The best cities in America to build a career while raising a family

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mother daughter parent childrenShutterstock/Page Light StudiosSome US cities are better suited for building your career and raising children than others.

  • Some of the best places to live in the US are well-suited for working parents.
  • Personal finance company SmartAsset found the top 10 cities to build a career while raising a family.
  • The results show a clear preference toward small- and medium-size towns far from the East Coast.


New parents who are starting their careers have a difficult choice to make: finding a place to live that gives both themselves and their children the greatest chance of success.

Naturally, some cities in the United States are better suited for working parents than others. Personal finance company SmartAsset rated each US city this week and found the 10 best cities where parents can build their careers while raising their families.

SmartAsset used nine metrics in its calculations:
  • Unemployment rate for a three-month period at the end of 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Median household income, according to the Census Bureau's 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Median annual housing costs, according to the American Community Survey.
  • Percent of workforce working more than 49 weeks per year, according to the American Community Survey
  • Average commute time, according to the American Community Survey.
  • Violent crime rate, or the number of crimes per 100,000 residents, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program
  • High school graduation rate, according to US Department of Education data.
  • State policy benefitting working parents, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families
  • Annual childcare costs, or the average annual cost of full-time center-based childcare for children up to age 4.

You can read more about SmartAsset's methodology here.

The results showed a clear preference toward small towns and medium-size cities far from the East Coast: Three inland states - Utah, Texas, and Iowa - contained seven of the top 10 cities. SmartAsset said northeastern cities tended to be weighed down by high childcare and housing costs, and the highest-ranking northeastern city on the list, Newton, Massachusetts, didn't even crack the top 100.

Read on to see the 10 best cities for working parents.

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10. Abilene, Texas

10. Abilene, Texas

Unemployment rate: 3.0%

Median annual housing costs: $9,564

Average high school graduation rate: 90%

Average annual childcare cost: $7,674

SmartAsset analysis: "It can be difficult for parents to find affordable housing near great schools. Working parents in Abilene should not have to worry about that trade-off too much. Our data shows that annual housing costs run under $9,500 per year. At the same time the schools in the area do a great job educating their students. Abilene has a high school graduation rate of over 90%."

9. Oshkosh, Wisconsin

9. Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Unemployment rate: 2.5%

Median annual housing costs: $9,264

Average high school graduation rate: 89%

Average annual childcare cost: $10,959

SmartAsset analysis: "Oshkosh ranks well in our study because, according to our data, it is one of the best places in our study to save money. We estimate that the average household here could afford the average home while spending less than 20% of their income."

8. Santa Clara, California

8. Santa Clara, California

Unemployment rate: 2.7%

Median annual housing costs: $27,516

Average high school graduation rate: 88%

Average annual childcare cost: $11,539

SmartAsset analysis: "This city is a great place to be if you want to earn a big income, thanks to its proximity to Silicon Valley. The median household here earns over $110,000 per year. However, counteracting those high incomes are high housing costs. The average home here costs over $27,500 per year making it one of the most expensive cities to live in our study."

7. Wichita Falls, Texas

7. Wichita Falls, Texas

Unemployment rate: 3.2%

Median annual housing costs: $9,108

Average high school graduation rate: 94%

Average annual childcare cost: $7,674

SmartAsset analysis: "Parents working in this city should spend be able to spend less time on the road getting to work and more time at home with their children. According to our data, the average commute time here is under 15 minutes.

"Another reason working parents will love Wichita Falls is the local school system. Department of Education data shows that almost 94% of students in the area graduate from high school."

6. St. George, Utah

6. St. George, Utah

Unemployment rate: 3.0%

Median annual housing costs: $11,292

Average high school graduation rate: 89%

Average annual childcare cost: $9,323

SmartAsset analysis: "Working parents who spend a lot of time commuting typically get to spend less time with their children. For workers and families in St. George, commute times are nearly nonexistent. The average commute in St. George is under 15 minutes."

5. Jonesboro, Arkansas

5. Jonesboro, Arkansas

Unemployment rate: 2.7%

Median annual housing costs: $8,580

Average high school graduation rate: 90%

Average annual childcare cost: $5,669

SmartAsset analysis: "Jonesboro, according to our data, has the 17th-lowest average childcare costs, at $5,700 per year. Combine that low cost of childcare with average annual housing costs of only $8,600 per year and you see that Jonesboro is one of the most affordable cities in our study."

4. Orem, Utah

4. Orem, Utah

Unemployment rate: 2.5%

Median annual housing costs: $11,820

Average high school graduation rate: 89%

Average annual childcare cost: $9,323

SmartAsset analysis: "Orem is a great city for parents who put extra value on low commute times and low crime rates. The mean commute time in Orem is only 18 minutes, a score which beats 85% of other cities. The city also has a top 20 crime rate."

3. Iowa City, Iowa

3. Iowa City, Iowa

Unemployment rate: 2.0%

Median annual housing costs: $11,136

Average high school graduation rate: 92%

Average annual childcare cost: $9,093

SmartAsset analysis: "This city has an unemployment rate of only 2.1% (fifth-lowest in our study) and a large share of workers take time off, two metrics where Ames also scored well … Where Iowa City falls slightly behind is in crime. It ranks in the top third of cities for crime rate but Ames [the top city in this ranking] ranks in the top 20%."

2. Provo, Utah

2. Provo, Utah

Unemployment rate: 2.5%

Median annual housing costs: $9,948

Average high school graduation rate: 89%

Average annual childcare cost: $9,323

SmartAsset analysis: "Provo is the third-safest city in our top 10 and is safer than 85% of cities in our study. In addition to those great scores, Provo is also an affordable place. According to our data, the average family would spend only 21.5% of their income on housing costs, including property taxes and homeowners insurance, if they bought the median home."

1. Ames, Iowa

1. Ames, Iowa

Unemployment rate: 1.5%

Median annual housing costs: $11,160

Average high school graduation rate: 92%

Average annual childcare cost: $9,093

SmartAsset analysis: "This city’s most impressive scores came in the work categories. Ames has the lowest unemployment rate in the study and only 44% of workers work more than 49 weeks per year. That means most parents will have stable employment but also some extra time to take vacations with their children."

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