Special Report

Worst Cities to Raise Children

5. Odessa, TX
> Pre-school enrollment: 42.7%
> Graduation rate: 77.8%
> Pop. with access to areas for activity: 71.4%
> Violent crime rate: 1,070 per 100,000

Odessa is the worst metro area in Texas in which to raise a child and the fifth worst nationwide. There were 1,070 violent crimes in Odessa in 2015 for every 100,000 residents, the second most of any U.S. metro area. Not only is Odessa dangerous, but also many area children do not likely receive regular and necessary medical care. Some 16% of children in Odessa lack health insurance, the third highest child uninsured rate among U.S. metro areas.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

4. Hammond, LA
> Pre-school enrollment: 41.2%
> Graduation rate: 74.0%
> Pop. with access to areas for activity: 61.7%
> Violent crime rate: 769 per 100,000

In addition to being critical for health, play and recreation are important for a child’s emotional, social, and cognitive development. Just 61.7% of the Hammond population has access to locations for physical activity such as parks and gyms, one of the smallest shares nationwide. Violent crime can also hinder outdoor recreation. There were 769 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Hammond residents in 2015, more than twice the national violent crime rate.

Hammond also has some of the worst educational outcomes of any metro area. Just 74.0% of high schoolers in Hammond graduate within four years, far less than the 83.0% national rate.

Source: Thinkstock

3. Anchorage, AK
> Pre-school enrollment: 31.4%
> Graduation rate: 79.9%
> Pop. with access to areas for activity: 75.8%
> Violent crime rate: 1,040 per 100,000

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Alaska is one of only two states where preschool enrollment has declined over the past decade. Funding for the state’s preschool program has remained flat in recent years, and today just 31.4% of 3 and 4-year olds in Anchorage are enrolled in preschool — far less than the 47.6% national rate.

An unsafe neighborhood can hinder child development. There were 1,040 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents in Anchorage in 2015, nearly three times the national violent crime rate of 373 violent crimes per 100,000 Americans.

Source: Thinkstock

2. Farmington, NM
> Pre-school enrollment: 48.7%
> Graduation rate: 71.8%
> Pop. with access to areas for activity: 36.4%
> Violent crime rate: 443 per 100,000

Play and recreation are critical to children’s emotional, social, and cognitive development, as well as their physical fitness. In the Farmington metro area, just 36.4% of residents have access to locations for physical activity, the smallest share in the country.

The Farmington Municipal School District spends an average of $8,616 per pupil a year on education, far less than the $10,724 national average. Low education spending may hinder educational outcomes in the metro area. Just 71.8% of Farmington high schoolers graduate within four years, one of the lowest graduation rates of any city.

Source: Thinkstock

1. Fairbanks, AK
> Pre-school enrollment: 18.7%
> Graduation rate: 69.5%
> Pop. with access to areas for activity: 64.9%
> Violent crime rate: 485 per 100,000

The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District spends an estimated $17,969 per student annually, among the most of any U.S. school district. However, a large share of education spending in Alaska may go to transportation and other expenses beyond instruction and do not necessarily lead to good educational outcomes. Just 69.5% of high schoolers in Fairbanks graduate high school within four years, one of the lowest graduation rates of any state. Alaska is one of two states where preschool enrollment has declined over the past decade, and today just 18.7% of 3 and 4-year olds in Fairbanks are enrolled in preschool, less than half the national rate.

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