10 Best Places to Raise a Family

Discover why children and parents have more advantages from living in these cities.

Many of the key reasons Americans move revolve around doing what’s best for their families. We move at certain key stages – as we get married, as we have kids, as our kids become old enough for school, and as our kids head off to college.

The communities we choose to live in as we raise children are arguably the most important, as they tend to be some of the places we live the longest. Thus, Livability created this 10 Best Cities for Families list to offer some great examples of metros that truly stand out as great places to raise your kids.

We crunched the data. We looked at the quality of the schools, the crime rate, and measures of the quality of healthcare and economy. We gave points to communities that are walkable, diverse, have lots of parks and active children’s sections in their libraries. We favored communities with shorter commute times (so working parents can be home more and on the road less) and larger populations of other kids to play with.

As with all of our Top 10 lists, our data-driven process produces a shortlist which our editors then use to guide the selection of cities. We try to choose cities of a variety of sizes and in a variety of places. Not every city will necessarily be a perfect match, but our hope is that one of the 10 will be a good fit for you--and in this case for your family, too. You can check out more information on each of these 10 cities – and thousands more – on Livability.com.

Ranking Criteria

Percentage of School Age Children (5-18) • Number of Parks • Crime Rate • Graduation Rate • Quality of Schools in the Area • Walk Score • Average Commute Time • Number of Libraries • Percentage of Families in Poverty

10. Palo Alto, CA Population 66,478
9. Bowling Green, OH Population 31,506
8. Homewood, AL Population 25,535
7. St. George, UT Population 76,915
6. Oak Park, IL Population 52,080
5. Chula Vista, CA Population 257,296
4. Holland, MI Population 33,526
3. Newton, MA Population 87,675
2. Chandler, AZ Population 250,202
1. Rockville, MD Population 64,331

10 Best Cities for African Americans

In an increasingly diverse nation, these cities offer more opportunities to African Americans, both in career and lifestyle.

In nearly every news cycle there's a story about the struggles faced by African Americans in our nation’s cities. Sadly, no place has yet to solve all issues of inequality for its residents. However, many smaller to mid-sized U.S. cities offer more level playing fields than their larger counterparts. In this, our inaugural Top 10 Best Cities for African Americans, we spotlight communities that are great places for African Americans to live, work and play.

Ready to settle down? Then check out the Top 10 Cities for Families

How did we select the cities? When we create one of our monthly Top 10 lists, we are looking at livability through a certain lens. Those lenses include demographic (families), lifestyle (foodies, beer lovers), life stage (retirees, college towns) as well as our overall Top 100 Best Places to Live (2016) and Top 100 Small Towns.

Our data driven approach begins with basic indicators of livability, including parks, cost of living, Walk Score, climate, crime, and air quality, as well as measures of health care availability and quality, economic equality, and commute time. Editors then looked for areas with higher-than-average populations of African Americans and places where they are succeeding in terms of income, homeownership and academic achievement. Desirability was measured by analyzing areas where African Americans are moving to at higher rates. Finally, editors factored in lifestyle and consumer data from Esri.

The 10 Most Affordable Cities in the U.S. (2016)

The data can only take you so far. Our goal is to create a Top 10 list with choices for everyone. So we narrow down the list looking for cities in a range of sizes and geographies. Interestingly, this list featured an unusual amount of communities housing or surrounding military bases, but there are plenty of other options, as well. In the end, we feel this is a solid cross-section of cities.

As a final bit of affirmation, when we presented the list to the author, Teree Caruthers, it turned out she lives in and loves one of the communities the data had lead us to (La Vergne, TN). So, we got her thumbs up.

But, as always, how do you think we did?


Ranking Criteria

Percentage of African American Residents • Income Equality • Percentage of African American Homeowners • Percentage of African Americans at or Below Poverty Line • Percentage of New African American Residents • Cost of Living Expenses • Crime Rate • WalkScore • TV Viewing Habits

10. Frankfort, KY Population 27,535
9. Lawton, OK Population 97,589
8. Horn Lake, MS Population 26,662
7. Stockbridge, GA Population 27,328
6. Springfield, MA Population 153,947
5. La Vergne, TN Population 34,081
4. York, PA Population 43,853
3. North Las Vegas, NV Population 226,860
2. Lansing, MI Population 114,485
1. Tallahassee, FL Population 187,024

Best Affordable Places to Live

Anyone can do cheap. We've uncovered the most affordable places that you'd actually want to live in.

Let’s get one thing clear from the outset: These are not the least expensive places to live in America. There are places where you can buy a home for pocket change, and whole towns that cost less than a home in Palo Alto, Calif. But if you ask the question “Would you want to live there?”, the answer is likely “No.” Instead, this is a list of affordable cities you’d actually want to live in.

The 100 Best Places to Live 2016

By affordable, we also don’t mean merely cheap. We take earning potential into account as well. So how do we choose the Top 10 Best Affordable Places to Live? We start with data. For this list we look at cost of living and how that compares to national averages for key components of the budget like housing, transportation, food and utilities. As you can imagine, we look for cheap places. But we also look for places with high incomes to make those cheap costs go even further. We look for places with high livability, as determined by our LivScore, and low income inequality.

