May 5, 2014

Study: Best Big Cities for Moms

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Moms have the toughest jobs in the world. The hours are terrible, the pay is nonexistent, and there’s no vacation time. But the job of mothering can be easier for those living in certain areas.

We explored this theory by pitting big U.S. cities against each other to see which ones offer the best potential for stronger support networks, decent salaries for those moms who work outside the home, and opportunities for relaxation. After all, even moms need a break every once in a while.

Study Methodology

Limiting our search to cities that have over a million people, we looked at the following metrics to come up with the best U.S. major metropolitan areas for mothers.

  • A vibrant community of other moms
  • Worthwhile salaries for moms who work outside the home
  • Low local poverty rates for married and single moms
  • Affordable childcare
  • A spa day that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg

The most mom-friendly cities have plenty of other matriarchal shoulders to cry on. So we ranked major metropolitan areas based on their percentage of households with women who have children. We gave this number twice the weight of the income and poverty data. In Sarasota, FL, which has the lowest rate in the country (16.9%), many moms are on their own for mom-to-mom companionship while moms in Provo, UT, (46.6%) have a bigger network at their disposal.

Money isn’t everything, but it certainly helps mothers get food on the table. And for those moms who want or need to work, getting access to a decent salary is a critical factor on their happiness scale. Using U.S. Census data for the average income of women with full-time jobs, we found women in San Jose, CA, are the winners in this category, with average incomes of $72,329.

To round out that income data, we also considered poverty rates for married couples and single moms with children under 18. Households headed by single moms are much more likely to live in poverty - the average for that group in our sample is 40%.

In order to earn a living, many moms turn to outside caregivers for their young children. So we looked at the Child Care Aware of America’s 2013 “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care” report.

Last but not least is the cost of a break. We’re talking about a real break - not a five-minute pause in the bathroom, which is all most moms ever get. We’re talking about a spa day. The rates of massages are all over the board and impossible to measure comprehensively by city, so we took another tack and looked at the average annual wage of massage therapists in various metropolitan areas. We figured that the more they make, the more a massage probably costs. We divided the data by 100 to arrive at the CreditDonkey Relax Index (anything higher than 35 is pretty good).

With all those mom-centric metrics, here’s our list of the best big cities for moms.

10. Kansas City, KS

  • Households with moms: 27.7%
  • Average full-time income for women: $45,309
  • Combined poverty rate: 45.9%
  • Annual childcare costs: $7,499
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 32.3

The high poverty rates among families with children in America are truly shocking, and Kansas City is no exception. But there are lots of moms in this city, and the childcare costs are below the average. A massage may be out of the question here - the city has some of the highest-paid massage therapists on the list, which could make a spa day a little less accessible.

Did you know?
Kansas City is home to Hallmark Cards, which has a display of vintage Mothers Day cards in its visitor center.

9. Houston, TX

Houston, Texas
Houston, Texas

  • Households with moms: 32.8%
  • Average full-time income for women: $48,541
  • Combined poverty rate: 50.9%
  • Annual childcare costs: $6,547
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 37.1

Houston has the highest poverty rate on the list, and its massage therapists make the most on the list. That means it’s relatively hard for moms here to afford a break. But moms here at least have each other - about 33% of the households have a mom.

8. Richmond, VA

Richmond, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia

  • Households with moms: 27%
  • Average full-time income for women: $48,317
  • Combined poverty rate: 38.2%
  • Annual childcare costs: $7,855
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 33.4

Richmond has the fewest households with moms, but the poverty rate is lower and the massage index is much better than many of the other cities on the list.

Did you know?
The Richmond-Area Mothers of Multiples (RAMOM) began in 1962.

7. San Diego, CA

San Diego, California
San Diego, California

  • Households with moms: 28.2%
  • Average full-time income for women: $50,699
  • Combined poverty rate: 44.6%
  • Annual childcare costs: $8,407
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 19.7

Sunny San Diego has a relatively low proportion of households with moms, but those moms get a beach! Women with full-time jobs here earn the second-highest pay of any of the cities on our list, but the childcare costs are the highest on the list.

6. Columbus, OH

Columbus, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio

  • Households with moms: 28.4%
  • Average full-time income for women: $47,706
  • Combined poverty rate: 45.2%
  • Annual childcare costs: $6,919
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 33.31

Columbus has one of the lowest rates of households with moms, and perhaps that’s why childcare costs here are relatively low. Plus, the massages are a little more in reach.

5. Raleigh, NC

Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina

  • Households with moms: 32.1%
  • Average full-time income for women: $49,421
  • Combined poverty rate: 43.1%
  • Annual childcare costs: $7,501
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 36.95

Raleigh has one of the highest average incomes for women with full-time jobs, which is a plus for moms who want to work outside of the home. The childcare here is right about at that national average.

Did you know?
The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce hosts a Working Mothers’ Luncheon Series, a quarterly event that addresses the challenges such women face in today’s business environment.

4. Dallas, TX

Dallas, Texas
Dallas, Texas

  • Households with moms: 33.2%
  • Average full-time income for women: $47,652
  • Combined poverty rate: 46.6%
  • Annual childcare costs: $6,547
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 30.04

Dallas, which has one of the highest poverty rates for married couples with kids under 18, is also above average on poverty rates for single-mom households. There are more moms in Dallas, though, which means a few more folks understand what those sleepless nights are like.

3. Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis, Indiana

  • Households with moms: 28.2%
  • Average full-time income for women: $46,358
  • Combined poverty rate: 44.7%
  • Annual childcare costs: $6,448
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 19.1

Coming in at number three is Indianapolis, which has the lowest percentage of households with moms on our list. However, it also has the lowest average annual wage for massage therapists, suggesting that the rates for a 30-minute break may be the most affordable.

Did you know?
David Letterman was born in Indianapolis. His mother, Dorothy Mengering, was a fixture of the “Late Show,” where he has invited her to show off her pies.

2. Salt Lake City, UT

Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah

  • Households with moms: 33.3%
  • Average full-time income for women: $43,839
  • Combined poverty rate: 40.8%
  • Annual childcare costs: $6,024
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 29.61

Utah has relatively low childcare costs, which gives Salt Lake City a big edge. A full third of the households in this town have moms, and even though women here make below the national average for full-time jobs, the poverty rates are relatively low.

1. San Jose, CA

San Jose, California
San Jose, California

  • Households with moms: 33.4%
  • Average full-time income for women: $72,329
  • Combined poverty rate: 32.1%
  • Annual childcare costs: $8,407
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 24.75

San Jose wins the day for moms. The city has one of the highest proportions of moms on the list, it has the highest average income for women with full-time jobs, and the poverty rate is the lowest on the list. San Jose has the highest average childcare costs on the list, but with the low Relax Index, moms here are more likely to be able to get an affordable break.


Being a mom is a mix of hard work and joyful work no matter where you are. And what helps relieve the stress of the day-to-day logistics differs from mom to mom. For the purposes of this list, we considered the average income data of all women (not all of them are mothers, of course). And for our childcare figure, we looked at statewide data and used the average annual cost for 4-year-olds in our analysis. We gave it twice the weight of the income and poverty data.

We hope this list helps moms and moms-to-be find ways to enjoy their blessings, from the vantage point of their own hometowns or the ones they hope to move to someday.

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