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A Curated List of the Best Places to Raise a Family in America

America is on the move. Every year, thousands of American families are relocating to a city or state they believe is a better fit for them. Families living near downtown areas are also bucking the trend by relocating to the more peaceful suburbs or more affordable and safer cities. This is especially true since the rise of COVID-19, as America has seen a massive increase of individuals working from home, allowing them to move to locations that would otherwise not be considered due to work proximity.

This trend is manifested in movement from the Northeast and the Pacific Coast to areas in the South and Midwest. For instance, Kansas, Texas, and Arizona are becoming popular among Americans due to the low cost of living and high quality of life.

Here is a look at some of the most important factors that contribute to this phenomenon. If you are considering a long distance move, this article is a thorough compilation of top-ranked American cities that other families are moving to, based on a variety of desirable factors. You're sure to find something that will help you decide your future destination.

Why Families Decide to Move?

According to CPS, Americans move primarily due to the high cost of housing, family-related reasons, and jobs. It is interesting to note that local moves within the State are mostly due to lower house or apartment costs. In contrast, long-distance moves to another State are generally done as a result of finding better job opportunities. The only exception to the long-distance moves is family-related moves when older Americans move to assist their children and family members.

Emerging Trends in Family-based Migration

America will likely continue to see a rise in family-related moves in the near future. This is because there will be more senior citizens than young Americans by 2030 and a higher number of younger generations will seek their support.

In the future, the young population will likely require assistance from older Americans because parents are often more financially stable. The rising student debt, inability to pay high house mortgages, and yearning to live in a vibrant city, will continue to test young Americans. Parents will also look for healthcare assistance and support from their children. As a result, the mutual dependence on each other will decide where families decide to move.

Millennials and Home Ownership

Experts think that homeownership among the young population will also dictate where they settle. This seems logical because home ownership is seen as the best way to build wealth. Under these circumstances, cities that offer affordable housing options are sure to attract millennials. This is evident by the following list of most desirable cities for millennials to live in:

  • Denver, CO
  • Seattle, WA
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Austin, TX
  • Colorado Springs, CO
  • Frisco, TX
  • Cary, North Carolina
  • Portland, OR
  • Henderson, NV
  • Cape Coral, FL

Best Cities to Move a Family

A recent study of 180 major U.S. cities suggests that family fun, healthcare, safety, education, affordable living, and good socio-economic factors are essential to families with young children. The research also confirms recent trends that cities in the Western and Central United States are the destination of choice.

Moving a family to another city requires careful planning. However, the individual preferences of adults and young family members may differ. Whereas adults usually look at a variety of socio-economic factors before making a decision, children mainly crave activities and fun, which are also important factors for the parents to consider.

To make a cross country move easier to plan, certain publications rank US cities based on a combination of family amenities and socio-economic factors. The rankings are based on different criteria, which include affordability, schools, family-friendly activities, nightlife for parents, outdoor recreation, population, and median home price. 

Public School Ratings

Public school ratings affect where families decide to move. As a result, many parents are willing to move away from their favorite neighborhood if it doesn't offer reasonably good public schools. These days, the quality of child education is taking precedence over finding a desirable place to live.

To help parents decide, websites such as and claim to assist parents in selecting a school district of their choice. A recent survey found that nearly 78% of homebuyers gave up some of their favorite home features because they preferred to live in a public school district that seemingly offers better schools. Similarly, three-quarters of respondents answered that public school ratings affect where they live.

School boundaries are also changing American demographics because young Americans are most likely to consider public school ratings when relocating to a new area. Almost 86% of parents aged between 18 and 36 consider school boundaries as important. The quality of schools is equally important to parents aged between 36 and 54 years.

In contrast, more than half of parents above 55 years, who are also raising school-going children, think that school boundaries are not important. This mindset is also apparent in married individuals without children.

If your child's education is extremely important to you and you don't want to do the research, then it is better to move to a city where almost every public school offers good education. Here is a list of cities with some of the best best public schools in America:

  • Naperville, IL
  • Ann Arbor, MI
  • Seattle, WA
  • Overland Park, KS
  • Irvine, CA
  • The Woodlands, TX
  • Overland Park, KS
  • Plano, TX
  • Thousand Oaks, CA
  • Arlington, VA

If the list seems a bit compact, then you're likely to find better opportunities in the following US states:

  1. Massachusetts
  2. Connecticut
  3. New Jersey
  4. Virginia
  5. Vermont

Youngest Cities in America

American families are moving from central cities to suburbs. It also means that major US cities such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are experiencing a demographic shift due to a declining population of school going children.

