The best places to raise a family on the West Coast – 2019

To find the best places, we considered data on factors including housing costs as a percent of income, annual cost of childcare, as well as poverty, unemployment and crime rates.

It costs more than $233,000 to raise a child through age 17, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Given that high cost, you want to know that you’re living in a place that is conducive to your family’s happiness and success. In this study, we looked at almost a dozen factors, including childcare costs and housing affordability, to find the best cities on the West Coast for families.

To find the best places to raise a family on the West Coast, we considered data on 10 factors. We looked at housing costs as a percent of income, annual cost of childcare, percent of residents under age 19, average math proficiency, average reading proficiency, high school graduation rate, average spending per pupil, poverty rate, unemployment rate and crime rate.


Follow Ladders on Flipboard!

Follow Ladders’ magazines on Flipboard covering Happiness, Productivity, Job Satisfaction, Neuroscience, and more!


Key Findings

  • The Bay Area is a good place to raise a family. Nine of the top 10 cities in this study are in California. Seven of those nine are within about a one-hour drive of San Francisco. San Francisco itself ranks only 68th. That’s because not much of its population is age 19 or younger and because of its low high school graduation rate and high crime rate.
  • Washington and Oregon have equal representation in the top 25. Neither Washington nor Oregon has many places at the very top of the rankings in this study. But both states do have two cities in the top 25: Hillsboro (10) and Beaverton (25) in Oregon and Marysville (11) and Bellevue (19) in Washington.

1. San Ramon, CA

It is no surprise that San Ramon is our No. 1 place to raise a family on the West Coast given that it’s also one of the best places to live in California. It has the 14th-lowest housing costs as a percent of median income. There are also plenty of young people there already: San Ramon has the 13th-highest percentage of its population under age 19, reaching 32.20%. It also has a low poverty rate (4.50%) and unemployment rate (2.50%). Both of those are eighth best in the study. In addition, San Ramon has the fifth-lowest crime rate.

2. Folsom, CA 

Housing costs in Folsom equal just 19% of household income on average, a metric for which Folsom comes in second. It also has the fourth-lowest poverty rate in this study. While a relatively low percentage of the population is under 19, Folsom’s high school graduation rate is 89.53%. That’s the eighth-highest rate of all 150 cities we ranked.

3. Pleasanton, CA

Another Bay Area city, Pleasanton takes third. It ranks as the seventh most affordable in our housing-cost metric. Pleasanton also has the fifth-lowest poverty rate and an unemployment rate of just 2.40%, which is the third lowest in the study. It has a top-25 rate in childcare costs as well as in average math and reading proficiency.

4. Milpitas, CA 

Milpitas comes in at number four thanks largely to its top-20 scores in math and reading proficiency. The high school graduation is a little higher than 88%. While the poverty rate in Milpitas is relatively high at 7.10%, the unemployment rate is quite low at 2.40%.

5. Palo Alto, CA 

Rounding out the top five is Palo Alto, California. This Bay Area city has the 10th-lowest rate for housing costs as a percent of income. Unemployment here is just 2.90%. That’s the eighth-lowest of all the cities we ranked. Only about 26% of Palo Alto’s population is under 19 years old, but those children tend to do well in school. Its math and reading proficiency scores are both in the top 20. The high school graduation rate is similar to that of Milpitas, at approximately 88%.

6. Yorba Linda, CA

Just outside of Los Angeles, Yorba Linda is the southernmost city in our top 10. A large factor in this city’s high ranking is its low poverty rate. It has the lowest rate in the study: 1.80%. Yorba Linda’s crime rate is the third lowest in our study and the lowest in the top 10. It has the sixth-highest spending per student and a high school graduation rate of more than 87%.

7. Livermore, CA

Livermore has the second lowest unemployment and poverty rates in this study. Both are less than 3%. Students here also do well: The math and proficiency rates are both in the top 25, and the high school graduation rate is at about 87%. More than 75% of Livermore’s population is 20 or older, which is one factor that negatively affects this city’s ranking for this study.

8. Fremont, CA

At number eight, Fremont is a relatively affordable place to live in, with the 16th-lowest housing cost as a percent of income. Less than 25% of the city’s population is under 19. Fremont has a graduation rate of 87.18% for high school students, and the city’s scores in math and reading proficiency are both in the top 25.

9. Sunnyvale, CA

Sunnyvale ranks fifth best in housing cost as a percentage of income. Housing costs are just 20.82% of the median income here. Less than 22% of the city’s population is age 19 or younger. Math and reading proficiency rates are both top 20. The high school graduation rate is higher than 88%. Sunnyvale also has the 21st-lowest crime rate in the study, which factors into its ranking as the safest city in America.

10. Hillsboro, OR

Rounding out the top 10 is Hillsboro, Oregon, the first city in our study that is not in California. Hillsboro is one of the best overall places to live in Oregon. Childcare is affordable in Hillsboro, as this city holds the highest ranking in the study for this metric. Housing costs here are also manageable. We found that they make up just 21.57% of the median income for residents. That’s the 12th-best rate in the study. The poverty rate here of 5% is the 10th-lowest in the study.

Data and Methodology

To find the best cities to raise a family on the West Coast, we compared 150 cities across 10 different factors:

  • Housing costs as a percentage of income. This is the median housing cost in each city, as a percentage of the median household income. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Annual cost of full-time center-based childcare for infants. Data is from 2017 and comes from Child Care Aware of America.
  • Percent of population age 19 and under. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Average proficiency in math. This is the average percentage of students across schools who are proficient in math. Data comes from the U.S. Department of Education EDFacts for the 2016-2017 school year and is measured by metro area.
  • Average proficiency in reading. This is the average percentage of students across schools who are proficient in reading. Data comes from the U.S. Department of Education EDFacts for the 2016-2017 school year and is measured by metro area.
  • High school graduation rate. This is the average percentage of students who graduate from high school. Data comes from the U.S. Department of Education EDFacts for the 2016-2017 school year and is by metro area.
  • Average spending per student. This is the amount that schools spend per student. Data is measured at the metro area level and comes from the Census Bureau’s 2016 Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finance report.
  • Poverty rate. This is the percent of people whose incomes place them below the poverty line. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Unemployment rate. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Crime rate per 100,000 residents. This is the combined property and violent crime rates per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI’s 2017 Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

To create our final scores, we first ranked each city across all 10 metrics. Then we found each place’s average ranking. We gave full weight to all metrics except reading proficiency, math proficiency, graduation rate and average spending per pupil, to which we gave half weights. Using the average ranking, we determined the final scores. The place with the highest average ranking received a score of 100, and the place with the lowest ranking received a score of 0.

One Way to Set You and Your Family Up for Future Success

Supporting a family is expensive. To help you juggle your finances, it’s helpful to talk to an expert. A financial advisor can help you find an affordable mortgage and then pay for your home. As you look to your long-term future, an advisor can also help you plan your retirement so that you live out those years with minimal stress, whether you’re a serious investor, a business owner or a work-from-home parent. To help you find an advisor who understands your situation, consider using our financial advisor matching tool. It narrows your search down to a few in your area who meet your needs.

This article originally appeared on SmartAsset.


You might also enjoy…