The 25 Best Places to Live for Families in the U.S. in 2019

These metro areas meet the most important criteria for families looking to relocate.

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |June 19, 2019, at 5:23 p.m.

The 25 Best Places to Live for Families in the U.S. in 2019

Slideshow

What are the best metro areas for families?

Family enjoying the weekend in their home

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Choosing to move to a new part of the country can be a daunting task, especially if you’re moving your entire family. To help you find the right metro area for raising your kids, we pulled in factors from the Best Places to Live in the U.S. rankings, including affordability, quality of life and job market. Weighted equally, these scores combine to make the Best Places to Live for Families list, taking into consideration not only the cost of living and median annual salary, but the quality of high school education, average commute time, crime rate, the area's overall well-being and access to top-notch health care.

25. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

25. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The churches and neighborhoods seen from the South Street Parking Garage in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 44
Metro Population: 565,008
Median Home Price: $162,967
Median Annual Salary: $48,270
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 21.98%
College Readiness Rank: 97
Average Commute Time: 22.9 minutes

The capital of Pennsylvania has a cost of living that’s less than 22% of the median annual household income. While college readiness among high school students, based on the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings, leaves something to be desired at 97th out of 125 metro areas, Harrisburg scores well for its close access to plenty of highly ranked hospitals and relatively low property crime and murder rates.

Learn more about Harrisburg.

24. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky

24. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky

Old historic city downtown of Lexington, Kentucky, USA

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 29
Metro Population: 500,689
Median Home Value: $178,400*
Median Annual Salary: $43,720
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 21.49%
College Readiness Rank: 31
Average Commute Time: 21.4 minutes

With an average morning commute of just 21.4 minutes, Lexington-Fayette residents can spend more time at home. They also have less to worry about when it comes to job availability, as the unemployment rate in this Kentucky metro area is just 3.4% – below the national average of 3.9%.

Learn more about Lexington-Fayette.

(*The median home price for Lexington-Fayette was not available, median home value is listed.)

23. Cincinnati

23. Cincinnati

Midwest vacations

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 39
Metro Population: 2,156,723
Median Home Price: $161,483
Median Annual Salary: $48,890
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 21%
College Readiness Rank: 50
Average Commute Time: 24.7 minutes

The cost of living in Cincinnati requires just 21% of the median annual household income, which helps families and individuals keep more money for basic needs and entertainment. Looking at the quality of life data, Cincinnati scores best for its low property crime and murder rates, based on Federal Bureau of Investigation data, and also ranks above 75 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list for college readiness among high school students.

Learn more about Cincinnati.

22. Indianapolis

22. Indianapolis

Image of the Indianapolis skyline with busy traffic and dramatic sky.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 38
Metro Population: 1,989,032
Median Home Price: $173,700
Median Annual Salary: $48,030
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.72%
College Readiness Rank: 67
Average Commute Time: 24.8 minutes

The average morning commute for Indianapolis residents is 24.8 minutes – higher than other metro areas on the list so far – but that extra time away from home is offset by a cost of living that's less than 21% of the median annual household income.

Learn more about Indianapolis.

21. Syracuse, New York

21. Syracuse, New York

view of the city of Syracuse, new york

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 54
Metro Population: 659,262
Median Home Price: $132,500
Median Annual Salary: $49,850
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 21.51%
College Readiness Rank: 41
Average Commute Time: 21.2 minutes

The cost of living in Syracuse is just 21.51% of the median annual household income. In addition, the median home price for the upstate New York metro area is just $132,500, well below the national median price of $226,500, which helps keep the chances of sticker shock minimal for local homebuyers.

Learn more about Syracuse.

20. Lansing, Michigan

20. Lansing, Michigan

Lansing downtown skyline (with the Boji Tower on the right) with the Michigan State Capitol building in the back.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 41
Metro Population: 472,092
Median Home Price: $136,342
Median Annual Salary: $47,990
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 22.16%
College Readiness Rank: 72
Average Commute Time: 21.2 minutes

With an average commute of just 21.2 minutes and an unemployment rate of 3.7%, Lansing area residents don’t have to worry about finding a job or traveling too far for work. Lansing also ranks eighth out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for its access to high-ranking hospitals, based on U.S. News Best Hospitals data.

