Top cities for raising a family

By Matt Mayerle
Modified on January 11, 2024
top cities for middle class families

Making the decision to raise a family is one of the most important life choices that you can make. Being responsible for the overall well-being of a household means that there are a million and one things to consider—and almost all of them are life-changing. 

Among these considerations, deciding where to plant your family’s roots is a solid first step. 

A city is more than just a place to live, work and play; they are a large part of our identity. Whether we’re born in the countryside or the city, we grow up with its culture, and our personality is shaped by it.

Our geography affects virtually every part of our lives, so finding a corner of the world that suits your life plan is critical. And many times, we pick a new corner: Approximately 11% of the U.S. population moves around each year.  Among them are families that are migrating across cities and states looking for a great place for their family to call home.  

families move every year

For a lot of families, that choice largely depends on two basic factors—dollars and cents.  Since 1960, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released regular reports on family expenditures. In its latest report (released in 2017), the average child born today would cost parents approximately $12,000 – $14,000 annually. 

And with the average annual salary coming in at around $56,000, the decision on where to live also means finding a balance between ideal conditions and affordability.  Of course, money isn’t everything when it comes to finding a good home. In addition to affordability, good parents are also looking for places that are both safe and comfortable. 

average cost per child

To help in this search, CreditNinja has compiled a comprehensive list of cities that possess ideal conditions in which families can grow.   

top cities to raise a family

#1 Franklin, Massachusetts

Population: 35,859 

Median Household Income: $147,513 

The Town of Franklin, Massachusetts is one of America’s oldest cities. It was founded in the late 18th century and named after famed statesman and inventor Benjamin Franklin. It is also home to the first public library in America, started with a donation of books from Franklin himself. Franklin is situated between the metro areas of Boston and Providence, which allows for residents of this small city to have access to the amenities that can be found in large metropolitan areas.  

Franklin has one of the highest employment rates in the nation (69%), as well as extremely low unemployment and poverty rates, respectively sitting at 2.6% and 4% To round out those impressive statistics, Franklin has a 4% crime rate, making it one of the safest cities on the East Coast. 

#2 Des Moines, Iowa

Population: 214,237

Median Household Income:  $73,905 

As Iowa’s capital and largest city, Des Moines is a regional hub for business in the Midwest. The city is a corporate home for Fortune 500 companies and some of the largest insurance companies in the country. 

Des Moines is a  hub for cultural events and festivals that draw all ages. From one-of-a-kind shops to locally-owned restaurants, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Additionally, there are plenty of parks, trails, and gardens to explore.  

When it comes to the cost of living expenses, Des Moines is just 3.6% of the national average. Keeping those expenses low is the area’s median home value, which is the lowest on the list at $149,824. Like Franklin, Des Moines checks a lot of boxes on any “must-have” list for places to live. 

#3 Zionsville, Indiana

Population 27,153

Median Household Income:  $155,938 

Zionsville is a suburban town just 18 miles northwest of Indianapolis. The city is known as a tourist attraction that is centered on its village-style downtown area. Main Street, paved entirely in brick, is lined with small retail stores and restaurants. As a small community close to a major city, Zionsville can provide a family with lots of choices in everything from education to entertainment.  

For a small city, Zionsville has big opportunities for job seekers; over 69% of the people who live here are employed. Moreover, the city has the second-lowest crime rate (2.28%) and the third-lowest poverty rate (2.6%) on the list. 

#4 Andover, Massachusetts

Population: 36,500

Median Household Income:  $151,098 

Like Zionsville, Andover is a small town nestled close to a large city in Massachusetts —it’s just 20 miles north of Boston. Andover is a quintessential small New England town, and home to one of the oldest and most prestigious independent secondary “prep” schools in the U.S. – Phillips Academy. 

Andover’s unemployment rate (3.5%) is nearly half the national average of 7.9%. The city also has one of the lowest unemployment rates (2.6%) and highest employment rates (63%) among the cities that were studied. Crime rates and poverty rates are also comfortably low, at 5% and 4%, respectively.    

#5 Madison, Wisconsin

Population: 259,680

Median Household Income: $102,417 

Madison is the capital of Wisconsin and is one of the state’s largest and fastest-growing cities. Madison’s history is rooted in progressive politics and cultural activity, serving as the staging ground for many political movements centered on the civil rights of women and the LGBTQ community. 

The city has also been an economic powerhouse for years. Madison boasts a 69% employment and an unemployment rate of just 2.6% rate among its citizens. There are opportunities across a diverse range of industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, and technology. With Madison’s cost of living expenses being on par with the national averages, it’s not surprising that this city is listed among the most livable for families.  

#6 Ridgefield, Connecticut

Population: 24,959

Median Household Income: $189,304 

Ridgefield is a town in Connecticut, located in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. Settled over 300 years ago, the city is routinely ranked among the best places to live in the state. 

Ridgefield is one of those cities that has some of the most perfect conditions for raising a family.  The city has the lowest poverty rate of the cities on the list, at just 1.9%. Conversely, it also has the second-highest median household income, with an income of $188,304 reported for a family of four. And to make things even better for this New England town, it also holds the third-lowest crime rate at 2.6%. 

#7 Albany, New York

Population: 96,460

Median Household Income: $92,438 

If you’re thinking that the Big Apple is the capital of New York, think again.  Albany is the state’s seat of government, and one of the oldest cities in the United States. Gifted with a rich history of migrating Americans, Albany has a diverse population that makes it an ideal destination for new families. 

Albany rounds out our top ten for its low housing numbers. The median monthly rent in the city is only $952, and home values sit just above $200,000. These numbers bode extremely well for families that are looking to find affordable places to call home. Additionally, the poverty rate in Albany is just 4.6%, and sitting well below the national average.

Cities that round out our top 12: 

#8 Brunswick, Ohio

Population: 34,880

Median Household Income:  $86,772 

#9 Alexandria, Virginia

Population: 159,428

Median Household Income:  $156,545 

#10 Arlington, Massachusetts

Population: 42,844

Median Household Income:  $164,685 

#11 Marshfield, Massachusetts

Population: 25,132

Median Household Income:  $146,250 

#12 Indianapolis, Indiana

Population: 876,384

Median Household Income:  $73,440 

Our Method 

To determine the best places to raise families, CreditNinja evaluated 58 metropolitan areas across the United States. The research was conducted to identify indicators that couples or individuals would look towards when deciding where to live and work while caring for children through high school. 

To that end, cities on this list were ranked in regards to their overall living standards to provide insight on categories that generally influence business opportunities and aspects of the local lifestyle.  Each city/metro area was reviewed by comparing the cost of living expenses against median income. Then, environmental factors that could affect potential parents and students were used to round out each city’s ranking. 

Overall, we looked at the following data points: 

  • Median household income 
  • Average (mean) annual salary
  • Median monthly rent 
  • Median home value 
  • Crime rates (based on reported crimes every 1,000 people in every city)
  • Cost of living expenses 
  • Percentage of people living at or below the poverty line (annual income of $26,500 for a family of 4)
  • Employment rate 

These factors were then grouped into weighted categories: 

  • Employment 30%
  • Income 25%
  • Housing 20%
  • Expenses 20%
  • Crime 2.5%
  • Poverty 2.5%

The data was then plotted on a 20-point scale. Factors relating to income and financial security are added to a city’s score, while expenses and risks (cost of living expenses and crime rates) were deducted from its score. Our #1 rated city (Franklin, MA) scoring an 18.85. In comparison, our 58th ranked city (Santa Cruz, CA) scored a -1.99. 

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