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Best Large Metros for Families with Children

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Because home prices are still scorching hot across much of the U.S., finding a place to live can be challenging. This is especially true if you have kids and need to find an affordable area with a decent school system and strong job market.

While the factors that people have to consider when deciding where they want to live will vary by household, several elements typically make an area more enticing for a family.

With that in mind, LendingTree considered seven variables to help determine which of the nation’s 50 largest metros were the best for families with children:

  • Median family income
  • Median monthly housing costs for homes with a mortgage
  • Homeownership rate among families with at least one child
  • Unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds
  • Percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds not enrolled in school who don’t have a high school diploma or an equivalent degree
  • Average round-trip commute time
  • Percentage of households with children

Though they aren’t all-encompassing, these factors were chosen because each tends to directly impact households with children. As a result, areas strong in these categories are more likely to be better for families than areas weak in them. For more on why these specific variables were chosen, see the methodology below.

Key findings

  • Overall, the metro most friendly to families is Salt Lake City. It ranks first for having the lowest unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds among the 50 metros examined, and also ranks second for its homeownership rate among families with at least one child and average round-trip commute times. Lastly, its percentage of households with children ranks fourth.
  • Minneapolis and Kansas City, Mo., are the next best metros for families. Minneapolis ranks first for its homeownership rate among families with at least one child, just ahead of Salt Lake City; it also ranks second for its unemployment rate among 25- to 44-year-olds, just behind Salt Lake City. Meanwhile, Kansas City’s best individual ranking is fifth (unemployment rate and round-trip commute time), but the Missouri metro finished steady across the board.
  • Miami, New Orleans and Tampa, Fla., are the metros least friendly to families. It’s no surprise that Miami and Tampa — two metros in the retiree-heavy state of Florida — aren’t particularly appealing to younger families. Miami has the second-worst median family income across the 50 metros, while Tampa has the second-worst percentage of households with children. New Orleans, which took the second-to-last spot, finishes last individually for its unemployment rate among 25- to 44-year-olds and has the highest percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds not enrolled in school who don’t have a high school diploma or equivalent degree.
  • Metros don’t have to be perfect to rank highly, nor do they have to be universally lackluster to rank poorly. Because the overall rankings are based on multiple equally weighted factors, areas that are lacking in some aspects may still rank highly. On the flip side, areas that rank poorly overall may still have some appealing qualities.

Metros most friendly to families

No. 1: Salt Lake City

  • Median family income: $91,939
  • Median monthly housing costs for homes with a mortgage: $1,690
  • Homeownership rate among families with at least one child: 74.1%
  • Unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds: 2.1%
  • Percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds not enrolled in school who don’t have a high school diploma or an equivalent degree: 2.8%
  • Average round-trip commute: 46.6 minutes
  • Percentage of households with children: 35.6%

No. 2: Minneapolis

  • Median family income: $105,945
  • Median monthly housing costs for homes with a mortgage: $1,746
  • Homeownership rate among families with at least one child: 75.8%
  • Unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds: 2.6%
  • Percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds not enrolled in school who don’t have a high school diploma or an equivalent degree: 2.3%
  • Average round-trip commute: 52.2 minutes
  • Percentage of households with children: 30.2%

No. 3: Kansas City, Mo.

  • Median family income: $87,555
  • Median monthly housing costs for homes with a mortgage: $1,519
  • Homeownership rate among families with at least one child: 66.7%
  • Unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds: 3.1%
  • Percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds not enrolled in school who don’t have a high school diploma or an equivalent degree: 2.6%
  • Average round-trip commute: 47.8 minutes
  • Percentage of households with children: 31.3%

 

Metros least friendly to families

No. 1: Miami

  • Median family income: $70,110
  • Median monthly housing costs for homes with a mortgage: $1,874
  • Homeownership rate among families with at least one child: 52.5%
  • Unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds: 4.1%
  • Percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds not enrolled in school who don’t have a high school diploma or an equivalent degree: 2.9%
  • Average round-trip commute: 60.6 minutes
  • Percentage of households with children: 28%

No. 2: New Orleans

  • Median family income: $73,579
  • Median monthly housing costs for homes with a mortgage: $1,451
  • Homeownership rate among families with at least one child: 63.9%
  • Unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds: 6.1%
  • Percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds not enrolled in school who don’t have a high school diploma or an equivalent degree: 4.4%
  • Average round-trip commute: 53 minutes
  • Percentage of households with children: 26.8%

No. 3: Tampa, Fla.