Learn more about Lansing.

19. Boise, Idaho

19. Boise, Idaho

Warm sunlight of morning bathes the Idaho State Capitol dome

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 17
Metro Population: 677,346
Median Home Price: $221,475
Median Annual Salary: $43,880
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 22.67%
College Readiness Rank: 65
Average Commute Time: 22 minutes

The median annual salary in Boise, at $43,880, is below the national average of $50,620. However, the area maintains a cost of living that makes it less of a struggle, with Boise residents spending 22.67% of the median annual household income on housing, while the national median is 23.58%.

Learn more about Boise.

18. Salt Lake City

18. Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City overview in the night

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 24
Metro Population: 2,399,521
Median Home Price: $324,198
Median Annual Salary: $47,272
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 22.14%
College Readiness Rank: 59
Average Commute Time: 22.2 minutes

Salt Lake City has long held a reputation as a family-friendly metro area, and the median age of just 30.2 years shows how large a role children and young people play in the makeup of the area. Additionally, Salt Lake City residents benefit from an average commute of just 22.2 minutes.

Learn more about Salt Lake City.

17. Albany, New York

17. Albany, New York

Albany, New York state capital, street view, USA

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 28
Metro Population: 881,862
Median Home Price: $201,533
Median Annual Salary: $52,770
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 22.71%
College Readiness Rank: 49
Average Commute Time: 23.1 minutes

While Albany’s unemployment rate of 3.9% matches the national average, the median annual salary, at $52,770, is more than $2,000 above the national average. Albany’s crime rates are also well below average, with just over two murders per 100,000 people and 1,900 property crimes per 100,000 people in 2017, based on FBI data.

Learn more about Albany.

16. Boston

16. Boston

Rush hour traffic on Tobin bridge (aka Mystic River bride) heading towards Zakim bridge and Boston skyline at sunset.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 27
Metro Population: 4,771,936
Median Home Price: $423,450
Median Annual Salary: $65,420
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.54%
College Readiness Rank: 11
Average Commute Time: 31 minutes

The second-largest metro area on the Best Places to Live for Families list, Boston comes in at No. 16. Beantown ranks 11th for college preparedness among high school students and experiences below-average rates of property crime and murder. Of course, living in a bigger metro area means more time on the road, as the average commute is 31 minutes.

Learn more about Boston.

15. Manchester, New Hampshire

15. Manchester, New Hampshire

Manchester is the largest city in the state of New Hampshire and the largest city in northern New England. Manchester is known for its industrial heritage, riverside mills, affordability, and arts & cultural destination.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 43
Metro Population: 406,371
Median Home Price: $234,097
Median Annual Salary: $52,640
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 24.12%
College Readiness Rank: 73
Average Commute Time: 27.9 minutes

Ranking No. 73 for college readiness among high school students, Manchester doesn’t have the highest scores for education on the list. Other factors, however, including its access to ample highly ranked health care options, make Manchester a contender for families considering their next move. Manchester also has an unemployment rate of just 2.5%, reducing any parent’s concerns for being out of work for an extended period.

Learn more about Manchester.

14. Portland, Maine

14. Portland, Maine

Portland is the largest city in the state of Maine located on a penninsula extended into the scenic Casco Bay. Portland is known for its maritime services, boutique shops,cobbleston streets, fishing piers, vibrant art district and fine dining

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 23
Metro Population: 525,776
Median Home Price: $223,367
Median Annual Salary: $48,970
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 24.02%
College Readiness Rank: 37
Average Commute Time: 24.8 minutes

In the annual Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, which surveys residents in metro areas across the U.S. about their sense of security, overall happiness and community pride, Portland ranked sixth out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the country. This solid well-being score combined with low crime rates – just four murders in 2017, according to FBI data – help Portland rank seventh for Quality of Life on the overall Best Places to Live list.

Learn more about Portland.

13. Fort Wayne, Indiana

13. Fort Wayne, Indiana

FortWayne, Indiana

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 40
Metro Population: 429,060
Median Home Price: $146,200
Median Annual Salary: $43,590
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.57%
College Readiness Rank: 110
Average Commute Time: 21.5 minutes

The second-most affordable metro area on the Best Places to Live list, Fort Wayne residents spend just 19.57% of the median annual household income on housing expenses. However, the Fort Wayne metro area ranks 110th out of 125 metro areas for college readiness among high school students, though it’s offset by a short average commute time and ranking sixth for access to quality health care.

