Kiplinger’s chooses ten cities across the US that are the best places to raise kids. The criteria are:
We took a two-step approach to come up with our list of the best cities to raise kids. First, we looked for metropolitan areas with high household incomes relative to living costs, a large percentage of families with children under 18, and low crime rates. We weren’t seeking the cheapest places to live, but rather places where earnings potential is more than adequate to cover a family’s expenses.
Then, we honed in on a specific city within each of our top 10 metro areas that’s well-suited to raising kids based on educational factors (spending per student and the quality of local school districts) as well as fun factors (availability of public parks, playgrounds and libraries). We also looked at each city’s average income for families — as opposed to median income for all households — to give a realistic sense of how much it can cost a family to live in a place with so many kid-centric benefits.
So, high incomes, lots of kids, low crime rates. Sounds like just about anywhere in the RBA, doesn’t it? And they said they would pick one representative place for each of their “top 10 metros” based on school funding and quality, as well as kid-friendly public services. The latter might disqualify a number of high-income RBA towns, since they assume everyone has their own 10 acre private park in the backyard.
Yes, the Bay Area got a city on the Top Ten list, and they picked… Sunnyvale?
City population: 140,081
Average family income:$123,647
Percentage of families with children: 32.6%
Metro-area spending per student: $7,345
Public playgrounds: 25
Silicon Valley may not be the most intuitive place to raise kids, but the area has more going for it than shiny condos and trendy tech jobs. The average family income is well above the national average, as are living costs. But when it comes to raising families, those costs can be worth it: Sunnyvale has one of the lowest crime rates in the nation.
Two of the city’s elementary schools were named “Distinguished Schools” for 2012 by the California Department of Education, and the neighboring Cupertino Union and Fremont public school districts boast some of the best test scores in the state. When they’re not studying, kids in Sunnyvale enjoy 476 acres of neighborhood parks and playgrounds, and one of the country’s largest children’s museums is in nearby San Jose. San Francisco is less than an hour away by car.
Excuse me. That’s “World-Famous Cupertino Union School District.” Here’s the complete list of Kiplinger’s top family-friendly cities. Watch them toss away one of their own rules:
10. Stamford, CT (NYC)
9. Corona, CA (LA/Riverside)
8. Middletown, NY (1.5 hrs to NYC)
7. Sunnyvale (San Jose/San Francisco)
6. Appleton, WI (no metro mentioned, assume Chicago/Milwaukee)
5. East Grand Rapids, MI (no metro mentioned, assume Detroit)
4. Thousand Oaks, CA (LA)
3. Suwanee, GA (Atlanta)
2. Richland, WA (Tri-Cities)
1. Omaha, NE (boredom)
Top ten metro areas, eh? Why is LA in there twice but no San Diego? On what planet are the Tri-Cities, in Southeast Washington, a “major metro”? Where’s Philadelphia? Where’s Boston? Where’s Washington DC? Seattle? Portland? Houston or Dallas?
Here are the top 10 metro areas in the US, per the Census Bureau, using 2011 population.
1. NY/Northern NJ/Long Island (NY/NJ/PA)
2. Los Angeles/Long Beach/Santa Ana
3. Chicago/Joliet/Naperville (IL/IN/WI)
4. Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington, TX
5. Houston/Sugar Land/Baytown, TX
6. Philadelphia/Camden/Wilmington (PA/NJ/DE/MD)
7. Washington/Arlington/Alexandria (DC/MD/VA)
8. Miami/Ft Lauderdale/Pompano Beach, FL
9. Atlanta/Sandy Springs/Marietta, GA
10. Boston/Cambridge/Quincy MA/NH
Note who is missing from the Top Ten.
11. San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont, CA
31. San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, CA
Adding the population of the two together would move that more obvious metro into 4th place, after Dallas and ahead of Houston. And the Census recognizes this. The “Combined Statistical Area” is called San Jose/San Francisco/Oakland. Many of the MSAs are also CSAs, but most of the larger ones are part of bigger CSAs.
If we use CSAs, the Bay Area moves to #6, behind NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, and Boston CSAs. Rounding out the top 10 are Dallas, Philly, Houston, and Atlanta.
None of this explains Kiplinger’s bizarre picks for this list. Some of the cities have 10,000 people and some are even bigger than Sunnyvale. And any list that ranks Omaha, Nebraska first and isn’t called Places Warren Buffett Lives shows they’re just trolling us.
Sunnyvale was also seventh on the CNN/Money’s 2010 list of Best Places for the Rich & Single.