• ValuePenguin, a personal finance site, ranked the best cities to raise young families.
  • Out of 156 metros, Houston came in no. 2.
  • The rankings considered a variety of factors important to young families, including commute times, outdoor activities and education.

A variety of factors come into play when deciding where to settle a young family.

Fortunately, there are a wide variety of lists, tools and calculators that can be used to make that call. Some, of course, are better than others.

But for Houston, and Texas as a whole, a new ranking finds both the city and the state very family-friendly.

Of the 156 cities studied, Houston ranks no. 2. And, Texas is the most popular state in the overall top 10, making it the no. 1 state for those just starting out.

Personal finance website ValuePenguin did it’s homework to cull its own list of great spots for a young family to grow. From economics and education to safety and healthcare and beyond, there can be a mind-boggling number of factors to consider.

ValuePenguin’s number-crunchers came up with 16 data points from eight sources, and sprinkled in the musing of three experts to come up with its list.

On the positive side, by category, Houston ranks:

  • No. 8 for economic strength
  • No. 7 for the percentage of kids in the population
  • No. 17 as a desirable place for working parents
  • No. 18 in mortgage to income ratio
  • No. 42 for outdoor activities

The lowest ranking likely is not a surprise to Houstonites: average commute time came in at no. 145. Safety and healthcare came in relatively low, too, at no. 134.

The analysts at ValuePenguin chose the criteria not only from economic data but quality of life measures. They wanted to know if kids would be able to play outside, and if that play would involve other kids their own age.

Houston has plenty of neighbors on the list.

Austin took the top spot, and Dallas came in at no. 5. Sandwiched in between was Raleigh, North Carolina at no. 3, and Des Moines, Iowa at no. 4.

Determining a family-friendly city

To rank America’s best cities according to climate, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data were combined: the number of days of measurable precipitation; the number of days of a minimum temperature of 32 degrees or less; and the number of days of a maximum temperature of 90 degrees or more. The best were those cities that recorded the fewest days of each extreme.

The U.S. Census Bureau provides the numbers on commute times.

The most important consideration for young families when choosing a city was perhaps the most difficult to measure effectively: education quality. The researchers cobbled together four categories for the education score: the number of children in a city; the percentage of families in poverty; the rating of the school systems (as rated by GreatSchools.org); and the proximity of state universities.

Affordability is critical to young family desires.

Four data points mattered in that calculation, for both homebuyers and renters: the cost of living index; average real estate taxes; the ratio between income and mortgage amounts; and the percent of residents who spend 40 percent or more of their income on rent.

Email Kimberley Sirk.

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