Arlington, Virginia skyline along the river

The Best Places To Raise A Family By City And State

Miranda Crace12-minute read

June 03, 2022

Share:

If you’re a parent, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about the best places to raise your children. From the best schools to the safest neighborhoods, to culture and opportunities for entertainment that appeals to the adults in the family, it’s hard to decide where to put down roots that serve everyone’s needs.

From affordability to healthcare, there’s a lot to consider. With that in mind, we’ve curated a list of the top U.S. cities to raise a family based on a variety of metrics.

Get approved to buy a home.

Rocket Mortgage® lets you get to house hunting sooner.

Best States To Raise A Family

To help families answer the question about where the best places are to raise their children, U.S. News and WalletHub, a personal finance site, put out an annual survey to help you make an informed decision.

Population figures come from the U.S. Census Bureau.

U.S. News and WalletHub rank states according to a wide variety of criteria important to families: family fun, health and safety concerns, education and child care possibilities, overall affordability and social and economic factors, which they combine to create an overall score and rank states accordingly.

Choosing a place to live is not an easy task. We’ve compiled numbers and statistics, but you’ll want to visit and get a feel for the places on our lists. In the end, emotional pulls – especially the tug of close family – might well outweigh statistical research.

Best States To Raise A Family, Compared

 

Total Score

Opportunities For Family Fun    

Health and Safety                        

Education and childcare options                       

Overall

Affordability

(From 1 = least to 50 = most affordable)            

Social and Economic

Factors

Massachusetts

65.21           

9         

3         

2         

2         

24

New York

61.81           

2         

8         

5         

6         

46

Vermont

59.15           

44       

1         

4         

30       

1

Minnesota

58.79           

13       

9         

22       

9         

7

Nebraska

58.49           

17       

10       

12       

14       

4

Massachusetts

Massachusetts is a small but mighty state that offers the Berkshire Mountains to the west and the beaches of Cape Cod to the east. Boston is the state’s largest city and home to New England’s sports teams and many of the region’s major attractions.

Massachusetts ranks highest among the states by offering a welcoming atmosphere for families. Although less affordable than other states, it offers top-quality education and historic points of interest.

Cities In Massachusetts

City

Population

Median Home Value

Boston

675,647

$743,614

Worcester County (Worcester)

862,111

$384,899

Hampden County (Springfield)

155,929

$266,332

Berkshire County (Pittsfield)

43,927

$269,900

Affordability

Massachusetts isn’t among our nation’s most affordable states. In fact, it ranks No. 2 behind only Connecticut as least affordable. However, in return for that high cost of living, Massachusetts residents have access to the nation’s second-best public school system, a robust economy and world class universities and hospitals.

Use our cost of living calculator to determine how much you’d have to earn to live comfortably in Massachusetts.

Public Education

A public education system with a record of success is an important factor for most families considering a move. Massachusetts consistently ranks among the top of the list for public education for grades pre-K to 12, second only to New Jersey.

Public school graduates can earn merit-based scholarships to public colleges throughout Massachusetts through the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship program.

Health Care

According to U.S. News, Massachusetts ranks No. 2 for health care. Boston is home to two of the best hospitals: Massachusetts General (rank: 5) and Brigham and Women’s (rank: 14) – in the U.S. Several Boston area hospitals have affiliations with Harvard Medical School.

Family Activities

There’s plenty to keep Massachusetts families busy with the Museum of Fine Arts, the New England Aquarium and major league sporting events. Add to that the beaches of Cape Cod in the summer to excellent winter skiing in Western Massachusetts and nearby New Hampshire, you’ll find plenty to do together.

Let’s not forget the leading role Massachusetts plays in our nation’s history. Walk the Freedom Trail through Boston to learn all about the origins of our revolutionary history. Visit the battlefields Lexington and Concord – home of “The Shot Heard Round The World” – now a national park.

New York

New York is a state that offers lots of variety but is often overshadowed by glamorous New York City. But beyond the excitement and riches of the Big Apple lies a wide-open state with great schools, affordable communities and a wide range of activities for every age.

