Special Report

Worst Cities to Raise Children

Source: Mikereichold 16:11, 4 September 2008 (UTC) / Wikimedia Commons

5. Rocky Mount, NC
> Preschool enrollment: 19.6% (lowest 10%)
> High school graduation rate: 81.2%
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 51.0% (lowest 10%)
> Violent crime rate: 448.3 per 100,000

The Rocky Mount area has one of the lowest preschool enrollment rates in the country. Only in six other metro areas are fewer than 20% of three and four year olds enrolled in preschool. Children in preschool get an early start on their educational development, and those who do not could have difficulty catching up to their peers. Despite some government assistance, low-income families may have a harder time getting children into preschool. Rocky Mount’s median family income of $51,474 is nearly $20,000 below the national average and one of the lowest in the country.

Source: duggar11 / Flickr

4. Lawton, OK
> Preschool enrollment: 38.7%
> High school graduation rate: 79.5%
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 42.5% (lowest 10%)
> Violent crime rate: 627.8 per 100,000 (highest 20%)

Children in Lawton, Oklahoma tend to lag behind the rest of the country in key educational measures. The 79.5% graduation rate is one of the lower percentages in the country, noticeably behind the 84.1% average among metro areas. There are also a relatively low share of Lawton three- and four-year-olds in preschool at 38.7%. Nationally, 48.0% of children that age go to preschool.

A lack of places for exercise out can contribute to a higher obesity rate, leading to a number of serious health problems later in life for children. Just 42.5% of Lawton, Oklahoma residents reported having a place to get physical activity, making it one of the ten worst places in the nation for exercise accessibility.

Source: D Coetzee / Flickr

3. Medford, OR
> Preschool enrollment: 34.5% (lowest 20%)
> High school graduation rate: 75.0% (lowest 10%)
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 36.7% (lowest 10%)
> Violent crime rate: 357.8 per 100,000

One out of every four Medford, Oregon area high school students failed to graduate high school on time. Only a handful of other metro areas have a lower high school graduation rate. Younger students in the area, ages three and four, are also among the least likely to be in school. Just 34.5% of preschool-aged children are enrolled in school — well below the 48.0% national average.

Though the violent crime rate in the Medford area is below the national average, it is among the most prone to theft. There were 3,524 thefts reported for every 100,000 residents, more than double the national average. Children can often feel unsettled by living in high crime areas, which can harm their emotional development.

Source: Geoff Eccles / Getty Images

2. Battle Creek, MI
> Preschool enrollment: 16.3% (lowest 10%)
> High school graduation rate: 74.9% (lowest 10%)
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 77.5%
> Violent crime rate: 746.7 per 100,000 (highest 10%)

Preschool attendance has been shown to improve academic preparedness in children and help cognitive development. Battle Creek, Michigan has a very low rate of three- and four-year-olds in preschool. The 16.3% preschool enrollment rate is nearly one-third the U.S. rate of 48.0%. Only two other metro areas have a lower preschool enrollment rate. The Battle Creek area’s median family income is $60,365, falling more than $10,000 short of the national median. Some 26.8% of Battle Creek children live in poverty, compared to 19.5% of children nationwide. Children who are raised in poverty tend to have lower educational attainment rates and less economic mobility.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

1. Farmington, NM
> Preschool enrollment: 47.0%
> High school graduation rate: 71.8% (lowest 10%)
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 52.5% (lowest 10%)
> Violent crime rate: 947.4 per 100,000 (highest 10%)

Farmington, New Mexico is the worst place in America to raise a child, as it is well below average in a number of key factors that determine what makes a place suitable for raising children. Farmington’s violent crime rate of 947 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents is the fourth-highest in the country. The average community reports 368 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. The Farmington area’s high school graduation rate of 71.8% is also among the worst in the country. Among metro areas, the average graduation rate is 84.1%.

A small share of Farmington area residents, 52.5%, reported having a place to exercise. This lack of public spaces for exercise can indicate that there is a lack of monetary support for the community. The median family income of $63,973 is several thousand dollars below the national median. Some 25.5% of Farmington area children live in poverty, above the national child poverty rate of 19.5%.

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