Study: Best Cities for Mothers

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Mom duty is challenging no matter where you call home. If you live in an area that eases the stress you feel while you shuffle the kids around and try to get things done under tight timetables on a daily basis, you may have it easier than most. In fact, those who live in smaller cities are able to access a mix of nearby amenities but don't have to navigate the crowded nature of the bigger cities. With that in mind, we compared smaller size cities in the U.S. to see which are the best for being a mom.

Study Methodology

We limited our search to cities that have fewer than 750,000 residents and narrowed down our pool based on whether the metropolitan area met this criteria:

  • A 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

First, we looked at the most recent U.S. Census data to find the percentage of households with married or single women who have children. We figured that this indicates the size of the mom community in various cities, and thus indicates how many of her peers a mother can turn to in any hour of need. We gave this number twice the weight of the income and poverty data.

We also looked at the average income for women with full-time jobs as well as 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 is 40% in our sample.

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.

And with the best interests of moms nationwide in mind, we considered which cities give these ladies a break. We mean a real break - massages. We based this on the average annual wage of massage therapists in various cities. We divided the data by 100 to arrive at the CreditDonkey Relax Index (anything below 35 is pretty good).

With all that data, we came up with our list of best cities for moms.

10. Cleveland, OH

  • Households with moms: 23.9%
  • Average full-time income for women: $46,064
  • Combined poverty rate: 49.2%
  • Annual childcare costs: $6,919
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 32.9

The high poverty rates among families with children in America are truly shocking, and Cleveland is no exception. But the moms here get to pay below-average childcare costs. Still, when they’re off the clock, a massage may be out of the question - 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?
All moms receive free admission to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo on Mother’s Day.

9. Provo, UT

  • Households with moms: 46.6%
  • Average full-time income for women: $37,592
  • Combined poverty rate: 50.6%
  • Annual childcare costs: $6,024
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 35.9

Provo has the highest proportion of moms on the list, and women here make the least for full-time work. Add in the highest massage therapist wages on the list and it’s clear that it’s relatively hard for moms here to afford a break. But at least moms here have each other.

8. Lancaster, PA

  • Households with moms: 27.3%
  • Average full-time income for women: $41,807
  • Combined poverty rate: 48%
  • Annual childcare costs: $8,601
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 23.8

Amish country has some of the fewest households with moms, but the poverty rate is lower and the Relax Index is much better than many of the other cities on the list.

7. Poughkeepsie, NY

  • Households with moms: 30%
  • Average full-time income for women: $52,834
  • Combined poverty rate: 29.8%
  • Annual childcare costs: $12,355
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 31.2

Poughkeepsie has a relatively decent proportion of households with moms, and women with full-time jobs here earn the highest pay of any of the cities on our list. Poverty is the lowest on the list, but very high childcare costs (twice those in Provo) knock Poughkeepsie down several notches.

6. Stockton, CA

  • Households with moms: 33.6%
  • Average full-time income for women: $48,722
  • Combined poverty rate: 53%
  • Annual childcare costs: $8,407
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 26.4

Stockton has a strong community of households with moms. With the average full-time salary for women at over $48,000 a year, Stockton is a great city for working moms.

Did you know?
Stockton is in “Mother Lode Country,” which is a region of the state known for its mineral deposits and gold mines.

5. Wichita, Kansas

  • Households with moms: 27.7%
  • Average full-time income for women: $40,348
  • Combined poverty rate: 47.3%
  • Annual childcare costs: $7,499
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 22.7

Wichita has one of the highest childcare costs, which is not a plus for moms who want to work outside of the home. But with only 27.7% of the households containing moms, there won’t be many people to hear them complaining.

Did you know?
Henry McCarty, later known as Billy the Kid, moved to Wichita with his mother in 1870 .

4. Jackson, Mississippi

  • Households with moms: 27.1%
  • Average full-time income for women: $40,201
  • Combined poverty rate: 56.4%
  • Annual childcare costs: $4,312
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 17.37

Jackson has the highest poverty rates on the list. There are relatively few moms in Jackson, though, which means relatively few folks understand what those sleepless nights are like. At least the massages look like they’re the least expensive here, though.

3. Ogden, Utah

  • Households with moms: 37.6%
  • Average full-time income for women: $41,099
  • Combined poverty rate: 44.5%
  • Annual childcare costs: $6,024
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 33.9

Coming in at number three is Ogden, in which over a third of households have moms. The city also has some of the lowest childcare costs. The high massage therapist wages suggest that the rates for a 30-minute break are not the most affordable.

Did you know?
Olive Osmond gave birth to eight boys and one girl – Marie - in Ogden.

2. Des Moines, IA

  • Households with moms: 29.9%
  • Average full-time income for women: $49,137
  • Combined poverty rate: 39.7%
  • Annual childcare costs: $7,790
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 25.32

Des Moines has average childcare costs, but what gives it a big edge is the low poverty rate for single-mom households. Women who work outside the home also make more than those who live in any other city on this list except Poughkeepsie.

1. Charleston, SC

  • Households with moms: 25.8%
  • Average full-time job for women: $42,717
  • Combined poverty rate: 48.8%
  • Annual childcare costs: $5,308
  • CreditDonkey Relax Index: 21.9

Charleston wins the day for moms. The city may not have as many moms as some other cities, but it has the lowest childcare costs out of the 10, affordable massages, and a relatively low poverty rate for married couples with kids under 18 (the rate for single-mom households is higher). And of course, there is the barbecue.

No matter where you reside, motherhood is a tough task. 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.

Tina O is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Tina O at

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