  • Median family income: $73,874
  • Median monthly housing costs for homes with a mortgage: $1,494
  • Homeownership rate among families with at least one child: 61.3%
  • Unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds: 4.2%
  • Percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds not enrolled in school who don’t have a high school diploma or an equivalent degree: 3.2%
  • Average round-trip commute: 56.6 minutes
  • Percentage of households with children: 24.6%

 


Striking a balance is key to finding a place to live with your family

The LendingTree study considers different variables, because there’s often no single aspect of an area that makes it appealing for families.

Moving to an area because it’s appealing in one category could be a good choice for some. But if you ignore all the area’s other aspects, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. For example, San Francisco has the second-highest family income in the LendingTree study, but its highest commute times and housing costs are also among the highest in these metros. A family that moves to San Francisco just because incomes in the area tend to be high may end up struggling in the face of these other drawbacks.

Regardless of your individual preferences, you’ll likely be better off if you look for an area that’s strong in many categories important to your family rather than fixating on an area that excels in only one category that your household cares about.

Tips for finding a family home

Because houses are so expensive right now, finding an affordable family home might appear particularly difficult for many. Fortunately, there are various ways for families to find a decent place to live that won’t break the bank. Here are a few tips:

  • Shop around to get your lowest possible rate on a mortgage. By shopping around for a mortgage before choosing a lender, you can increase your odds of finding a lower rate on your loan. The lower your rate, the more money you could save each month on housing payments and the more cash you could have left for family-related expenses.
  • Use home equity to remodel your current place. If you’ve found that your family has seemingly outgrown your current home, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to consider a move. Instead, tapping into your home’s equity could help you afford renovations that make your current home more suitable for your family. For example, a home equity loan can help you transform an office into a nursery, or a half-bathroom into a full one.
  • Consider renting. Though the LendingTree study emphasizes homeownership, renting can still be a good option for many households. This is especially true when considering the fact that renting is usually considerably cheaper than owning.

Methodology

The data in the LendingTree study comes from the U.S. Census Bureau 2019 American Community Survey (the latest year available). The seven variables that make up the overall ranking were all weighted equally. They were chosen for the following reasons:

  • Median family income: Higher incomes make it easier for families to afford necessities.
  • Median monthly housing costs for homes with a mortgage: The less money a family has to spend on a house, the more money they have left for other expenses.
  • Homeownership rate among families with at least one child: Homeownership can benefit families for various reasons. Not only can owning a home help families build intergenerational wealth, homeowners can also tap into their home’s equity if they need extra money for expenses like medical debt or college. If an area has a high homeownership rate among families, it suggests that it’s more attainable for those that live there.
  • Unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds: The lower the unemployment rate in an area, the easier it is for parents to get a job and support their families. The study explicitly focused on the unemployment rate of 25- to 44-year-olds, as adults who fall into this age range are likely to have children younger than 18.
  • Percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds not enrolled in school who don’t have a high school diploma or an equivalent degree: One way to gauge school quality is to look at how many students complete high school. The larger the share of 16- to 19-year-olds who aren’t enrolled in school and don’t have diplomas, the worse an area’s schools and education system are likely to be.
  • Average round-trip commute time: Taking care of a family is time-consuming, so areas where parents spend less time commuting could be better fits for families.
  • Percentage of households with children: Typically, more children living in an area means more schools and day care centers for families. Further, families might have an easier time fitting into a community if they aren’t the only ones with children.
 

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