Experts believe that the shift is mainly the result of expansive living conditions in downtown and surrounding areas. Another reason is the lagging performance of public schools in cities compared to suburbs. In fact, immigrant families also prefer suburbs for the same reasons.

The trend of moving away from the central business district has also given rise to the concept of "childless cities". These are the cities where there're few families with young kids. Some even argue that the change is due to the changing attitudes of millennials. Just a few decades earlier, it was common for people to marry in their 20s. This has changed because a growing number of young people think that career and economic freedom are more important than raising a family.

Families may want to avoid childless cities. The following statistics will give you some idea about large American cities where the share of households with children is the lowest:

  • San Francisco: 16.5%
  • Seattle: 18.7%
  • Washington, D.C.: 18.9%
  • New Orleans: 20.7%
  • Miami: 21.4%
  • Minneapolis: 21.8%
  • Philadelphia: 22.5%
  • Portland: 23.2%
  • Denver: 23.3%
  • Cleveland: 23.7%

Alternately, the following is a list of large cities that offer a family touch:

  • Fresno: 36.8%
  • Fort Worth: 36.3%
  • San Jose: 35.4%
  • El Paso: 34.5%
  • Arlington: 33.8%
  • Phoenix: 31.6%
  • Virginia Beach: 31.4%
  • San Antonio: 31%
  • Colorado Springs: 30.1%
  • Long Beach: 29.7%

Before making your move, it is better to look at the demographics of large metro areas rather than the city. The movement of families from the city center to the suburbs does not make a city entirely "childless". For example, the central district of Washington D.C. may be childless but it is ninth in the list of metro areas that have the highest number of children with families.

Best US Cities for Outdoor Activities

Leisure and outdoor activities are important to keep you fit and improve your mental health. This is precisely the reason why many Americans prefer to relocate to a place that offers a chance to relax and enjoy life.

While the outdoors is important for kids and young adults, such areas are also critical for older members of the family. It is estimated that the city of Sacramento, CA, saves almost $20 million in healthcare savings because most of its residents reside somewhere near a community park. Due to these benefits, major US cities invest billions of dollars every year creating community parks and recreational areas.

Moving to cities with great outdoor space is fun but it doesn't mean that all this has to come at the expense of quality of living. Almost everyone in the United States loves moving to a city that offers a great combination of outdoors, education, jobs, and security.

If you have a family, here is a list of top ten American cities ranked according to recreational activities. These destinations will surely keep both children and adults active:

  • San Diego, CA
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Orlando, FL
  • Honolulu, HI
  • Tampa, FL
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Cincinnati, OH
  • Scottsdale, AZ
  • Portland, OR
  • Los Angeles, CA

For outdoorsy families that love the great outdoors, hiking, trails, and water sports, the choice will likely include cities that have a suburban feel. These destinations are more suited to families with older kids.

  • Boulder, CO
  • Brevard, NC
  • Charleston, SC
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Honolulu, HI
  • Juneau, AK
  • Newport, RI
  • Portland, ME
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • San Diego, CA

America's Most Educated Cities

Not everyone feels comfortable living among the skilled labor class. Instead, lots of individuals crave city downtowns teeming with high-tech life. They are accustomed to a fast-paced environment that encourages an active lifestyle, socializing, and a corporate setup.

This is a lifestyle comparable to many of America's college towns, where the environment oozes with social activity and nighttime fun. Ann Arbor, Ithaca, and Charlottesville are typical examples.

For families that love the corporate scene, dark suits, and formal affairs, it seems logical to move to a city that has a higher concentration of highly-educated class.

When Bloomberg ranked America's most educated cities, cities such as Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington topped the list. These cities have the largest percentage of residents holding at least a bachelor's degree. Interestingly, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago didn't make the cut.

  1. Seattle, WA
  2. San Francisco, CA
  3. Washington D.C.
  4. Raleigh, NC
  5. Austin, TX
  6. Minneapolis, MN
  7. Portland, OR
  8. Denver, CO
  9. Atlanta, GA
  10. Boston, MA

Best College Towns

If you've kids eager to move to a college town, get ready to sacrifice the traditional lifestyle. Life in college towns revolves around the college campus. Therefore, you may need to get used to a lot of hustle and bustle. For business owners and self-employed, these college towns promise a steady flow of walk-in customers to businesses located near the town center.

Here is a list of top ten college towns ranked according to livability, student population, cultural offerings, school presence, and large employers:

  • Boulder, CO
  • Ann Arbor, Mi
  • Madison, WI
  • Ithaca, NY
  • Ames, IA
  • Berkeley, CA
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • State College, PA
  • Iowa City, IA
  • Corvallis, OR

Safest Cities

For most Americans, there is more to raising a family than financials, schools, and activities. This is why safety is such an important factor when seeking a new place to move to. Violence, sex offenders, and property crimes will definitely make everyone very uncomfortable.

