Special Report

Worst Cities to Raise Children

Source: davidwilson1949 / Flickr

15. Florence, SC
> Preschool enrollment: 45.9%
> High school graduation rate: 85.0%
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 39.2% (lowest 10%)
> Violent crime rate: 640.6 per 100,000 (highest 20%)

Florence, South Carolina is one of very few U.S. metro areas in which less than 40% of residents said they had a place to get physical activity. Exercise can be crucial for a child’s development and health. Children in high crime areas often have fewer opportunities to go outside to get exercise, and the Florence area also has one of the higher violent crime rates in the country. The area reports a rate of 641 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, compared to a national rate of 386 per 100,000.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

14. Madera, CA
> Preschool enrollment: 18.5% (lowest 10%)
> High school graduation rate: 82.7%
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 74.2%
> Violent crime rate: 661.8 per 100,000 (highest 10%)

Approximately 32.4% of children in Madera, California live in poverty, one of the highest shares nationwide, exceeding the national rate of 19.5% of children who are impoverished. The area also has one of the lowest preschool enrollment rates in the nation at just 18.5%. The U.S. average is nearly 30 percentage points higher.

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

13. Memphis, TN-MS-AR
> Preschool enrollment: 40.3%
> High school graduation rate: 79.6%
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 79.2%
> Violent crime rate: 1082.1 per 100,000 (highest 10%)

Living in an area that is prone to violent crime can hinder a child’s sense of well being and emotional development. The Memphis metro area, which extends into three states, is considered one of the worst places to raise a child primarily because of its high violent crime rate. For every 100,000 residents, 1,082 violent crimes were reported. Only two other metro areas had higher rates. Memphis children are also among the most likely to live in families that struggle with financial difficulties. Fewer than 20% of children live in poverty nationwide. In Memphis, the child poverty rate is over 30%.

Source: Billy Hathorn / Wikimedia Commons

12. Alexandria, LA
> Preschool enrollment: 43.6%
> High school graduation rate: 75.5% (lowest 10%)
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 74.3%
> Violent crime rate: 923.2 per 100,000 (highest 10%)

The Alexandria, Louisiana graduation rate of 75.5% is one of the lowest in the country. The average among metro areas is 84.1%. The area’s violent crime rate also makes it a less than ideal place to raise children. Only a handful of metro areas had a higher rate than 923 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents in the Louisiana metro area.

Babies born to teen mothers are at a greater risk of developing serious health issues, and the Alexandria area has one of the higher teen birth rates in the country. Out of every 1,000 births in Alexandria, 47 are from mothers aged 15-19. The national teen birth rate is 27 per 1,000.

Source: Rex_Wholster / Getty Images

11. Odessa, TX
> Preschool enrollment: 35.3% (lowest 20%)
> High school graduation rate: 77.8% (lowest 20%)
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 63.8% (lowest 20%)
> Violent crime rate: 713.5 per 100,000 (highest 10%)

Teen pregnancy can cause increased health risks for both the mother and the child when compared to women who are between 19 and 35. Odessa, Texas has the highest teen birth rate in the United States as 76 out of every 1,000 children born are born to teenage mothers. The nationwide average is 27 per 1,000 and the next highest birth rate in the country is just 71 per 1,000. High teen pregnancy in Odessa may be one of the reasons why the graduation rate is among the lowest in the nation. Some 30% of girls who drop out do so because they are pregnant or have a child.

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