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Best Cities for Families

March 29, 2021

At Apartment List, we know that when you have a family, they are your everything. If you are looking for a new place to call home, finding somewhere that your family will thrive is the number one priority.

Sure, scoring a place that gets you the most out of your buck is nice, but your family’s comfort, safety and future in the neighborhood is of the utmost importance.

To help you with the decision, we've compiled a list of the best cities for families. If you’re looking for a family-friendly city to move to, search no longer.


Our index is calculated based on a weighting of 4 factors that are of particular importance to families:

  • Safety (35%): We used FBI data to rank cities by the total number of violent crimes and property crimes per 100,000 residents.1
  • Housing Affordability (30%): We used Census data on median gross rent as a percentage of household income as an indicator of housing affordability in each city. This measure takes into account not only how expensive rents are, but how well they are balanced with earnings.2
  • Education Quality (25%): Comparing schools across different states can be challenging due to differing education requirements. We used data collected by the Department of Education on high school graduation rates, as a proxy for overall school quality. Cities were ranked by the graduation rates of their respective public school districts.3
  • Child Friendliness (10%): Communities with a greater percentage of children tend to be more family-friendly, so we used Census data to score cities based on the percentage of the population under age 19.4

Our family-friendliness index is calculated using the factor weights listed above, and cities are ranked and graded based on that overall score. We’ve analyzed data for over 500 cities, and this is what we found:

Fishers & Carmel, IN are the Best Cities for Families

Two Indiana cities took the first two spots on our Top 10 list of best cities for families. Fishers and Carmel both received A+ grades (and the highest weighted scores of over 96 out of 100), making them the best ranked out of 552 cities.

A booming suburb in Indiana, Fishers boasts a growing job market and entrepreneurial spirit, a redeveloped downtown, and good schools. To make things even better, the city has a low cost of living, ranking in the top 10 for being one of the most affordable cities for families.

Texas is a Great Place for Families

The remaining 10 spots were mostly occupied by Texas cities, with only one Californian city breaking into the Top 10.

San Ramon, CA is the Third Best City for Families

San Ramon was the only California city that ranked in the top 10 for best cities for families.

Santa Cruz, CA isn't a Good Place for Families

Santa Cruz, CA came in last out of 552 surveyed cities. It received an F as its overall grade, with the numbers not looking too promising. Santa Cruz currently has 6,284 crimes per 100,000 residence.

RankCity, StateRent AffordabilityChild-friendlinessHS Graduation RateSafetyWeighted ScoreGrade
1Fishers, IN98.689.696.197.596.69A+
2Carmel, IN99.579.
3San Ramon, CA8992.
4Flower Mound, TX87.581.397.497.392.785A+
5Naperville, IL93.366.998.795.592.78A+
6Newton, MA9552.49498.891.82A+
7Cedar Park, TX8995.29490.691.43A+
8League City, TX92.697.691.487.390.945A+
9Mansfield, TX83.990.788.29589.54A
10O'Fallon, MO92.191.47294.687.88A

Virginia Beach, VA is the Most Family-Friendly City

Some families want to live in more urban areas, so we also ranked the 50 largest cities in our study by family-friendliness. Among them, Virginia Beach, VA took first place.

Virginia Beach is a resort city. Its abundance of family entertainment and fresh air make it an attractive place to raise kids. It also ranked rather highly for affordability, with median rents in Virginia Beach around $1,200 for a one-bedroom apartment, and $1,500 for a two-bedroom.

Check out the rest of the list of the 50 biggest cities in our study ranked according to family-friendliness factors.

RankCity, StateRent AffordabilityChild-friendlinessHS Graduation RateSafetyWeighted ScoreGradePopulation
1Virginia Beach, VA76.334.363.379.569.97B+450435
2El Paso, TX48.582.333.276.557.855B683577
3Oklahoma City, OK83.477.463.323.856.915B643648
4San Jose, CA5133.266.957.455.435B1035317
5Dallas, TX75.4645832.454.86B1341075
6Austin, TX72.82366.939.354.62B950715
7San Diego, CA39.419.95475.953.875B1419516
8Fort Worth, TX68.182.543.734.951.82B874168
9Philadelphia, PA41.237.597.430.951.275B1580863
10Denver, CO74.114.166.92649.465B-704621

Troy, MI is the Most Affordable City for Families

Troy ranked highest for affordability.  Statistically, an average resident of Troy spends about 20 percent of their median income from the past 12 months on rent. No particular state stands out in this category. Carmel, IN which came in second for overall ratings, is higher on the affordability list (4th) than Fisher, IN (9th) - our first place winner.

Lake Elsinore, CA came out at the bottom of our scoring for rent affordability for median-income families.

