Whether you're just pondering baby names or already swimming in Lego blocks, discarded Xbox games, or oddball teething toys, it's a good idea to think about where you can best raise your family. And, while you're at it, consider which cities you might want to avoid like a bad case of strep.
For starters, southern-bound families might want to reconsider that big move to Birmingham, AL, according to a recent report from personal finance website WalletHub. It was ranked the least family-friendly U.S. city, having among the highest rates of violent crime and divorce per capita in the analysis.
"Since the average American is estimated to move over 11 times in his or her lifetime, relocation is a bigger question now than ever," says WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez. "High-tax areas shouldn't necessarily be avoided, but do your research and make sure the health care and school systems are owning up to their end of the bargain."
To come up with its findings, which included a separate list of the most family-friendly metros, WalletHub looked at categories relating to family fun as well as more practical considerations across the largest 150 cities. They included the number of playgrounds and kid-friendly attractions, share of families with young children, indicators of health and safety, top-rated schools, and affordable child care. The website also took into account cost of living, housing affordability, unemployment, and poverty rates.
"Birmingham is especially struggling with the health and safety category ... and its overall socioeconomics," says Gonzalez, adding that the city also has a high infant mortality rate and a high poverty rate. "Nearly a third of all families in Birmingham are receiving food stamps."
But the Birmingham metro area might be just right for would-be homeowners on a tight budget who don't have kids. The median home price in the metro area was just $208,500 as of Aug. 1, according to data from realtor.com®. That's 31.8% less than the national median price of $274,900.
The worst places to raise a family
The bulk of the least-family-friendly cities were in poorer parts of the South. Others, including Miami, Hialeah, FL, and San Bernardino, CA, made the worst list, in part, due to their lack of affordability.
But it's worth noting that even these cities had some bright spots. For example, Detroit might have come in second to last, but the outlook isn't completely terrible. The city has the third most playgrounds per capita of the cities on the list.
Here are the 10 worst cities for families:
San Bernardino, CA
The best places to raise a family
As for the best? Head to the Midwest.
Overland Park, KS, was ranked the most family-friendly city in the nation. The city, about a 20-minute drive from Kansas City, KS, has the second-highest median family salary when adjusted for cost of living and the lowest percentage of families living below the poverty level. It also offers reasonably priced housing.
(The median closing price of Overland Park homes is $167,000, according to realtor.com. That's 64.6% less than the national median.)
But the biggest draw is the top-rated school district—which scored a 10 out of 10 in overall quality, according to education information group Great Schools.
Families have moved from as far away Albuquerque, NM, to enroll their kids in Overland Park schools, says local Realtor® Mary Hutchison of Better Homes & Garden Real Estate/Kansas City Homes in Prairie Village, KS. She's also seeing baby boomers moving to the area as they retire and downsize to be closer to their grandchildren.
"The reputation of the school districts and less commuter traffic than other parts of the country make it desirable," she says. "The cost of living here is less expensive."