Special Report

Worst Cities to Raise Children

Source: brostad / Flickr

20. Yakima, WA
> Preschool enrollment: 30.1% (lowest 10%)
> High school graduation rate: 78.5% (lowest 10%)
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 75.3%
> Property crime rate: 3,235 crimes per 100,000 people (highest 20%)

High school students in Yakima, Washington, are less likely to graduate on time than those in at least 90% of metro areas nationwide. Yakima’s graduation rate of 78.5% is well below the national rate of 84.6%. A strong early childhood education program can be beneficial to cognitive development, but in Yakima, just 30.1% of 3- and 4-year olds are enrolled in preschool, one of the lowest enrollment rates among U.S. metro areas.

Source: stevegeer / Getty Images

19. Muskegon, MI
> Preschool enrollment: 24.7% (lowest 10%)
> High school graduation rate: 80.6% (lowest 20%)
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 77.4%
> Property crime rate: 3,354 crimes per 100,000 people (highest 20%)

Muskegon is the only metro area in Michigan — and the broader Midwestern United States — to rank on this list. Preschool can be critical for early childhood cognitive development, and in Muskegon, less than 25% of 3- and 4-year olds are enrolled in preschool, one of the smallest shares of any metro area and only about half the national enrollment rate.

High crime rates can detract from the quality of life in a community and are indicative of a less than ideal environment in which to raise children. In Muskegon, there were 3,354 property crimes for every 100,000 people in 2017, more than in at least 80% of U.S. metro areas.

Source: Davel5957 / Getty Images

18. Cheyenne, WY
> Preschool enrollment: 27.6% (lowest 10%)
> High school graduation rate: 79.2% (lowest 10%)
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 71.3%
> Property crime rate: 2,843 crimes per 100,000 people

A high school diploma is a prerequisite to the vast majority of employment opportunities in the United States — and students in Cheyenne, Wyoming, are less likely to graduate from high school on time than the typical American student. Cheyenne’s graduation rate of 79.2% is below that of at least 90% of U.S. metro areas.

A strong early childhood education program can help working and single parents manage childcare responsibilities and help in a child’s cognitive development. In Cheyenne, just 27.6% of 3- and 4-year olds are enrolled in preschool, one of the smallest shares of any metro area.

Source: Leonard J. DeFrancisci / Wikimedia Commons

17. Rocky Mount, NC
> Preschool enrollment: 38.5%
> High school graduation rate: 81.3% (lowest 20%)
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 51.7% (lowest 10%)
> Property crime rate: 2,364 crimes per 100,000 people

Having access to parks and playgrounds, where children can be active and get exercise is important for a child’s physical development. Yet barely over half of the people who live in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, area have access to a place where they can get physical activity, at 51.7%. This is one of the lowest access rates in the country.

Education spending in North Carolina is relatively low. Of all the taxable resources collected in the state, just 2.3% go to education, less than the 3.3% national average.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

16. Alexandria, LA
> Preschool enrollment: 52.9% (highest 20%)
> High school graduation rate: 78.8% (lowest 10%)
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 72.4%
> Property crime rate: 4,764 crimes per 100,000 people (highest 10%)

Fewer than three out of every four Alexandria metro area residents have access to places for physical activity like parks and playgrounds, compared to 84% of the population nationwide.

Alexandria also has some of the worst performing high schools in the country — at least as measured by graduation rates. Across the metro area, just 78.8% of high schooler graduate on time, well below the 84.6% national high school graduation rate.

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