Special Report

Worst Cities to Raise Children

Source: Grant Wylie / Getty Images

15. Medford, OR
> Preschool enrollment: 28.3% (lowest 10%)
> High school graduation rate: 77.0% (lowest 10%)
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 82.6%
> Property crime rate: 3,892 crimes per 100,000 people (highest 10%)

A high incidence of crime makes Medford a less than ideal metro area in which to raise children. There were 3,892 crimes like burglary and motor vehicle theft for every 100,000 people in the area in 2017, a higher property crime rate than in over 90% of U.S. metro areas.

Metro area high schools are also graduating a far smaller than typical share of their students on time. The graduation rate of 77.0% in Medford is considerably lower than the 84.6% national high school graduation rate.

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14. Pueblo, CO
> Preschool enrollment: 47.0%
> High school graduation rate: 81.0% (lowest 20%)
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 68.1% (lowest 20%)
> Property crime rate: 4,838 crimes per 100,000 people (highest 10%)

High crime rates can take a toll on the community. High crime areas are more dangerous and can cause stress that detracts from the overall quality of life.

Pueblo, Colorado, has the third highest property crime rate of any metro area in the country, with 4,838 reported incidents per 100,000 people, more than double the U.S. property crime rate of 2,362 per 100,000. Pueblo’s violent crime rate of 726 incidents per 100,000 residents is also one of the highest in the country and close to twice as high as the national rate.

Source: Matt Czarnocki / Flickr

13. Florence, SC
> Preschool enrollment: 38.2%
> High school graduation rate: 87.0%
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 59.9% (lowest 10%)
> Property crime rate: 4,426 crimes per 100,000 people (highest 10%)

Florence, South Carolina, has the third highest murder rate of U.S. metro areas, with 23.3 reported homicides per 100,000 residents — more than four times the nationwide rate. This is not only generally dangerous, but it can also contribute to stress and anxiety for area residents.

Many of the cities on this list are home to large shares of residents facing serious financial hardship — and Florence is no exception. The metro area’s 19.3% poverty rate is well above the 13.4% nationwide poverty rate.

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12. Gadsden, AL
> Preschool enrollment: 35.8% (lowest 20%)
> High school graduation rate: 90.3%
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 45.2% (lowest 10%)
> Property crime rate: 3,781 crimes per 100,000 people (highest 10%)

Gadsden ranks as the worst of the three Alabama metro areas on this list. One primary explanation for area’s low ranking is its lack of public parks and playgrounds. Just 45.2% of metro area residents have access to recreational areas, the third smallest share of any U.S. metro area.

Crime is also relatively common in Gadsden. There were 3,781 property crimes for every 100,000 people in the metro area in 2017, more than in over 90% of metro areas nationwide.

Source: GarysFRP / Getty Images

11. Albany, OR
> Preschool enrollment: 13.3% (lowest 10%)
> High school graduation rate: 74.8% (lowest 10%)
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 76.6%
> Property crime rate: 2,547 crimes per 100,000 people

Early childhood education can be critical for cognitive development, and strong preschool programs can help working and single parent households with childcare. In Albany, Oregon, just 13.3% of 3- and 4-year olds are enrolled in preschool, the smallest share of any metro area in the country.

Area high schools are also lagging behind much of the nation. Fewer than three out of every four high school students in the Albany metro area graduate on time, nearly 10 percentage points below the national graduation rate.

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