The 25 Best Places to Live for Families in the U.S. in 2020-2021

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

U.S. News & World Report

The 25 Best Places to Live for Families in the U.S. in 2020-2021

Single mother playing with young sons in front of house
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What are the best metro areas for families?

Moving 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 started with the Best Places to Live in the U.S. rankings for 2020-2021, then weighted affordability, quality of life and job market equally. These scores combine to make the Best Places to Live for Families, taking into consideration not only the cost of living and average annual salary, but also the quality of high school education, average commute time, crime rate, the area’s overall well-being and access to top-notch health care.

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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25. Manchester, New Hampshire

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 54
Metro Population: 411,087
Metro Size: 876.5 square miles
Median Home Price: $273,967
Average Annual Salary: $53,660

Manchester residents spend 23.8% of the area’s median household income on housing expenses, which include mortgage payments, rent, property taxes and utilities. This is helped by Manchester’s above-average annual salary, which at $53,660 is nearly $2,000 above the national average of $51,960. Manchester also ranks 13th out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for its proximity to quality health care, based on information from the U.S. News Best Hospitals ranking.

Learn more about Manchester.

Next:

What are the best metro areas for families?

Moving 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 started with the Best Places to Live in the U.S. rankings for 2020-2021, then weighted affordability, quality of life and job market equally. These scores combine to make the Best Places to Live for Families, taking into consideration not only the cost of living and average annual salary, but also 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. Manchester, New Hampshire

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 54
Metro Population: 411,087
Metro Size: 876.5 square miles
Median Home Price: $273,967
Average Annual Salary: $53,660

Manchester residents spend 23.8% of the area’s median household income on housing expenses, which include mortgage payments, rent, property taxes and utilities. This is helped by Manchester’s above-average annual salary, which at $53,660 is nearly $2,000 above the national average of $51,960. Manchester also ranks 13th out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for its proximity to quality health care, based on information from the U.S. News Best Hospitals ranking.

Learn more about Manchester.

24. Cincinnati

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 56
Metro Population: 2,168,825
Metro Size: 4,546.2 square miles
Median Home Price: $165,942
Average Annual Salary: $50,030

The cost of living in Cincinnati requires just 20.67% of the median annual household income, which helps families and individuals keep more money for basic needs and discretionary spending. Looking at 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 99 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list for college readiness among high school students, based on data from the U.S. News Best High Schools ranking.

Learn more about Cincinnati.

23. Hartford, Connecticut

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 65
Metro Population: 1,209,367
Metro Size: 1,514.6 square miles
Median Home Price: $217,358
Average Annual Salary: $60,820

Hartford’s average annual salary of $60,820 means you’re likely to bring more money home to your family. While the cost of living in Hartford is a bit higher than in some metro areas on this list, it’s still low for New England, requiring 23.64% of the median household income. Additionally, Hartford’s pre-pandemic unemployment rate, 3.8%, is roughly on par with the national unemployment rate of 3.7%.

Learn more about Hartford.

22. Austin, Texas

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 3
Metro Population: 2,058,351
Metro Size: 4,222 square miles
Median Home Price: $313,308
Average Annual Salary: $53,810

The capital of Texas ranks 17th for college readiness among high school students. Since it's 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 23.42% of the area’s median household income to cover the cost of living. In the overall Best Places to Live ranking, Austin ranks No. 3, after only Boulder, Colorado, and Denver.

Learn more about Austin.

21. Fort Wayne, Indiana

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 63
Metro Population: 431,612
Metro Size: 992.9 square miles
Median Home Price: $147,092
Average Annual Salary: $45,280

The second-most affordable metro area on the Best Places to Live list, Fort Wayne residents spend just 19.31% of the area’s median annual household income on housing expenses. However, the Fort Wayne metro area ranks No. 131 out of 150 metro areas for college readiness among high school students. But on the plus side, Fort Wayne boasts a short average commute time and ranks 15th for access to quality health care.

Learn more about Fort Wayne.

20. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 11
Metro Population: 1,861,123
Metro Size: 4,660.3 square miles
Median Home Price: $259,429
Average Annual Salary: $54,789

Families living in the Raleigh and Durham metro area benefit from a high average annual salary of $54,789, and its pre-pandemic unemployment rate was below the national rate at 3.4%. The average morning commute time in the Raleigh and Durham area is 25.6 minutes. Residents can expect to spend 21.28% of the area’s median annual household income on housing expenses.

Learn more about Raleigh and Durham.

19. Boston

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 18
Metro Population: 4,811,732
Metro Size: 3,486.2 square miles
Median Home Price: $441,358
Average Annual Salary: $67,370

The second-largest metro area on this list, Beantown ranks 17th out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for college readiness 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: The average commute is 31.4 minutes.

