Special Report

Worst Cities to Raise Children

Source: Jdcollins13 / Wikimedia Commons

10. Jacksonville, NC
> Preschool enrollment: 28.2% (lowest 10%)
> High school graduation rate: 88.9%
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 51.0% (lowest 10%)
> Property crime rate: N/A

Only about half of the Jacksonville, North Carolina, metro area population has access to places for physical activity like parks, playgrounds, and recreational centers. Nationwide, 84.0% of the population has access to such places.

Preschool can be critical for a child’s cognitive development, and children in Jacksonville are far less likely to be enrolled in a preschool program than most children. Just 28.2% of 3- and 4-year olds in the metro area attend preschool compared to 48.0% of 3- and 4-year olds nationwide.

Source: David Crockett Photo / Getty Images

9. Hanford-Corcoran, CA
> Preschool enrollment: 31.0% (lowest 20%)
> High school graduation rate: 80.4% (lowest 20%)
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 42.6% (lowest 10%)
> Property crime rate: 1,967 crimes per 100,000 people

Access to places for recreational areas like parks and playgrounds can help encourage young children to be physically active. However, only 42.6% of the Hanford-Corcoran, California, metro area residents have easy access to such places, the smallest share of any U.S. city.

High school students in Hanford-Corcoran are also less likely to graduate on time than most high schoolers. The graduation rate of 80.4% across the metro area falls below that of the vast majority of metro areas nationwide and the national graduation rate of 84.6%.

Source: yenwen / Getty Images

8. Anchorage, AK
> Preschool enrollment: 33.0% (lowest 20%)
> High school graduation rate: 79.4% (lowest 20%)
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 83.6%
> Property crime rate: 5,441 crimes per 100,000 people (highest 10%)

Areas with high concentrations of crime are less than ideal for families with young children. Not only is the likelihood of being the victim of a crime is higher than average, but also high crime rates in a community can have a negative psychological impact on everyone living there.

In Anchorage, the violent crime rate of 1,163 incidents per 100,000 people is more than three times the national violent crime rate, and the metro area’s property crime rate of 5,441 incidents per 100,000 is more than double the national property crime rate.

Source: Davel5957 / Getty Images

7. Charleston, WV
> Preschool enrollment: 24.3% (lowest 10%)
> High school graduation rate: 83.9%
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 62.7% (lowest 10%)
> Property crime rate: N/A

Charleston is the only West Virginia metro area to rank on this list. The low ranking is due in large part to the low-preschool enrollment rate in the capital city. Less than 25% of 3- and 4-year olds in Charleston are enrolled in preschool, about half the comparable national enrollment rate.

Children in Charleston are also less likely than most to have easy access to places to play. Just 62.7% of the metro area population has access to recreation areas like parks and playgrounds, one of the smallest shares nationwide.

Source: Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons

6. Hinesville, GA
> Preschool enrollment: 28.3% (lowest 10%)
> High school graduation rate: 83.3%
> Pop. with access to areas for exercise: 60.1% (lowest 10%)
> Property crime rate: N/A

Early childhood education programs can have many benefits for children and families — from improved cognitive development to offering single and working parents childcare. In Hinesville, just 28.3% of 3- and 4-year olds are enrolled in preschool, a smaller share than in at least 90% of U.S. metro areas.

People in Hinesville have limited access to parks, recreation centers, and other venues for social and physical activity that can be beneficial for childhood development. Just 60.1% of metro area residents have access to such places, one of the smallest shares of any U.S. metro area and well below the 84.0% national rate.

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