Special Report

Worst Cities to Raise Children

Perhaps the most important environmental factor to a child’s development is the home — and conditions at home are largely up to the parents. There are, however, many other factors in a child’s surroundings that can be critical to healthy development that are largely outside of parental control.

A child’s physical and mental well-being and overall chances for success later in life can all be influenced by conditions in the broader community. Such factors include school quality, access to preschool, proximity to parks and places for recreation, and the presence of crime. In areas that lag in these measures, children can be at a considerable disadvantage. 

Using data from a range of sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau and the FBI, 24/7 Wall St. created an index of four measures — preschool enrollment, high school graduation, property crime, and access to places for physical activity — to identify the worst cities in which to raise children. 

Though median income and other measures of financial security and well-being were not included in our index, the cities on this list tend to have larger than typical shares of poor residents. Of the 25 worst cities to raise children, 21 have a higher poverty rate than the national rate of 13.4%. Many of these cities also rank among the poorest cities in America. Here is a full list of the cities with the highest poverty rates

Low incomes in the cities on this list may have a negative effect on school quality as nearly half of all public school funding in the United States comes from local sources like property taxes. While the relationship between school spending and student outcomes is complicated, a weaker tax base may partially explain the low graduation rates in many of these cities. 

It is important to note that a low graduation rate in a metro area does not necessarily mean all area schools are poor-performing, as multiple school districts can fall within a single metro area. Here is a district level look at the schools where students are least likely to succeed by state.

Click here to see the worst cities to raise children
Click here to read our methodology

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