Cities In New York

City

Population

Median Home Price

New York County (Manhattan, NY)

1,694,251

$967,250

Onondaga County (Syracuse, NY)

476,516

$185,000

Monroe County (Rochester, NY)

759,443

$194,967

Erie County (Buffalo, NY)

954,236

$226,255

Affordability

New York ranks 36th for affordability. But Upstate, Central and Western New York are nowhere near as expensive as the New York City metro area, which, because of its population density, heavily tilts the scales on affordability statewide.

Use our cost of living calculator to determine how much you’d have to earn to live comfortably in the New York city you’re considering.

Public Education

New York ranks 16th for primary education. There’s a wide disparity among districts, though. You’ll likely find excellent schools in the suburbs around its major cities. You can use this directory to find the best schools in your area of interest.

Health Care

New York ranks 7th for healthcare. Like Boston, New York City offers world-class hospitals and access to a full range of specialists and treatments. New York has several public medical schools that are affiliated with local hospitals that serve as regional hubs for specialty care in less densely populated areas of the state.

Family Activities

New York provides a range of outdoor and cultural experiences for families to enjoy. New York City cultural icons like the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, City Ballet and the American Museum of Natural History offer extensive programming for kids and families as well as provide hours of entertainment for visiting families.

Upstate New York offers smaller cities, abundant outdoor access and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River for water activities. Western New York is the gateway to Niagara Falls, still one of our nation’s biggest attractions for family fun.

Vermont

Little Vermont offers picturesque small towns, abundant ski trails and a large tourist industry that helps subsidize the lifestyle it offers. It’s a low-density state, meaning that –by East Coast standards – there just aren’t a lot of people in Vermont.

And that’s by design. Vermont has some of the strongest zoning laws in place to protect the environment and small-town character. It also has some of the highest state income taxes, topping out at 9.4% at the highest income levels.

On its western border, Vermont’s largest city, Burlington, sits across Lake Champlain from New York. Adjacent South Burlington and nearby Essex round out the three top population centers.

Vermont has endless offerings for skiers and hundreds of square miles of state and federal parks. Because of its careful land use management practices, historic town squares with white-steepled churches populate each small town. In fall, nature puts on a spectacular display of colors.

From parks to forests to ski resorts, winter in Vermont attracts skiers from densely populated New York who pour money into the state’s economy. Plus, it’s the home of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream!

Cities In Vermont

City

Population

Median home price

Chittenden County (Burlington, Essex and South Burlington)

168,323

$430,000

Washington County (Montpelier)

59,807

 

 

$372,000

Windham County (Brattleboro)

45,905

 

$400,000

Affordability

Compared to some of the other states on our list, Vermont is a bit more affordable. Keep in mind, though, that state income taxes are high, and its average salary is $61,581, lower than some on our list. However, real estate prices vary widely in the state. In the northern town of Saint Johnsbury (pop. 5,994), the average home costs $155,000, for example.

Use our cost of living calculator to determine how much you’d have to earn to live comfortably in Vermont.

Public Education

Vermont ranks 15th for education in the nation. South Burlington High School ranks 2nd in the state. Expect to find other high-ranking schools in more populated areas.

Health Care

Vermont ranks 18th for healthcare. There are 14 nonprofit hospitals and a network of health care systems spread throughout Vermont including five mid-size rural hospitals.

Family Activities

There are many outdoor options for families in Vermont’s relatively small towns. Beautiful Lake Champlain offers an endless variety of things to do on the water, while the parks and ski areas offer plenty to do in the winter months.

You can take the whole family – dogs included – to Dog Mountain and Dog Chapel in St. Johnsbury. It’s a privately owned, leash-free area where dogs and kids can run free and enjoy the lakes and trails on the property.

Kids will also enjoy the annual tradition of eating the first maple cream of the year at the Maple Open House Weekends held in March, but you can visit maple sugarhouses all year round in Vermont.

Minnesota

Minnesota – known as The Land of 10,000 Lakes, according to their license plates – actually has 11,842 lakes, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.  

Water sports are big there and there are bike trails throughout the state. The bulk of the state’s population is rural. The most densely populated areas located in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in the eastern portion of the state, only 30 miles from the Wisconsin border.