Learn more about Fort Wayne.

12. Austin, Texas

12. Austin, Texas

Sunrise Mount Bonnell Austin Texas Boat Ride Colorado River , with all the mansions and some of the most expensive houses in all of central texas. Houses in a community spread out across the edge of the river or town lake. One boat rides across the glass smooth lake making ripples and a wake in its path. As the sunrises over the hills the sky is lit up gold from golden hour.

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Metro Population: 2,000,590
Median Home Price: $292,500
Median Annual Salary: $51,840
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 23.4%
College Readiness Rank: 7
Average Commute Time: 26.8 minutes

The capital of Texas ranks seventh for its college readiness among high school students. As a fast-growing metro area, Austin’s cost of living has increased in recent years, but it remains low compared to other major U.S. tech hubs, requiring 23.4% of the median annual household income for the cost of living.

Learn more about Austin.

11. Omaha, Nebraska

11. Omaha, Nebraska

Omaha, Nebraska is one of the best fall family vacations

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 32
Metro Population: 914,190
Median Home Price: $171,164
Median Annual Salary: $47,660
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 21.29%
College Readiness Rank: 105
Average Commute Time: 20.2 minutes

This Omaha metro area benefits from an unemployment rate a full percentage point below the national average, at 2.9%. Combined with a short average commute of 20.2 minutes and a cost of living requiring just 21.29% of the median household income, Omaha parents don’t have to worry about finding a job, spend little time getting to work and keep more of the money they earn for their family.

Learn more about Omaha.

10. Denver

10. Denver

Denver

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 2
Metro Population: 2,798,684
Median Home Price: $393,842
Median Annual Salary: $57,400
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 23.42%
College Readiness Rank: 13
Average Commute Time: 27.5 minutes

Denver residents may endure a longer commute to work – 27.5 minutes, on average – but they don’t seem too unhappy about it. Denver ranks 24th out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. In addition, high school students are getting a solid education, as Denver ranks 13th for college readiness.

Learn more about Denver.

9. Washington, D.C.

9. Washington, D.C.

Washington DC city view at a orange sunset, including Washington Monument from Capitol building

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 19
Metro Population: 6,090,196
Median Home Price: $376,767
Median Annual Salary: $69,210
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 23.77%
College Readiness Rank: 9
Average Commute Time: 34.6 minutes

As the largest metro area on the Best Places to Live for Families list, the District of Columbia offers ample high-quality high school options – the metro area ranks ninth overall, based on U.S. News Best High Schools data. Plus, the plethora of federal government and government contractor jobs, in addition to a growing tech scene, lead to a high median annual salary of $69,210. Naturally, the trade-off comes in the form of a long commute, as residents should expect to spend, on average, nearly 35 minutes traveling between home and work.

Learn more about Washington.

8. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

8. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina, USA park and skyline.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 10
Metro Population: 1,824,266
Median Home Price: $249,294
Median Annual Salary: $53,788
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 21.47%
College Readiness Rank: 32
Average Commute Time: 25.3 minutes

Families living in the Raleigh and Durham metro area benefit from a high median annual salary of $53,788. Residents can also worry less about staying unemployed for long periods of time, as the Raleigh and Durham area has a below-average unemployment rate of 3.4%. The average morning commute time in the Raleigh and Durham area is 25.3 minutes.

Learn more about Raleigh and Durham.

7. San Jose, California

7. San Jose, California

City hall stands watch over the rest of San Jose

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 14
Metro Population: 1,969,897
Median Home Price: $1,080,017
Median Annual Salary: $77,180
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.08%
College Readiness Rank: 1
Average Commute Time: 28.2 minutes

If quality education is a priority, you can’t go wrong living in the San Jose metro area, which ranks No. 1 out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for college readiness among high school students. However, the good schools come at a cost, with residents spending a larger share of the median annual household income on the cost of living. Plus, the median home price is over $1 million.

Learn more about San Jose.

