Worst Cities to Raise Children

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25. Jackson, TN
> Pre-school enrollment: 33.3%
> Graduation rate: 92.5%
> Pop. with access to areas for activity: 65.3%
> Violent crime rate: 735 per 100,000

Early education can be critical to a child’s social and cognitive development, and only one-third of 3 and 4-year olds in the Jackson metro area are enrolled in preschool. This is a smaller share than in the majority of U.S. metro areas and well below the 47.6% enrollment rate nationwide. In addition to a low early childhood enrollment rate, school districts in Jackson may be underfunded. For example, the Jackson-Madison Consolidated School District spends only about $8,800 per pupil a year. In comparison, the average U.S. school district spends about $10,700 per pupil annually.

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24. Medford, OR
> Pre-school enrollment: 18.1%
> Graduation rate: 75.0%
> Pop. with access to areas for activity: 83.6%
> Violent crime rate: 324 per 100,000

Many of the worst metro areas for children are in the West — and Medford, Oregon is one of them. A solid educational base can be a necessity for a healthy, successful life, and in Medford, only 75% of high school students graduate on time, well below the 83% U.S. graduation rate. Similarly, only 18.1% of 3 and 4-years olds in the area are enrolled in preschool, well below the 47.6% U.S. enrollment rate.

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23. Texarkana, TX-AR
> Pre-school enrollment: 32.2%
> Graduation rate: 89.7%
> Pop. with access to areas for activity: 53.0%
> Violent crime rate: 469 per 100,000

Access to parks and recreation centers can make it easier to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle — especially when it comes to children. In Texarkana, only about half of the population has adequate access to such amenities, one of the smallest shares among U.S. metro areas.

Many families in Texarkana also face serious financial hardship. More than 1 in 4 children in the metro area live below the poverty line, compared to only about 1 in 5 children nationwide.

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22. Battle Creek, MI
> Pre-school enrollment: 43.4%
> Graduation rate: 74.9%
> Pop. with access to areas for activity: 70.3%
> Violent crime rate: 559 per 100,000

Battle Creek is one of only two metro areas in the Midwest to rank among the worst places to raise children. Approximately 3 in every 4 high school students in the Michigan metro area graduate on time — well below the 83% graduation rate nationwide. The metro area is also relatively dangerous. There were 559 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents in 2015, well above the 373 per 100,000 violent crime rate nationwide.

Source: Thinkstock

21. Charleston, WV
> Pre-school enrollment: 26.7%
> Graduation rate: 86.0%
> Pop. with access to areas for activity: 66.7%
> Violent crime rate: 530 per 100,000

The metro area around West Virginia’s capital city is one of the worst in the country in which to raise children. Only about two-thirds of the Charleston population has access to places for physical activity such as parks or recreation centers — well below the 84% share of Americans nationwide. While an inactive lifestyle can hinder a child’s physical development, inadequate access to early childhood education can hamper cognitive development. Only 26.7% of 3 and 4-year olds in the area are enrolled in preschool, well below the 47.6% share of 3 and 4-year olds nationwide.