At Apartment List, we’re here to help find the perfect place for you and your loved ones. Last month, we released our our annual ranking of the best cities for young families. Today, we dig deeper into the data, aggregating results by metropolitan area to paint a fuller picture of where you should look.


As a reminder, Our analysis centered around the 4 factors that we identified as being important to families:

  • Safety (35%): We used FBI data to rank cities by the number of violent crimes and property crimes per 100,000 residents.
  • Housing Cost (30%): We used census data to calculate the percentage of the median renter income required to rent a 2-bedroom apartment.
  • School Quality (25%): Cities were ranked on high school graduation rate for public school districts based in that city. Comparing schools across different states can be challenging, but using high school graduation rate data from the Department of Education gives us a good estimate of overall school quality.
  • Child Friendliness (10%): Communities with a greater percentage of children tend to be more child friendly, so we used census data to score cities based on the percentage of the population that’s under 18.

We weighted these factors using the percentages listed above to give a score for each city, then calculated population-weighted scores for each metropolitan area. We did this for 30 different metro areas, with a range of places from New York, to Nashville. On to the results!

Dallas, TX Takes the Top Spot Overall

Given that the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area had four of the top ten cities in our best cities for families report, we weren’t surprised that it received the top score overall. The Dallas metro had the highest high school graduation rate of any metro in our study, and second lowest cost of living (just behind Oklahoma City). Crime and safety was the only area where it had somewhat middling results, scoring in the 54th percentile. Overall, however, cities in the Dallas area performed well across the board – even Denton, the poorest-performing city, received a B overall.

Elsewhere on the list, four of the top ten metros were in California – Sacramento, San Jose, San Diego, and San Francisco all performed well. San Diego was the safest metro area in our study, and Riverside had the highest child-friendliness score, with children under 18 accounting for 28% of its population. Californian residents often complain about the high cost of living and local tax rates, but apparently incomes in those metro areas are high enough for most to manage.

Miami and Tampa Families Struggle – But There are Bright Spots

On the other side of the list, we see the worst metropolitan areas for families. Miami and Tampa take the bottom two spots, with low scores across the board. Somewhat unexpectedly, Seattle is the most dangerous; Bellevue and Kirkland are relatively safe, but every other city in the Seattle metro had a safety score in the 20th percentile or lower, with Seattle proper in the 5th percentile. Less surprisingly, given some of our earlier analysis, Miami is the most unaffordable metropolitan area for renters.

Despite the poor overall scores in these metropolitan areas, most still had bright spots. In St. Louis, for example, O’Fallon ranked 7th overall in our list of 474 cities, receiving an A or A+ in every category. The city of Indianapolis received a D, but nearby Fishers and Carmel both received A+ grades and ranked 2nd and 3rd in our city rankings; unfortunately, since our index is population-weighted, the Indianapolis metro fared poorly overall.

The lone exception to this was in the Tampa metro, where every city performed poorly. Unusually, Tampa’s scores were improved by the core city – Largo, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg all performed worse than Tampa itself.

Cities vs. Suburbs – Which Did Better?

We also compared core cities within each metro to their corresponding suburbs, to see whether suburbs might be more suitable for families. In 15 out of 30 cases, the core city had the lowest score of any city in its metro. In some ways, this does not come as a surprise – our index weights crime rate most heavily, and doesn’t account for other factors that may make big cities great places for kids (e.g., museums, zoos, parks). However, when it comes to picking the best place for a young families, schools, safety, and cost of living are usually the first priorities, and suburbs outperformed cities on all four metrics.

Detroit, for example, was much more dangerous than its suburbs, with 6,806 violent and property crimes per 100,000 residents, compared to 2,411 on average in Warren, Sterling Heights, and other suburbs – a 182% difference. Almost every city had worse schools as well; Houston, for example, had a high school graduation rate of 79%, compared to 90% elsewhere in the metro.

If living in a big city is important to you, then San Diego might be your best bet – it received excellent scores for safety and schools, earning a B+ overall. Otherwise, you might also consider Dallas and San Jose, which both received B grades.


We weren’t surprised to see metropolitan areas like Dallas and San Diego perform well, since they scored well on our city rankings. A few cities had exceptional suburbs, however, which pulled up their overall ranking; St. Louis, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Detroit were good examples of this. Encouragingly, almost every metro had good suburbs for families to live in, as long as you know where to look.

In general, suburbs seem to be more suitable for families – they have lower crime rates, better schools, and are more affordable. The cities surrounding Dallas scored very well of course, but there are great options in other places such as the Bay Area, Phoenix, and Houston as well. As always, no matter where you decide to move, Apartment List is here to help!

2016 Best Metros for Families

RankMetropolitan areaCrime ScoreChild ScoreEducation ScoreHousing ScoreTotal Score
1Dallas, TX53.974.774.875.267.6
2Sacramento, CA58.356.369.658.961.1
3San Jose, CA66.945.255.862.260.5
4San Diego, CA77.339.370.040.060.5
5Phoenix, AZ48.872.837.871.655.3
6Virginia Beach, VA53.843.966.046.253.6
7Charlotte, NC36.861.549.773.253.4
8Riverside, CA59.781.357.827.851.8
9San Francisco, CA39.729.657.364.650.6
10Houston, TX24.568.449.273.249.7
11Kansas City, MO40.761.637.066.749.7
12Bridgeport, CT71.435.942.833.449.3
13Los Angeles, CA71.241.845.327.348.6
14Oklahoma City, OK32.759.
15Denver, CO49.444.321.364.346.3
16Nashville, TN34.031.559.750.845.2
17Charleston, SC52.837.031.349.544.9
18Chicago, IL51.546.923.346.642.5
19Minneapolis, MN41.443.219.859.241.5
20New York, NY76.826.714.926.141.1
21Detroit, MI41.150.734.333.838.2
22Providence, RI52.626.127.430.437.0
23Indianapolis, IN23.866.425.350.636.5
24Boston, MA57.517.826.224.835.9
25Seattle, WA13.824.729.467.634.9
26Portland, OR30.734.516.355.234.8
27Atlanta, GA33.027.817.549.233.5
28St. Louis, MO27.530.927.342.632.3
29Tampa, FL35.819.118.643.432.1
30Miami, FL38.932.427.821.630.3

Data in this table refers to the city’s percentile ranking in our list of best cities for families. For example, a score of 56 for education means that the high school graduation rate was better than 56% of other cities in our study.