The 10 Most Affordable Places to Live 2015

Finally, once we have a short list in place, our editors factor in their own knowledge of these cities and look for a good balance of sizes, geographies and types of cities. How’d we do?


Ranking Criteria

Median Household Income • Income Equality • Consumer Spending • Entertainment Options • Economic Conditions

10. Bloomington, IL Population 78,206
9. Holland, MI Population 33,526
8. Cedar Rapids, IA Population 128,829
7. Greeley, CO Population 97,074
6. Provo, UT Population 115,345
5. Sioux Falls, SD Population 164,341
4. Round Rock, TX Population 109,690
3. Rochester, MN Population 110,275
2. Bismarck, ND Population 66,980
1. Huntsville, AL Population 185,594

10 Best Cities for Families

Discover why children and parents have more advantages in these cities.

Choosing where to raise your children is one of the most important housing decisions you'll make. The right community can help get kids started on the path to a thriving childhood. Access to great schools, parks, and lots of playmates can help keep kids happy and healthy. With that in mind, we surveyed more than 2,000 cities to find the Top 10 Best Cities for Families.

How did we find them? To begin with, we crunched the numbers on the factors most important to our youngest residents. First, we looked for places with high populations of kids but low concentrations of children in poverty using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. We also used consumer spending data from Esri to find areas that had high concentrations of people buying baby food and car seats. Once we knew where the kids were, we looked for communities doing a great job of supporting them. We used data from partner GreatSchools.org to measure the quality of public schools and also looked for areas with high graduation rates. We analyzed databases to find areas with plentiful parks and libraries with programs and activities for kids. We also factored in each area’s Walk Score. Health is an important consideration as well, so we looked at factors related to healthy living, especially geared for children, like air quality. Finally, we factored in general quality of life considerations like cost of living, low commute times (less time on the road can mean more time at home with the little ones) and the crime rate.

Data tells a pretty good story, but we also always rely on the judgment of our staff and editors to take the data-driven short list and arrive at the final 10 picks. We chose a variety of cities from different geographies and sizes to round out our latest top 10. Three cities (Carmel, Overland Park and Plano) also appeared on our previous index, Best Cities for Kids 2014. The latest list examined even more factors. Be sure to check out our Best Cities for Families infographic, which also provides tips for how to use our site to find the right city for your family. 

You don't have to take our word for it, however. Most of this data is available for nearly every U.S. city on Livability.com. Compare and contrast to find the perfect place for you. In the meantime, see what we came up with. Check out our Top 10 Best Cities for Families, and let us know what you think in the comments.

Ranking Criteria

Households with Kids • Crime Rate • Children in Poverty • Graduation Rate • School Rankings • Kids' Programs • Cost of Living • Commute Time • WalkScore

10. St. George, UT Population 76,915
9. Rockville, MD Population 64,331
8. Bentonville, AR Population 40,368
7. Naperville, IL Population 145,058
6. Chandler, AZ Population 250,202
5. Leesburg, VA Population 47,872
4. Carmel, IN Population 85,367
3. Holland, MI Population 33,526
2. Plano, TX Population 275,645
1. Overland Park, KS Population 181,464

Best Affordable Places to Live

These budget-friendly cities offer lots of things to do and help families stretch their paychecks further.

In our annual overall Best Places to Live list, many of the cities are a little on the pricey side. We get it. Not everyone can afford to live in a place like Palo Alto or Berkeley. They're great places but not for everyone. Therefore, we felt it was important to look at places that are more affordable. What follows isn’t merely a list of the cheapest places to live in America. We didn’t set out to find cities where you can live on the bare minimum. Instead, these 10 cities are less expensive than most but still great places to live by all of our usual metrics.

GOT KIDS IN THE MIX? Then check out our Best Cities for Families.

To find these cities, we looked at cost of living across a number of categories such health care, food, housing, and transportation using data from C2ER and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. We also examined the tax climate in the state. Then we factored in our own unique LivScore. We selected one city per state to give us some geographic balance because much of the cost-of-living data is calculated at the county level.

Sure, there are some cheaper places to live. But these are cities where most people can afford to live and would still want to live.

TAKE THE QUIZ! Find if you should move.



Ranking Criteria

Cost of Living • Median Household Income • Median Home Value • LivScore

10. Cedar Rapids, IA Population 128,829
9. Topeka, KS Population 127,672
8. Nampa, ID Population 86,203
7. Rochester, MN Population 110,275
6. Fort Wayne, IN Population 257,059
5. Appleton, WI Population 73,118
4. Lansing, MI Population 114,485
3. Lawton, OK Population 97,589
2. Dayton, OH Population 141,368
1. Round Rock, TX Population 109,690

10 Best Cities for Kids

Great schools, playgrounds and low crime are only part of the package that makes a city great for children.

It’s only natural for parents to want what’s best for their kids and offer them every possible advantage. But depending on where you live, those advantages may be limited. Our picks for the Top 10 Best Cities for Kids give children opportunities to get a great education, live healthy lifestyles and engage in a multitude of activities with other kids.

