. Lincoln, Neb.
Family fun rank: 67Health & safety rank: 42Education & child care rank: 30Affordability rank: 10Socio-economics rank: 34
15. Huntington Beach, Calif.
Family fun rank: 76Health & safety rank: 29Education & child care rank: 5Affordability rank: 99Socio-economics rank: 6
16. Boise, Idaho
Family fun rank: 39Health & safety rank: 32Education & child care rank: 77Affordability rank: 13Socio-economics rank: 32
>> Plus: Inflation Is Making These Items More Expensive; Here’s How Much Prices Have Risen
17. Fargo, N.D.
Family fun rank: 108Health & safety rank: 41Education & child care rank: 47Affordability rank: 16Socio-economics rank: 27
18. Austin, Texas
Family fun rank: 79Health & safety rank: 79Education & child care rank: 31Affordability rank: 9Socio-economics rank: 44
19. Virginia Beach, Va.
Family fun rank: 147Health & safety rank: 19Education & child care rank: 27Affordability rank: 27Socio-economics rank: 20
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20. Sioux Falls, S.D.
Family fun rank: 128Health & safety rank: 84Education & child care rank: 26Affordability rank: 17Socio-economics rank: 38
21. Chandler, Ariz.
Family fun rank: 44Health & safety rank: 68Education & child care rank: 95Affordability rank: 22Socio-economics rank: 15
22. Omaha, Neb.
Family fun rank: 75Health & safety rank: 63Education & child care rank: 24Affordability rank: 21Socio-economics rank: 73
23. Bismarck, N.D.
Family fun rank: 115Health & safety rank: 87Education & child care rank: 87Affordability rank: 8Socio-economics rank: 18
24. Portland, Ore.
Family fun rank: 50Health & safety rank: 55Education & child care rank: 16Affordability rank: 46Socio-economics rank: 74
25. Warwick, R.I.
Family fun rank: 182Health & safety rank: 4Education & child care rank: 44Affordability rank: 23Socio-economics rank: 24
26. Lexington-Fayette, Ky.
Family fun rank: 143Health & safety rank: 27Education & child care rank: 32Affordability rank: 19Socio-economics rank: 79
27. Portland, Maine
Family fun rank: 154Health & safety rank: 3Education & child care rank: 28Affordability rank: 61Socio-economics rank: 61
28. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Family fun rank: 140Health & safety rank: 49Education & child care rank: 83Affordability rank: 7Socio-economics rank: 60
29. Nashua, N.H.
Family fun rank: 159Health & safety rank: 31Education & child care rank: 49Affordability rank: 32Socio-economics rank: 28
Family fun rank: 17Health & safety rank: 110Education & child care rank: 114Affordability rank: 6Socio-economics rank: 104
A few of the cities that ranked at the bottom include Detroit, Cleveland and Memphis. Visit WalletHub.com to see the full ranking of all 182 cities.