Learn more about Boston.

18. Albany, New York

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 47
Metro Population: 880,481
Metro Size: 2,811.7 square miles
Median Home Price: $204,250
Average Annual Salary: $54,400

While Albany’s pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 3.7% matches the national average, its average annual salary, at $54,400, is more than $2,000 above the national average. Albany’s crime rates are well below average, with just over two murders per 100,000 people and less than 1,900 property crimes per 100,000 people in 2018, the most recent full data set available from the FBI at the time of calculation.

Learn more about Albany.

17. Portland, Maine

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 19
Metro Population: 529,323
Metro Size: 2,081 square miles
Median Home Price: $292,250
Average Annual Salary: $51,260

In the Gallup National Health and 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 22nd out of the 150 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list. Portland also has consistently low rates of property crime and murder – there were just five murders in the metro area in 2018, according to FBI data. Additionally, Portland’s average annual salary is on par with the national average at $51,260.

Learn more about Portland.

16. Omaha, Nebraska

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 40
Metro Population: 922,891
Metro Size: 4,345.9 square miles
Median Home Price: $189,275
Average Annual Salary: $48,690

This Nebraska metro area had a pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 3.1%, well below the national average. Combined with a short average commute of 20.3 minutes and a cost of living requiring just 20.83% of the area’s median annual household income, Omaha parents spend little time getting to work and keep more of the money they earn for their family.

Learn more about Omaha.

15. Kalamazoo, Michigan

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 46
Metro Population: 336,845
Metro Size: 562 square miles
Median Home Price: $154,142
Average Annual Salary: $47,060

This western Michigan metro area is in a less-populated part of the state, which helps keep the cost of living low. Kalamazoo residents spend 20.86% of the median annual household income on housing costs. There is plenty of access to quality health care, as Kalamazoo ranks seventh out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for its proximity to hospitals that score highly in the Best Hospitals ranking.

Learn more about Kalamazoo.

14. Salt Lake City

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 31
Metro Population: 2,440,122
Metro Size: 7,684 square miles
Median Home Price: $313,924
Average Annual Salary: $48,812

Salt Lake City is known as a family-friendly metro area, and the median age of just 30.3 years shows how large of 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 22.4 minutes, shorter than the national average of 24.8 minutes.

Learn more about Salt Lake City.

13. Denver

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 2
Metro Population: 2,850,221
Metro Size: 8,345 square miles
Median Home Price: $401,542
Average Annual Salary: $59,440

Denver residents may endure a longer commute to work – 27.7 minutes, on average – but they don’t seem too unhappy about it. Denver ranks 14th out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. on the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index. The average annual salary, at $59,440, is well above the national average of $51,960. In addition, high school students are getting a solid education, as Denver ranks 15th for college readiness.

Learn more about Denver.

12. Washington, D.C.

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 30
Metro Population: 6,138,382
Metro Size: 6,576.6 square miles
Median Home Price: $392,308
Average Annual Salary: $70,980

As the largest metro area on this list, the District of Columbia offers high-quality high school options – the metro areas ranks No. 12 in college readiness based on Best High Schools data. Plus, the plethora of federal government and government contractor jobs, in addition to a growing tech industry in the area, lead to a high average annual salary of $70,980. 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, D.C.

11. Lincoln, Nebraska

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 33
Metro Population: 327,221
Metro Size: 1,409 square miles
Median Home Price: $184,542
Average Annual Salary: $46,800

The capital of Nebraska takes the No. 11 spot with a cost of living that requires just 21.07% of the area’s median annual household income. Lincoln also ranks 20th out of the 150 metro areas on the list in the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index for overall happiness among residents. One contributing factor to that happiness may be the fact that the average morning commute is short at 19.3 minutes.

Learn more about Lincoln.

10. San Jose, California

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 29
Metro Population: 1,981,616
Metro Size: 2,679.7 square miles
Median Home Price: $1,024,650
Average Annual Salary: $80,480

If quality education is a priority, you can’t go wrong living in the San Jose metro area, which ties for the No. 1 spot with Boulder, Colorado, out of the 150 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.

9. Madison, Wisconsin

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 21
Metro Population: 647,281
Metro Size: 3,308.8 square miles
Median Home Price: $259,500
Average Annual Salary: $52,890

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 showing college readiness and an average morning commute of just 21.7 minutes make many families happy to call Madison home. Plus, the average annual salary is slightly above the national average at $52,890.

Learn more about Madison.