If you’re looking to figure how much rent you can afford, check out our very own rent calculator.

RankCity, StateRent AffordabilityChild-friendlinessHS Graduation RateSafetyWeighted ScoreGrade
1Troy, MI10029.979.390.284.385A
2Pharr, TX99.998.77270.382.445A
3Maple Grove, MN99.780.938.684.877.33A-
4Carmel, IN99.579.
5Rogers, AR99.391.15444.367.905B+
6Layton, UT99.193.891.470.686.67A
7Plano, TX99339483.285.62A
8Livonia, MI997.279.38981.395A
9Fishers, IN98.689.696.197.596.69A+
10Bellevue, WA98.6117252.567.055B+

Thornton, CO is the Best City for Safety

Colorado took two out of the top three positions for safety, with Thornton and Boulder ending up in first and third place, respectively. The crime rate in Thornton, CO has increased since our 2017 study, from 244 to 350 violent and property crimes per 100,000 residents.

Still, according to our data, this Denver suburb is currently the safest city in the country, out of those surveyed, to raise a family. Second place went to Las Cruces, NM, with 396 crimes per 100,000 residence.

RankCity, StateRent AffordabilityChild-friendlinessHS Graduation RateSafetyWeighted ScoreGrade
1Thornton, CO33.381.42.510053.755B
2Las Cruces, NM49.261.748.899.968.095B+
3Boulder, CO9.130.67299.758.685B
4Auburn, WA49.255.31799.559.365B
5Boise City, ID65.240.833.299.366.695B+
6Abilene, TX53.658.47299.174.605A-
7Rochester Hills, MI95.936.479.39986.885A
8Newton, MA9552.49498.891.82A+
9Weston, FL11.786.324.198.652.675B
10Johns Creek, GA31.379.85498.465.31B+

Passaic, NJ the Best City for Child-Friendliness

Passaic, NJ has a ton of indoor and outdoor family attractions. Ice rinks, bowling alleys, playrooms, libraries, museums, and movie theaters - it has it all. No wonder the Passaic residents are so satisfied with how child-friendly their city is.

a family laughing

San Francisco, CA is the Worst City for Child-Friendliess

San Francisco, CA scored the lowest for child-friendliness. This could potentially be because San Francisco is a booming tech city, filled with young, single entrepreneurs, and the city prioritizes its upbeat work environment.

RankCity, StateRent AffordabilityChild-friendlinessHS Graduation RateSafetyWeighted ScoreGrade
1Passaic, NJ5100177742.7B-
2Perris, CA9.199.866.962.751.38B
3Madera, CA699.65448.742.305B-
4Lake Elsinore, CA099.448.842.236.91C
5Laredo, TX41.299.27258.760.825B+
6Hesperia, CA2.69984.763.253.975B
7Edinburg, TX35.198.95429.644.28B-
8Pharr, TX99.998.77270.382.445A
9Orem, UT96.898.584.778.587.54A
10Harlingen, TX68.198.366.924.655.595B

Baytown, TX Ranked the Highest for the Rate of High School Graduates

The Huston suburb of Baytown, TX is booming with high school students graduating. A high school diploma is an important milestone for many young adults who are expecting to go to college. Baytown definitely has a promising rate of high school graduates and will put your teen on the road to success.

Close enough to Houston, Baytown, TX doesn’t miss out on any of the job market action happening in its big neighbor city. So, while your child is learning their biology and history, you’ll be just a short commute away from one of the biggest job hubs in the state.

Cleveland, OH scored the lowest for high school graduation rate.

RankCity, StateRent AffordabilityChild-friendlinessHS Graduation RateSafetyWeighted ScoreGrade
1Baytown, TX83.477.610033.669.54B+
2Naperville, IL93.366.998.795.592.78A+
3Frisco, TX52.995.898.789.781.52A
4Allen, TX31.39498.794.476.505A-
5Bolingbrook, IL8.672.998.796.268.215B+
6Newport Beach, CA65.24.798.765.467.595B+
7Wichita Falls, TX39.462.798.742.757.71B
8Menifee, CA13.335.798.772.657.645B
9Flower Mound, TX87.581.397.497.392.785A+
10Sioux City, IA96.883.697.420.268.82B+


If you’re looking for the best cities for families, it looks like Indiana and Texas cities are your best bet. With a great mix of safety, affordability, and high school graduation rates, the cities in these two states, along with the city of San Ramon, CA, have some of the best choices for families trying to find a new home.

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Angelina Bader
Angelina is a Marketing Specialist at Apartment List where she writes content on rental lifestyle. Angelina previously worked as a Russian and German language specialist at Facebook and Google, and has a BA in Applied Linguistics from UCLA. Read More

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