Study: Best Cities for Savvy Young Families

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The wedding is over and a baby is on the way. Starting a family is a huge step for couples, both emotionally and financially. Where you live can have a huge effect on your expenses and, consequently, your quality of living. With this in mind, we examined the top 100 metropolitan areas to find the best cities for starting a family. Read on to see if your area made the list – or if it's time to make a move.

Study Methodology

  1. Unemployment rate
  2. Cost of living
  3. Daycare costs

We first looked at unemployment rates across the country to find cities with the strongest job markets, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the national average comes in at 7.6% (as of March 2013), the average of our top 10 cities was a mere 5.8%.

Next, we looked at cost of living, measured by the Council for Community and Economic Research. This data measures variances in expenses living day to day in Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). Cities that fall above 100 are considered expensive, while under 100 indicates a more affordable region.

Finally, we looked at the cost of daycare, which is a huge consideration for families with young children. Using data from Child Care Aware America, we considered the average annual cost for full-time care of one infant at a daycare center. It should be noted that the data uses each state average, rather than individual MSA data. To put these costs in perspective, note that Washington, DC, has the highest daycare cost, a whopping $20,178 per year.

But all these numbers don’t tell you whether a place will be fun for a young family. While area events and attractions didn’t factor into our rating system, we include them below for your consideration.

10 Best Cities for Young Families

1. Tulsa, OK

  • Unemployment Rate: 5.3%
  • Cost of Living: 88.4
  • Average Daycare Cost: $7,288

Tulsa ranks as our number-one city for financially savvy young families. Also ranked by Forbes as one of the country’s most livable cities, it is home to a number of cultural attractions, including the Philbrook Museum - one of the top 50 fine art museums in the nation. The city boasts 135 parks, including Woodward Park and a botanical garden, all of which offer countless opportunities for picturesque stroller walks. And with an unemployment rate more than 2 percentage points below the national average, it’s an affordable option for many young families.

2. Birmingham, AL

  • Unemployment Rate: 6.0%
  • Cost of Living: 90.8
  • Average Daycare Cost: $5,356

Alabama’s average daycare cost is one of the lowest in the country (second only to Mississippi), making the state’s largest city, Birmingham, a prime location to raise a family. Home to one Fortune 500 company and five Fortune 1000 companies, this area also has strong job opportunities for working parents. Outdoor lovers will appreciate the city’s proximity to the Appalachian foothills and mild winter temperatures. Hoping your child will be the next Albert Einstein? Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School in Irondale, a Birmingham suburb, consistently ranks in the nation’s top five high schools.

3. Oklahoma City, OK

  • Unemployment Rate: 4.6%
  • Cost of Living: 91.7
  • Average Daycare Cost: $7,288

Oklahoma’s 4.6% unemployment rate is astoundingly low and is, in fact, the lowest on our list. The city’s economy is anchored by strong livestock, oil, gas, and petroleum industries. Tinker Air Force Base and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center also offer federal job opportunities for public service-minded residents. Encourage a love of science and nature in your little ones by taking them to popular sites, such as the Science Museum of Oklahoma, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and the Museum of Osteology, which is home to more than 300 animal skeletons.

4. Greenville, SC

  • Unemployment Rate: 6.4%
  • Cost of Living: 90.3
  • Average Daycare Cost: $5,855

Another city on the Appalachian foothills, Greenville is conveniently located halfway between Charlotte, NC, and Atlanta, GA. It also has one of the lowest daycare rates, making it an affordable option for working parents. A number of local annual festivals offer lots of entertainment for kids, especially the three-day Comics & Toys MonsterCon.

5. Nashville, TN

  • Unemployment Rate: 6.3%
  • Cost of Living: 88.9
  • Average Daycare Cost: $7,748

Nashville can brag about having one of the lowest costs of living on our list, offsetting its higher unemployment and daycare cost (which, while still low compared to the national average, is somewhat high compared to other cities on the list). Nicknamed “Music City,” Nashville is the music industry’s Southern hub and home to the Grand Ole Opry House. Country fans will appreciate the annual CMA Music Festival, and families can also look forward to the Tennessee State Fair each September.

6. Knoxville, TN

  • Unemployment Rate: 6.6%
  • Cost of Living: 89.4
  • Average Daycare Cost: $7,748

Knoxville shares similar numbers with Nashville, with just a slightly higher unemployment rate and cost of living. What sets this city apart is the fact that it’s home to several large corporations, including energy giant Tennessee Valley Authority, Regal Entertainment Group, and Scripps Networks Interactive. Kids will love Boomsday, the nation’s largest Labor Day fireworks event. Other notable events include Bacon Fest, Boo at the Zoo, and the International Biscuit Festival. And for grownups only: Be sure to book a babysitter for the Knoxville Brewers’ Jam, which celebrates American craft beer, music, and food.

7. Baton Rouge, LA

  • Unemployment Rate: 5.8%
  • Cost of Living: 96.1
  • Average Daycare Cost: $5,901

It’s no wonder Baton Rouge’s unemployment rate is so low - the city is home to major industrial, petrochemical, and medical firms, in addition to its port ranking in the nation’s top 10 for tonnage shipped. Parents can take advantage of the city’s 15 charter schools; in fact, Mentorship Academy provides high school students with internships at local businesses while offering high-tech classrooms with a focus on digital animation.

8. Boise, ID

  • Unemployment Rate: 6.1%
  • Cost of Living: 97.2
  • Average Daycare Cost: $5,824

Its low daycare cost makes Boise another attractive option for young families. In addition, the Idaho capital also hosts a number of tech companies, including Micron Technology, Hewlett Packard, and ClickBank. Family-friendly attractions include Zoo Boise, the Idaho Aquarium, and Bogus Basin Ski Area for winter sports enthusiasts.

9. Columbus, OH

  • Unemployment Rate: 6.1%
  • Cost of Living: 92
  • Average Daycare Cost: $7,889

Ohio’s capital city, Columbus’s somewhat high daycare cost is tempered by a low cost of living and unemployment. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is rated number one in the country. The city is also home to a variety of museums, such as the Columbus Museum of Art, the Center of Science and Industry, and the Ohio Historical Society.

10. Des Moines, IA

  • Unemployment Rate: 5.0%
  • Cost of Living: 90.9
  • Average Daycare Cost: $8,859

Des Moines rounds out our top 10 with the second-lowest unemployment rate on our list. Major industries in the area include insurance, financial services, and publishing. Home to the Iowa caucuses, your kids will have a front-row seat to the presidential election process every four years. Start a family tradition each summer and venture out to nearby Altoona to ride the roller coasters at Adventureland Park.

Any of the cities mentioned above would make a great home for a financially savvy couple starting a family. Of course, there are a number of factors to consider when deciding where to settle down, and these will be different for each family. The cost of daycare may not matter to a family if one parent decides to stay home with the kids, and a low unemployment rate certainly doesn’t guarantee a job. And the fact is a couple doesn’t know how their new lives – financial or otherwise – will shake out until Little Junior arrives. To prepare themselves, mothers-to-be and young mothers should check out the CreditDonkey article on Today’s New Moms: Expenses and Employment Challenges.

Lauren Ward is a research analyst at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Lauren Ward at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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