8. Green Bay, Wisconsin

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 25
Metro Population: 317,702
Metro Size: 1,870 square miles
Median Home Price: $175,117
Average Annual Salary: $45,570

In Green Bay, families are able to save more money for other needs, as the cost of living requires just 20.46% of the area’s median household income. The Wisconsin metro area also ranks No. 1 out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for its low rates of property crime and murder. On top of that, the average morning commute is just 20 minutes.

Learn more about Green Bay.

7. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 23
Metro Population: 1,050,440
Metro Size: 2,689 square miles
Median Home Price: $195,775
Average Annual Salary: $45,670

Grand Rapids residents spend just 20.31% of the area’s median annual household income on housing. Additionally, Grand Rapids ranks ninth for quality of life on the overall Best Places to Live list – in part for its rank as 29th for resident happiness on the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index and an average morning commute of just 21.8 minutes.

Learn more about Grand Rapids.

6. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 8
Metro Population: 526,412
Metro Size: 2,624.1 square miles
Median Home Price: $192,708
Average Annual Salary: $46,470

A low cost of living is easy to find in this northwest Arkansas metro area. With residents spending just 19.99% of the area’s median household income on housing, Fayetteville is the fourth-most affordable place to live out of the 150 metro areas in the Best Places to Live ranking. 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.

5. Minneapolis-St. Paul

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 22
Metro Population: 3,557,528
Metro Size: 7,047.6 square miles
Median Home Price: $237,367
Average Annual Salary: $57,420

Families considering a move to the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area can expect to find many quality high school options and low cost of living. Residents spend 21.26% of the median annual household income on housing costs. Additionally, the average annual salary is high at $57,420. Minneapolis-St. Paul high school students rank 35th among those in the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Learn more about Minneapolis-St. Paul.

4. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 12
Metro Population: 365,961
Metro Size: 706 square miles
Median Home Price: $263,225
Average Annual Salary: $55,130

Ann Arbor ties for the No. 1 spot out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. with Reading, Pennsylvania; York, Pennsylvania; and Trenton, New Jersey, for proximity to quality health care. College readiness among Ann Arbor’s high school students is third out of the 150 metro areas on the list. Ann Arbor is also a spot to consider for after the kids have left the nest – it ranks No. 7 on the Best Places to Retire list.

Learn more about Ann Arbor.

3. Huntsville, Alabama

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 15
Metro Population: 450,612
Metro Size: 1,361.5 square miles
Median Home Price: $179,175
Average Annual Salary: $54,630

Not only is Huntsville's median annual salary, at $54,630, above the national average of $51,960, but residents spend just 19.16% of the median annual household income on the cost of living – making it the most affordable metro area out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. Huntsville’s pre-pandemic unemployment rate, at 2.6%, was more than 1 percentage point below the national rate of 3.7%.

Learn more about Huntsville.

2. Des Moines, Iowa

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 7
Metro Population: 634,201
Metro Size: 3,612.4 square miles
Median Home Price: $196,067
Average Annual Salary: $52,220

Ranking No. 7 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Des Moines is the second-best place to live for families in 2020-2021. The low cost of living in this Midwestern metro area ensures just 19.77% of the median household income is required for housing needs. While college readiness is a weak spot for the metro area, ranking 107th out of 150 in that category, low crime rates, an overall feeling of well-being among residents and a short average commute lead to Des Moines taking the second spot.

Learn more about Des Moines.

1. Boulder, Colorado

Best Places 2020-2021 Rank: 1
Metro Population: 321,030
Metro Size: 726.4 square miles
Median Home Price: $524,417
Average Annual Salary: $64,690

Taking the No. 1 spot in the overall Best Places to Live ranking, Boulder is also the best place to live for families in 2020-2021. Many residents of the Boulder area are employed in the aerospace and bioscience fields, contributing to a high average salary of $64,690. Boulder ties for the top spot with San Jose for college readiness among high school students. Boulder ranks third out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. on the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index.

Learn more about Boulder.

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

  • Boulder, Colorado.
  • Des Moines, Iowa.
  • Huntsville, Alabama.
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul.
  • Fayetteville, Arkansas.
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • Green Bay, Wisconsin.
  • Madison, Wisconsin.
  • San Jose, California.
  • Lincoln, Nebraska.
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Denver.
  • Salt Lake City.
  • Kalamazoo, Michigan.
  • Omaha, Nebraska.
  • Portland, Maine.
  • Albany, New York.
  • Boston.
  • Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina.
  • Fort Wayne, Indiana.
  • Austin, Texas.
  • Hartford, Connecticut.
  • Cincinnati.
  • Manchester, New Hampshire.
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Updated on Jan. 19, 2021: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.
Corrected on Jan. 22, 2021: An earlier version of this slideshow incorrectly stated the median home price and average annual salary for Salt Lake City. The median home price for the metro area is $313,924 and the average annual salary is $48,812.