According to Safewise, some cities in America are four to ten times safer than most dangerous cities. Key findings from the report suggest that smaller cities may be much safer than their large counterparts. If you don't want to live near the city center, suburbs offer a better choice to raise kids in a safer place.

Here is the list of some of America's safest neighborhoods:

  • Naperville, IL
  • Johns Creek, GA
  • Newton, MA
  • Carmel, IN
  • Cary, NC

The following are considered some of the more dangerous cities in the US: 

  • Richmond, VA
  • Saint Louis, MO
  • Memphis, TN
  • Birmingham, AL
  • Springfield, MO

Most Affordable Cities

The cheapest places in America are mostly located south of the Mason-Dixon line. For instance, states like Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, Arizona, and North Carolina offer lots of opportunities to live in affordable neighborhoods.

In contrast, cities along the Pacific Coast and Northeast are priced substantially higher than the rest of America. It also means that you'll be hard-pressed to find a cheap place in California, Oregon, and Washington. This is also true for large cities around New York. Washington D.C., Newark, Boston, Arlington, and New York.

Before making a move, make sure to consider other important factors. You don't want to get stuck in a city that doesn't offer anything for the family. Similarly, keep in mind that some of the cheapest places may also have a high unemployment rate.

McAllen, a Texan city on the Rio Grande, is a good example of this paradox. On a positive note, McAllen is among the cheapest places to live in the country and offers a bit of Latin-American flair. Housing and healthcare are 45% and 70% less than the national average. Despite these positives, families need to consider the high unemployment rate, which reaches almost 10%. High poverty rates and the drug war on the other side of the border in Mexico can provide negative vibes.

If you still insist on living in an affordable neighborhood despite the drawbacks, the following cheapest places to live in America should be at the top of your list:

  • McAllen, TX
  • Harlingen, TX
  • Kalamazoo, MI
  • Joplin, MO
  • Plano, TX
  • Columbia, MD
  • Conway, AR
  • Fayetteville, AR
  • Knoxville, TN
  • Overland Park, KS

Healthiest Cities in America

Americans are beginning to reconsider their priorities when moving to a new place. This is particularly true after recent episodes of worldwide pandemics. Instead of focusing on the cost of living and recreational activities, quality of life and healthcare are becoming important.

According to a PEW research, almost one in five Americans claim that they either changed their residence to improve the quality of life or know someone who did. This change is directly the result of COVID-19, which has forced Americans to think about their health.

The MindBody Wellness Index also confirms the changing attitude of the American public. No longer are Americans confined to megacities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Rather than staying in their city of birth, young adults prefer to move to a city that offers an active lifestyle. The presence of gyms, wellness activities, and the outdoors is increasingly becoming a deciding factor for many Americans.

Adults over 40 years are also keener on finding a place that can give them better access to healthcare facilities. Similarly, families with kids are looking for walkable neighborhoods that have highly ranked hospitals. Factors like air quality and environment-friendly initiatives are taking precedence over traditional decision-making factors.

If you're looking for the healthiest cities in America, here are the ten best places to consider:

  • Miami, FL
  • Atlanta, GA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Denver, TX
  • Plano, TX
  • Seattle, WA
  • Washington D.C.
  • Tampa, FL
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Raleigh, NC

If you're an adult over 55 and raising a family, then consider a destination that offers a combination of adult healthcare facilities and fun activities. In this case, here are the top places to move according to Kiplinger:

  • Naples, FL
  • Lynchburg, VA
  • Billings, MT
  • Augusta, GA
  • St. Petersburg, FL
  • Greensboro, NC
  • Omaha, NE
  • Nashville, TN
  • Seattle, WA
  • Columbus, OH

Best Overall Cities

Everyone has their own perception of what is the best place to live. However, certain destinations are more attractive because these places offer a fine balance of desirable living factors.

If you're inclined towards large metro areas, then it is often better to look at the net migration. A positive inflow of people moving to a particular city often means that the local economy is booming.

Based on measures of affordability, education, job market, safety, and wellness, the following are the 10 best metro areas to live in the United States. The list nicely wraps up the discussion as it considers several important factors we discussed.

  • Overland Park, KS
  • Columbia, MD
  • Scottsdale, AZ
  • Plano, TX
  • Seattle, WA

Looking Ahead

Moving is considered one of the most stressful activities we go through as humans. Moving with a family requires even more complications, as where a child is raised can have a real impact on their lives. Whether safety, affordability, health, or a quality school system is most essential to you and your family’s needs, we hope this guide gave you a head start in deciding where your family’s next adventure should begin.