Special Report

Worst Cities to Raise Children

Samuel Stebbins, Evan Comen

Source: Thinkstock

20. Memphis, TN-MS-AR
> Pre-school enrollment: 39.9%
> Graduation rate: 85.9%
> Pop. with access to areas for activity: 81.5%
> Violent crime rate: 1,038 per 100,000

The graduation and preschool enrollment rates in Memphis are higher than in the majority of metro areas on this list. However, there were 1,038 violent crimes — murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — for every 100,000 metro area residents in 2015. With a violent crime rate nearly three times the comparable national figure, Memphis is one of the most dangerous cities in the United States.

Source: Thinkstock

19. Sebring, FL
> Pre-school enrollment: 31.1%
> Graduation rate: 64.0%
> Pop. with access to areas for activity: 86.2%
> Violent crime rate: 342 per 100,000

Only 64% of high school students in Sebring, Florida graduate on time — one of the smallest such shares of any U.S. metro area. Though the connection between school spending and educational outcomes is complex, area students may benefit from greater investment. The Highlands County School District spends only about $9,000 per student a year, $1,700 less than is typical nationwide.

Source: Thinkstock

18. Yakima, WA
> Pre-school enrollment: 30.1%
> Graduation rate: 73.1%
> Pop. with access to areas for activity: 69.3%
> Violent crime rate: 293 per 100,000

Early education programs can be critical for the cognitive development of children. Similarly, easy access to recreation centers and parks can be a considerable advantage for children’s physical development. In the Yakima metro area, only 30.1% of 3 and 4-year olds are enrolled in preschool — well below the 47.6% share of children the same age nationwide. Similarly, only 69.3% of the metro area population has access to places for physical activity like parks and recreation centers, well below the 84.0% share of Americans nationwide.

Source: David Shankbone / Wikimedia Commons

17. Pueblo, CO
> Pre-school enrollment: 39.8%
> Graduation rate: 74.9%
> Pop. with access to areas for activity: 74.6%
> Violent crime rate: 616 per 100,000

Low graduation rates are often an indication of a substandard school district. In the Pueblo, Colorado metro area, only about 75% of high school students graduate on time — well below the comparable 83% U.S. graduation rate. One explanation for the poor outcomes in the area’s public schools may be a lack of funding. The Pueblo County School District 70 spends only about $7,300 per pupil annually, or $3,400 less than the typical expenditure across all U.S. public schools.

Source: Thinkstock

16. Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL
> Pre-school enrollment: 28.1%
> Graduation rate: 73.0%
> Pop. with access to areas for activity: 81.8%
> Violent crime rate: 507 per 100,000

Less than 3 in every 4 high school students in the Pensacola metro area graduate on time — compared to more than 4 out of 5 high school students nationwide. Though the relationship between school spending and educational outcomes is complex, public schools in the area may benefit from greater funding. The Escambia County School District, which serves some 40,750 students in the area, spends only about $8,400 per pupil a year, or $2,300 less than is typical nationwide.