6. Madison, Wisconsin

6. Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, WI, USA - July 29, 2015: View of State street looking towards the State Capitol building in Madison Wisconsin

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 12
Metro Population: 640,072
Median Home Price: $247,967
Median Annual Salary: $52,190
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 23.01%
College Readiness Rank: 38
Average Commute Time: 21.7 minutes

Madison residents spend a bit more on housing than other metro areas on the list, but the benefits may outweigh the cost. Low crime rates compared to the national average, high scores among high school students to show college readiness and an average morning commute of just 21.7 minutes make many families happy to call Madison home.

Learn more about Madison.

5. Grand Rapids, Michigan

5. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Big Cloud over Grand Rapids, Michigan

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 13
Metro Population: 1,039,182
Median Home Price: $181,533
Median Annual Salary: $44,770
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.68%
College Readiness Rank: 24
Average Commute Time: 21.8 minutes

Grand Rapids residents have to spend just 20.68% of the median annual household income on housing. Additionally, Grand Rapids ranks third for Quality of Life on the overall Best Places to Live list – in part for its rank as 24th for college readiness among high school students and an average morning commute of just 21.8 minutes.

Learn more about Grand Rapids.

4. Huntsville, Alabama

4. Huntsville, Alabama

A daytime cityscape of Huntsville, Al.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 11
Metro Population: 444,908
Median Home Price: $167,300
Median Annual Salary: $53,600
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.3%
College Readiness Rank: 48
Average Commute Time: 22.1 minutes

Not only is the median annual salary, at $53,600, above the national average of $50,620, but residents also spend just 19.3% of the median household income on the cost of living – making Huntsville the most affordable metro area out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Learn more about Huntsville.

3. Fayetteville, Arkansas

3. Fayetteville, Arkansas

bikers and walkers use the Razorback Greenway over the dam at Lake Fayetteville in Northwest Arkansas on a sunny day with whit clouds

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 4
Metro Population: 514,166
Median Home Price: $177,942
Median Annual Salary: $45,830
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.44%
College Readiness Rank: 35
Average Commute Time: 21.1 minutes

A low cost of living is easy to find in this northwest Arkansas metro area. With residents spending just 20.44% of the median household income on housing, Fayetteville is the fourth-most affordable place to live out of the 125 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list. Another bonus: More spare time can be spent at home before and after work, as the average commute is just 21.1 minutes.

Learn more about Fayetteville.

2. Minneapolis-St. Paul

2. Minneapolis-St. Paul

Last minute vacation in Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 6
Metro Population: 3,526,149
Median Home Price: $237,367
Median Annual Salary: $56,030
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 21.5%
College Readiness Rank: 30
Average Commute Time: 25.3 minutes

For families considering a move to the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, expect to find many quality high school options, low crime rates and an overall feeling of well-being among the neighbors. Minneapolis-St. Paul ranks 22nd out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. in the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index.

Learn more about Minneapolis-St. Paul.

1. Des Moines, Iowa

1. Des Moines, Iowa

Downtown Des Moines skyline and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway bridge, with a sea of puffy clouds in the background and the Des Moines River in the foreground.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 5
Metro Population: 623,113
Median Home Price: $178,942
Median Annual Salary: $50,600
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.11%
College Readiness Rank: 92
Average Commute Time: 20.3 minutes

Ranking No. 5 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Des Moines is the Best Place to Live for Families in the U.S. The low cost of living in this Midwestern metro area ensures just 20.11% of the median household income is required for housing needs. While college readiness is a weak spot for the metro area, ranking 97th, low crime rates, an overall feeling of well-being among residents and a short average commute lead to Des Moines taking the top spot.

Learn more about Des Moines.

The Best Places to Live for Families include:

The Best Places to Live for Families include:

USA, Florida, Stuart, Aerial view of suburbs

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  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • Fayetteville, Arkansas
  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • San Jose, California
  • Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Denver
  • Omaha, Nebraska
  • Austin, Texas
  • Fort Wayne, Indiana
  • Portland, Maine
  • Manchester, New Hampshire
  • Boston
  • Albany, New York
  • Salt Lake City
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Lansing, Michigan
  • Syracuse, New York
  • Indianapolis
  • Cincinnati
  • Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky
  • Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Read More

Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.


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