What are the most important things that families consider when buying a home? School quality and crime rates generally top the list.
With that in mind, GoodCall® analysts looked at data in the 80 largest cities in the U.S. (those with more than 250,000 residents) to determine the safest big cities to raise a family.
The analysts considered four main metrics in their research: crime rate, vehicle safety, air quality, and educational attainment.
Crime rate and vehicle safety obviously show an area’s ranking as a safe community, and adding the air quality metric means families can take their children’s health into account, too. Educational attainment, which is a measure of the percentage of residents with a high school and/or college degree, shows areas that value schooling. A more educated populace likely makes for a better place for a family to grow.
The top-ranked cities were spread all across the country, from the eastern coast in Massachusetts to the beautiful beaches of Hawaii. Notably, few Midwest cities fell among the highest-ranked cities. Several of the cities in the top 10 – Boston, Raleigh, Lincoln, and Honolulu – were state capitals. Two others – Chandler and Mesa in Arizona – are capital city suburbs.
Here’s a look at the top-ranked Safest Cities to Raise a Family:
1. Henderson, Nev.
The Las Vegas suburb of Henderson routinely ranks fairly well for its low crime rates – fourth lowest in the country in 2015 – but this area also ranks well on a number of other factors, including air quality, education, and vehicle safety. The city had the second highest air quality among the 80 largest cities. More than 93% of residents are high school graduates – the sixth highest rate on the list. And Henderson, with about 285,000 people, is in the top 20% of big cities for vehicle safety. The rate of 4.2 vehicle deaths per 100,000 residents is 14th best. Its crime rate is also noteworthy. The city reports about 20 crimes per 1,000 residents.
2. Plano, Texas
Speaking of low crime rates, Plano has the second-lowest rate of criminal activity per 1,000 residents among the nation’s largest cities. It’s also a well-educated area. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 92.7% of residents have a high school degree, more than 54% have at least a bachelor’s degree, and more than 20% have a graduate-level degree. Sitting just 20 miles north of Dallas, the city is home to about 284,000 people and several corporate headquarters, including J.C. Penny, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Rent-A-Center, and Toyota’s North American headquarters. The vehicle mortality rate is a low 4.2 per 100,000 residents – 15th among big cities – and the area has fairly low pollution, ranking among the top 25% of big cities.
3. Boston, Mass.
If commuting is a concern, the remarkably high vehicle safety rate in Boston should stand out. The city ranks No. 1 among the largest cities in the country for vehicle safety – just 1.8 vehicle deaths per 100,000 residents. The capital city also has a fairly high number of residents with bachelor’s degrees: 46.6%, which is 13th highest. Boston was the largest city in the top 10 (669,000 residents) and the only one with more than 500,000 residents. But despite its size, it ranked 11th among the largest cities for its relatively high air quality. Its crime rate of 30 incidents per 1,000 residents ranks 18th among the largest cities.
4. Virginia Beach, Va.
Virginia Beach, known for holding the Guinness Book Record for longest pleasure beach in the world, is also noteworthy for its low crime and high vehicle safety. The city of about 452,000 had just 23 crimes reported per 1,000 residents in 2015, which was 10th best among big cities. It also ranked 10th for its low number of vehicle deaths: 3.5 per 100,000 residents. Air quality in Virginia Beach is relatively good, ranking 25th among the largest 80 cities. At least 93% of residents have a high school diploma (seventh highest among big cities) and one-third of the population has at least a bachelor’s degree. Plus, it’s hard to argue that a beach town isn’t a great place to live.
5. Chandler, Ariz.
The Phoenix suburb is a great place to raise a family, particularly in terms of education. In the city of about 260,000, 93% of residents have a high school diploma – seventh best among big cities – and more than 43% have bachelor’s degrees (15th best). The crime rate in Chandler is also remarkable: The city ranks eighth among big cities with its crime rate of about 22.7 incidents per 1,000 residents in 2015. The year-round warm weather is just one thing to like about the city; its vehicle safety rate (5.4 deaths per 100,000 residents) is well above average. And as for raising kids, the area has several recreation facilities, parks and museums to strengthen young bodies and minds.
