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Updated on Thursday, September 19, 2019
Raising a family has always been a challenge. But for many parents, getting their kids into a prestigious college is a long-term goal that may require them to start thinking early about how to give their children a head start. That not only means access to traditional educational opportunities but also paying for extracurricular activities parents consider important enough to go into debt over.
You can’t have it all, of course, and some of the communities with the best resources are also the most costly for families. Below we look to combine these factors to rank the best places to raise a family with a balanced lifestyle. Using data from 2016-2017, we compare 16 different metrics between the 100 biggest metro areas in the United States to pinpoint the best cities for families who want a balanced lifestyle.
- Utah metro areas come out looking good for families. Provo and Ogden secured the top two spots thanks to being family-friendly metro areas. Both of these metros stand out for their low average work hours, low unemployment rates and high density of families and children. In both metros, roughly 80% of households are occupied by families with over a third of the population being under 20 years old.
- Boston comes in third and is the best of the pricey metro areas. This area has a high concentration of family-friendly establishments like museums, summer camps and grocery stores. This area also ranks in the top 30 for English proficiency, math proficiency and graduation rate, making it one of the best metro areas for education opportunities.
- Southwestern metro areas did not fare well. Tucson, Ariz. and Albuquerque, N.M. took last and second-to-last spots respectively, while Las Vegas and Tulsa, Okla. also fell into the bottom six.
- Florida scored poorly on the study with five metro areas in the bottom 20.
By looking at the map, it’s clear that the highest concentration of liveable cities is on the east coast, although California does put up some strong numbers for the west with six cities across the state making it into the top half of the rankings. Don’t focus exclusively on the mainland, though — Hawaii fares considerably well against the rest of the country with Honolulu ranked 20th overall.
You might notice some of the most northern states, such as Montana or North Dakota, aren’t ranked at all. That’s because their population density isn’t high enough for cities in the states to make it into the top 100.
Top 10 places to raise a family with a balanced lifestyle
Trying to determine where the best city to raise your family is? The following cities made it into the top 10 of our rankings.
1. Provo, Utah
The average work hours in Provo came out at 35 per week, with an unemployment rate of 4.3%. Families tend to be drawn to Provo, which has a family rate of 81.9%. It’s also strong when it comes to education, boasting a graduation rate of 91.6%. These results are not too surprising; Provo ranked highly in our rankings of America’s biggest boomtowns, alongside Austin, Texas.
2. Ogden, Utah
Utah makes a strong showing in the top 10 with Ogden claiming second place. Similar to Provo, people in Ogden typically work under 40 hours a week, reporting a 37.3 hour average. The numbers are similar across the board between Provo and Ogden except for the crime rate. While Provo ranks in sixth place in terms of low crime rate, Ogden ranks in 29th place.
3. Boston, Mass.
Even though Boston might sound like an expensive city, it does a lot to make life better for families. In fact, Boston ranks sixth when it comes to family-friendly businesses. It’s relatively low crime, ranking seventh — one spot behind Provo. It has an 89.7% graduation rate for students.
4. Grand Rapids, Mich.
Grand Rapids ranks 17th when it comes to home affordability and has an unemployment rate of 5.3%, ranking 17th compared to all the other cities in the data. Its family poverty rate of 7.9%, which is lower than Provo’s, who has a family poverty rate of 8.5%.
5. San Jose, Calif.
Despite an earlier study showing San Jose is one of the worst places to be making six figures, it’s still an affordable place for families with a family poverty rate of 5.7% — the lowest of all cities in the top five. It has an unemployment rate of 5.8%. The graduation rate is the lowest of all the top five cities, coming in at 84.2%.
6. Bridgeport, Conn.
Bridgeport is another city known to be difficult for workers to make a six figure income, but that doesn’t seem to stop families from thriving in the area. It has a family rate of 70%. Students in the area seem to thrive too, Bridgeport boasts a graduation rate of 91.8%.