To come up with our list of the best places for kids to live, we first identified cities with high concentrations of school-age children, then took a look at how their schools stacked up and analyzed health factors like childhood mortality rates, health insurance coverage, crime rates and access to healthy food options. We used rankings compiled on GreatSchools.org to help select places where schools are highly praised. Health data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation helped us find cities where children are safe, eat well and receive excellent health care. Next, we considered cost of living. We weren’t trying to find the least expensive places to live, but rather communities where the average salary more than comfortably covered the cost of housing and most living expenses. We worked with Food Genius, a company that delivers big data and insight solutions to the food industry, to comb through its vast database and find the percentage of restaurants that feature kids' menus. That gave us a unique indication of how kid-friendly an area is.

Finally, we looked for cities with a lot of parks, playgrounds, libraries and recreational venues geared specifically for children. Many of the places we found are suburbs of larger cities that offer even more things to do, but these towns have their own school systems and offer a slower pace and small-town vibe.

Take a look at our picks for the best cities for kids.

*Photo courtesy of Don DeBold, available under a Creative Commons license.

Ranking Criteria

Percentage of households with school-age children • Environment • Crime rate • School ranking • Cost of living • Restaurants with kids' menus

10. Newton, MA Population 87,675
9. Royal Oak, MI Population 58,689
8. Palo Alto, CA Population 66,478
7. Brentwood, TN Population 39,974
6. Carmel, IN Population 85,367
5. Plano, TX Population 275,645
4. Cedar Rapids, IA Population 128,829
3. Overland Park, KS Population 181,464
2. Downers Grove, IL Population 49,504
1. Boise, ID Population 214,196

10 Best Children's Libraries

We looked at 500 libraries to find the best libraries for kids. The children's libraries we selected not only look amazing, they offer great programs and activities to get kids excited about reading, learning and exploring.

A visit to the local library is one of the best ways to get a child interested in learning. At the most basic level, a children's library provides a collection of reading materials. Then there are libraries that go far beyond that. We've uncovered some of the country's most dynamic libraries for kids. These libraries are designed to stimulate young imaginations and foster engagement with books and literacy programs. They play a vital role in not only educating children, but getting them excited about books. 

"The children’s section of any neighborhood public library is invariably the first public place where children are exposed to educative activities," says Vanessa Morris, professor of Library Science at Drexel University. "Typically, children will visit the public library before they enroll into preschool. Thus the children’s library is a vital starting point for intellectual, academic and social inspiration for all generations."

"Each one should be responsive to its community rather than beholden to some kind of national standard," says Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book, which reviews and tracks children's and young adult literature. "The best libraries pay attention to their communities, and the best librarians are those who really pay attention to the child in front of them, as well as the child who is not there but should be."

Armed with that input, we sought out institutions in our 500 cities that have gained recent attention for excellent children's programs, library activities for kids and community outreach. We looked for libraries that have visually appealing spaces for children, a full range of programs, large collections, integrate new technologies and proven success in getting kids to engage.

Read on for our ultimate picks for the Top 10 Libraries for Children, and be sure to tell us about your favorites, too!

Ranking Criteria

Recognized children's programs • Community outreach • Visually appealing spaces • Large media collections • Use of new technology

10. Cincinnati, OH Population 297,397
9. Birmingham, AL Population 212,211
8. Brentwood, TN Population 39,974
7. Cheyenne, WY Population 62,195
6. El Paso, TX Population 676,325
5. Iowa City, IA Population 71,832
4. Scottsbluff, NE Population 14,955
3. Tulsa, OK Population 398,082
2. Vancouver, WA Population 168,050
1. Charlotte, NC Population 792,137

10 Best Pet Cities

Would you be willing to move just to put your pet in a better place? Well if you're that kind of person (or maybe just the curious type), take a look at our choices for the best cities for pets.

Pet lovers spent an estimated $50 billion on their pets in 2011 according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). That's an awful lot of doggie bones for Fido and scratching posts for Fluffy. Pets have become more like family members, so it's no wonder that more people are factoring in their pets when contemplating a move.

Below you'll find information on some of the most pet-friendly cities in the United States. These cities have pet-friendly parks and trails, quality veterinary care, active animal welfare groups, as well as an abundance of pet boutiques and retail shops. To make the list, these cities had to be more than pet friendly. They also had to offer an exceptionally high quality of life for the owners who love those pets. From quality health care and higher education to diverse job opportunities, and active artistic and cultural scenes, these cities are some of the best places to work, live and play in America.

Ranking Criteria

Dog parks • Pet-friendly trails • Pet stores • Active animal welfare groups

10. Louisville, KY Population 608,732
9. Nashville, TN Population 634,512
8. Albuquerque, NM Population 556,092
7. Asheville, NC Population 86,789
6. Eugene, OR Population 159,615
5. Santa Cruz, CA Population 62,752
4. Boulder, CO Population 103,919
3. Rocky Mount, NC Population 56,642
2. Colorado Springs, CO Population 442,040
1. Portland, OR Population 612,206