Cities In Minnesota

City

Population

Median Home Value

Hennepin County (Minneapolis

1,281,565

 

 

 

$355,045        

Ramsey County (St. Paul)

 

552,352

 

 

 

$296,375

Olmsted County (Rochester

162,847

 

 

$299,995        

Affordability

Minnesota ranks 9th in affordability.

Use our cost of living calculator to determine how much you’d have to earn to live comfortably in Minnesota.

Public Education

Minnesota is ranked 17th in public education. Expect to find more schools, higher-ranking schools and more school choices in the Twin Cities area.

Health Care

Minnesota ranks 16th for health care overall. The Mayo Clinic, the nation’s top hospital, is located in Rochester and provides world-class health care. The state ranks high for access to care and public health, but 31st overall for quality of care.

Family Activities

Your options for outdoor family fun are endless in Minnesota.

You could take a 2 day bike trip in rural Minnesota on fully paved roads, or visit Cuyuna Lakes Recreation Area and enjoy over 30 miles of mountain bike trails. Or you could take your boat out or go for a swim in one of Minnesota's 11,842 lakes. Or you could head up to the northern part of the state to catch a glimpse of the northern lights.

But you could also take advantage of all the cultural offerings Minnesota has to offer, supported by the combined populations of the Twin Cities metro area, which currently stands at 3.16 million, and its diversity.

Nebraska

Most of Nebraska is sweeping prairies with farming as the majority income for many families, but the Omaha and Lincoln tech sectors have been experiencing rapid growth. Lincoln is home to the University of Nebraska, and it’s a bustling college town.

Cities In Nebraska

City

Population

Median Home Value

Douglas County (Omaha)      

584,526

$284,950

Lancaster County (Lincoln)

322,608

$294,900

Sarpy County, Bellevue

 190,604

$372,500

Affordability

Home prices are more reasonable in Nebraska than some of the other places on our list, and it comes in at 11th on U.S. News’ affordability ranking.

Use our cost of living calculator to determine how much you’d have to earn to live comfortably in Nebraska.

Public Education

Nebraska comes in 9th for public education. Nebraska is ranked 5th for refugee resettlement per capita when compared with states of similar population, and Lincoln has welcomed half of the state's refugees for the past 18 years. That means the children in Lincoln’s public schools experience a great deal more diversity than one might expect in this relatively small Midwestern city.

Health Care

Nebraska ranks 28th overall for health care. Expect to find better access to advanced treatments and specialists in Omaha and Lincoln than in rural parts of the states.

Family Activities

Omaha is also home to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, which consistently ranks among the world’s best zoos, and the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum, which offers lots of children’s programming and summer camps.

If you’re thinking about moving to Lincoln, plan to become a major college football fan, as the Nebraska Cornhuskers are a major force in Big Ten athletics and a source of pride for all Nebraskans.

Get preapproved to see what you can afford.

Rocket Mortgage® lets you do it all online.

Best Cities To Raise A Family

Although some of these cities don’t fall into the best states to raise a family, each of these cities has something to offer. Here are the top cities to raise a family in the U.S.

Naperville, Illinois

Naperville, Illinois is a suburb of Chicago. The population of 146,431 people creates a family-friendly environment, plus Chicago – with its restaurants, museums, theater scene and shopping – is less than an hour away.

School System

The two public school districts of Naperville are nationally recognized for their excellence. Average scores on standardized tests, such as the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) Program and ACT and SAT college entrance examinations, consistently rate among the highest in the state and in the nation.

Family Activities

A fun family outing can be easy to find in Naperville. Naperville is home to the DuPage Children’s Museum, which offers countless hands-on activities and classes to entertain your kids. Plus, Centennial Beach is a popular spot for beating the summer heat.

Affordability

The cost of living in Naperville is 29.6% higher than the U.S. average. The median cost of a Naperville home is $465,167.

Use our cost of living calculator to determine how much you’d have to earn to live comfortably in Naperville.

The Woodlands, Texas

The Woodlands, Texas offers families a warmer climate and access to the growing city of Houston.