7. Austin, Texas
Workers in Austin were among the top in the country for most hours worked, with an average of 39.7 hours per week. However, Austin also has the highest graduation rate out of all the cities in the top ten, coming in at 92.7%.
8. Minneapolis, Minn.
With a family poverty rate of 5.9%, Minneapolis ranks second best in this area out of all the cities in the top 10. It also come in 46th place in home affordability, make them one of the more financially tenable cities on the list for growing families.
9. Des Moines, Iowa
Des Moines has the most affordable homes out of all cities to make the top ten, coming in 11th place in this area. Its unemployment rate is at 4.3% while their graduation rate is comparable to Bridgeport, Conn. at 91.9%.
10. Worcester, Mass.
Similar to Boston, Worcester ranks well when it comes to family friendly businesses and activities — with 2.3%. Its crime rate also establishes it as a safer place for families, coming in 10th place.
See our complete rankings
The complete rankings show the tradeoffs between each location. Keep in mind when reviewing the data that certain criteria may be more valuable to you personally than others when deciding where to live. That’s why it’s important to look at the data as a whole and compare discrepancies between your ideal cities. To see what you’d rather live with and or what you can’t live without.
Making the most of your family’s income
No matter where you live, sound, financial stewardship is the key to providing a balanced life for your family. While some cities make this easier than others in the end it does come down to how you manage your finances. Here are some tips to start incorporating into your financial plan now regardless of your location.
1. Use an app to manage your budget
The days of keeping cash in envelopes or using a spreadsheet to budget are long behind us. Nowadays there are many budgeting apps you can use to manage your family’s money.
For example, if you are still in love with the envelope method, consider an app like Goodbudget. It allows you to replicate the concept from your smartphone. For a more in-depth approach, try a platform such as Mint that allows you to track your income and expenses and will send you alerts throughout the month to help you reach your savings goals.
2. Consolidate your debt
If you are facing debt as a family, consider taking out a personal loan to consolidate your debt. Debt consolidation can help you pay less interest over time, if you qualify for a lower interest rate on the new loan. Plus, it simplifies your finances because instead of having to make various payments you’ll only have to focus on one payment, once a month.
Compare personal loans online to make sure you’re getting your best rate before you sign.
3. Consider your investment options
If you have savings each month, even if it is a small amount, you might want to start considering how to invest your surplus. After creating an emergency fund with cash you can access quickly if a worst case scenario does arise begin to decide how you’ll invest the extra. This could take the form of a daily interest savings account or something more aggressive.
In order to find the best places to raise a family with a balanced lifestyle, we compared data for the top 100 metro areas by population. Specifically, we looked at the following 16 metrics:
- Average hours worked per week (2017 ACS)
- Unemployment rate (2017 ACS)
- Median housing costs as a percent of household income (2017 ACS)
- Family poverty rate (2017 ACS)
- Family friendly business rate (2016 County Business Patterns Survey)
- Education opportunity rate (2016 Business Patterns Survey)
- Math proficiency rate (Data comes from the US Department of Education and is for 2016-2017 School Year)
- English proficiency rate ((Data comes from the US Department of Education and is for 2016-2017 School Year)
- Graduation rate (Data comes from the US Department of Education and is for 2016-2017 School Year)
- 5-year change in median home values (2017 ACS)
- Family household rate (2017 ACS)
- Percent of population under 20 years old (2017 ACS)
- Home affordability ratio (2017 ACS)
- Crime rate per 100,000 residents (Data comes from the FBI and is for 2017)
- Per pupil funding as a percent of local income (2017 ACS)
Each metric was scored relative to highest and lowest values across all metros. For each metric, these scores were averaged for a highest possible category score of 100 and a lowest of 0. Family friendly business rate, education opportunity rate, math proficiency rate and english proficiency rate were all given half weight while every other metric was given full weight. The highest possible final score was 100 and the lowest was 0.