6. Raleigh, N.C.
Raleigh, North Carolina’s capital, is the largest city in the Triangle – an area bordered by three major research universities and home to Research Triangle Park. As such, the city of more than 450,000 ranks remarkably well on education. Almost 50% of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree (sixth highest among big cities), and 91% have a high school diploma (12th best). The crime rate is low, too; 27 incidents per 1,000 residents were reported in 2015. And the abundance of parks, lakes and other green space seems to be doing the region some good. The city ranks 16th best for its air quality.
7. Lincoln, Neb.
Nearly 94% of residents in Lincoln, Neb., have a high school diploma – that’s fifth highest among big cities – and another 37% have at least a bachelor’s degree. With The University of Nebraska and Nebraska Wesleyan University right in the heart of town, perhaps that’s not much of a surprise. The air quality in the capital city is notable: Lincoln ranks 13th among large cities. The crime rate at 36 per 1,000 residents is fairly low for a larger city. Lincoln’s vehicle safety was also notable: 5.7 vehicle deaths per 100,000 residents.
8. Irvine, Calif.
Irvine has top rankings in both education and crime rate, and it’s a safe area for driving. It ranks No. 1 for both high school- and college-education rates: almost 97% of residents have a high school diploma and more than 69% have at least a bachelor’s degree (that’s 7 percentage points higher than the next city). Irvine is also top of the list for its low crime rate: just 15.5 incidents per 1,000 residents. The city is ninth among large cities for vehicle safety: just 3.5 deaths per 100,000 residents. In fact, the only thing keeping Irvine from the top of the overall list is likely its environmental score, which ranked 72nd among large cities.
9. Honolulu, Hawaii
If you’re looking for clean, fresh air and breath-taking views, consider moving the family to Honolulu. It’s the third best among large cities for air quality, and the warm ocean breezes will be nice, too. It’s also among the top 25% of cities in crime, with a reported 33.6 incidents per 1,000 residents. The capital city on the island of Oahu ranks better than average among other large cities for its vehicle safety (6 deaths per 100,000 people) and education level. About 87% of residents have a high school diploma and more than 35% have at least a bachelor’s degree. Bonus: “Honolulu” means “sheltered harbor” or “calm port” – what a comforting name for a place to raise your family.
10. Mesa, Ariz.
Another Phoenix suburb in the top 10, Mesa sits about 20 miles east of the capital. The air quality of the city, which borders the Tonto National Forest, is noteworthy; Mesa ranks 12th among big cities for its low pollution. And the warm climate, with an average annual low above 50°F in seven months of the year, makes it a great place to enjoy that fresh air. Its crime rate is also much better than average for large cities, at just 29 incidents per 1,000 residents (ranked 16th). The area had about 5.7 vehicle deaths per 100,000 people in 2015, ranking better than the average big city.
Take a look at the top 40:
Some cities rank well on one or two categories, but not all. For example, Seattle, ranked well in education and vehicle safety, but was 21st overall. One result you might find surprising? New York City had the fifth best crime rate and third best vehicle safety.
GoodCall® analysts considered four different metrics to determine the rankings for Safest Cities to Raise a Family: crime rate, vehicle safety, air quality, and educational attainment.
The metrics were each given different weight, with crime rate weighted the highest. Here’s a look at the full methodology:
Crime: The number of crime incidents per 1,000 residents, as reported in the FBI 2015 Crime in the United States, accounted for 30% of the score. Analysts used data from the metropolitan statistical area if city data was not available.
Vehicle Safety: The rate of vehicle deaths per 100,000 residents, in data from the 2015 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System, weighed 25%.
Air Quality: An area’s air quality, reported as the number of PM2.5MM particles in the air from the 2015 EPA Air Quality Index, made up 25% of the score. Analysts used core-based statistical area data or county data if city data was not available.
Community Educational Values: The area’s education attainment made up a total of 20%. One-third of that score is the percentage of residents age 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree or higher, and two-thirds is the percentage of residents age 25 and older with a high school diploma or higher. That data came from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2015 1-year estimates.