School System

The Woodlands has several public and private schools that rank very highly within their state. In fact, most of the public elementary schools are within the top 10% of their state’s education system.

Family Activities

The Woodlands also has a children’s museum to stimulate the young minds in your family. Additionally, there are dozens of small lakes and parks that create a fun system to explore.

Affordability

The cost of living in The Woodlands is 12.9% higher than the U.S. average. The median cost of a home in The Woodlands is $457,498.

Use our cost of living calculator to determine how much you’d have to earn to live comfortably in The Woodlands.

Arlington, Virginia

Arlington rests just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. There are ample employment opportunities with government offices and major companies in the area.

School System

The Arlington, VA school district comprises 41 schools and is ranked the second-best district in Virginia.

Family Activities

A wide range of tourist activities promotes an exciting atmosphere for tourists and residents alike in Arlington. Beyond the tourist attractions, you’ll find extensive bike trails to explore the city.

Don’t forget the free-entry museums of the Smithsonian Institution, the performance offerings of the Kennedy Center and the somber beauty of Arlington National Cemetery. There’s a lively restaurant and bar scene in Arlington as well as in the District, so you’ll have plenty to appeal to children and adults.

Affordability

The cost of living in Arlington is 68.7% higher than the U.S. average. The median price of a home in Arlington, VA is $649,720.

Use our cost of living calculator to determine how much you’d have to earn to live comfortably in Arlington.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor offers the experience of a college town with a massive number of trees – more than 50,000 of them, in fact. The University of Michigan is one of the largest employers, but there are also several tech companies in the area.

School System

Ann Arbor is home of the University of Michigan, which is known as one of the public Ivies – a reference to the Ivy League of private schools – because it consistently ranks among the top public universities in the U.S. Additionally, the primary school system has a low student-to-teacher ratio, which points to a worthwhile education.

Family Activities

Ann Arbor is home to the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum for Children and the University of Michigan Natural History Museum, among others. There are several museums to explore and outdoor parks to enjoy.

The nearby college campus creates a fun sense of excitement. The University of Michigan is a Big 10 conference school, and they offer plenty of sports action to keep the most passionate fans entertained throughout the school year.

Affordability

The cost of living in Ann Arbor is 17.5% higher than the U.S. average. The median cost of a home in Ann Arbor is $384,611.

Use our cost of living calculator to determine how much you’d have to earn to live comfortably in Ann Arbor.

Columbia, Maryland

Columbia is a perfect picture of suburbia located outside of the Baltimore area. That means there’s easy access to Washington, D.C. for a day of exploring our government and our monuments. But don’t overlook Baltimore: it’s got plenty of family fun of its own to offer.

School System

Columbia is part of the Howard County school district, which is ranked the top district in the state of Maryland.

Family Activities

Baltimore is home to the Maryland Science Center and the Port Discovery Children’s Museum, both of which offer families a day of fun and extensive children’s programming. Nearby in Towson, the Lake Roland Nature Center and Park offers over 500 acres of trails on Lake Roland where families can hike and learn about nature.

With many small parks throughout the city and an extensive collection of entertainment available for free at the local libraries, Columbia has something for everyone.

Affordability

The cost of living in Columbia is 21.6% higher than the U.S. average. The median cost of a home in Columbia is $415,000.

Use our cost of living calculator to determine how much you’d have to earn to live comfortably in Columbia.

The Bottom Line: Find A Great Place To Raise Your Family

Although looking at the numbers can be a great place to start, you shouldn't base your decision to move your family somewhere new on these alone. It's important to include emotional factors in your search. For example, you might want to move closer to family or seek an area with an industry that excites you.

Ready to start looking for a new home? Get preapproved now so you can focus on your family's needs while you house hunt.

Take the first step toward buying a house.

Get preapproved to see what you qualify for.

See What You Qualify For

Miranda Crace

The Rocket Mortgage Learning Center is dedicated to bringing you articles on home buying, loan types, mortgage basics and refinancing. We also offer calculators to determine home affordability, home equity, monthly mortgage payments and the benefit of refinancing. No matter where you are in the home buying and financing process, Rocket Mortgage has the articles and resources you can rely on.