Top 10 cities for renters to raise a family

Ilyce R. Glink

Nearly every couple planning to have kids has the same conversation at some point: Do we raise our kids here, or move somewhere else? That’s especially true if you live in a big city, since the cost of living is generally higher and the quality of public education tends to be more varied.

According to, which surveyed 1,000 parents from all over the country, 34 percent are raising their kids in the city and would do it again. Easy access to a wide variety of foods, people and art, combined with a more diverse population than most suburbs, are the main reasons most parents chose to stay in the big city.

The same survey revealed that 56 percent of parents are concerned with safety when it comes to raising kids in the city, and 23 percent of parents find city living cost-prohibitive. With those concerns in mind, identified the top rental markets for raising a family based on inventory of apartments, cost of living, violent crime rate and graduation rate.

In alphabetical order, those cities are:

Austin, Texas

This fun, funky city is known for its quirks. Live music is popular every night of the week with the locals, and there’s always something to do. The neighborhood feel of this city makes residents feel at home, and it’s a great place for an active family. From hiking to biking to visiting peacocks in Mayfield Park, the kids will always have something to keep them occupied.

Columbus, Ohio

This affordable Midwestern city has some of the top public schools in the nation, making it a winner among families. During summers and after school, kids can explore the themed indoor and outdoor play parks peppered all over the city. For bird lovers big and small, Columbus offers Pickerington Ponds, an Audubon-designated park where residents can hike, bike and explore over 260 species of birds.

Dallas, Texas

Families in Dallas enjoy the perks of a big city but have a more reasonable cost of living than many other large metros in the U.S. Dallas is filled with family-friendly fun, including zoos, parks and children’s theater. It’s also a big sports town; both kids and adults can enjoy cheering on the city’s football and baseball teams, the Cowboys and Rangers.

Denver, Colorado

If you’re a family looking for outdoor fun, look no further than Denver. The Mile High City has the biggest public parks system of any U.S. city, so there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking and rock climbing. There’s plenty of culture, too – if you’re looking for fun indoor activities, head to the art or science museum and then to one of Denver’s delicious restaurants for lunch.

Omaha, Nebraska

Omaha has a lot going for it. The public school system is great, the crime rate is low and the cost of living is highly affordable. If you think Omaha is too rural for your kids to enjoy, think again. The city has a zoo which features the world’s largest indoor desert, a world-class children’s museum and plenty of other big-city attractions.

Phoenix, Arizona

This southwestern city has a reputation for attracting retirees with a passion for golf, but the warm climate and gorgeous scenery also attract plenty of families. During the summer heat, kids can enjoy the indoors at the Challenger Space Center or the Octane Raceway, America’s largest indoor go-kart racing venue. When it cools off, head outdoors to do some hiking or biking on the trails through the Sonoran desert.

Portland, Oregon

Families love Portland for its high graduation rate, low crime rate and access to culture. A foodie’s paradise, this city is also known as a haven for green living. Bicycles are everywhere, and many restaurants use locally-grown ingredients in their food. The atmosphere, combined with the beautiful backdrop of the mountains, make this city a hit.

San Diego, California

San Diego has it all: gorgeous weather, great beaches and plenty of family-friendly attractions downtown. Enjoy a day with the kids at SeaWorld or the famous San Diego zoo, and do some windsurfing at the Mission Bay Aquatic Park. Make sure to take the Trolley, a favorite of kids and kids-at-heart.

San Jose, California

One of the best parts about living in San Jose is convenience – the city is known for its public transit. This tech hub offers plenty of fun for families, from the world’s largest Monopoly board to the Children’s Discovery Museum. Happy Hollow Zoo and Park, home to a variety of exotic animals and opportunities for outdoor adventure, is also popular with families in the area.

Seattle, Washington

Seattle is beautiful, but it also has brains: The city has a very high graduation rate and a reputation for academic excellence. In fact, big-brained Microsoft magnate Bill Gates calls the Seattle area home. There is plenty to do outdoors, with the Puget Sound and Olympic mountains as the perfect setting for boating, hiking and biking. 

Ilyce Glink is an award-winning, nationally syndicated real estate columnist, blogger and radio talk show host, and managing editor of the Equifax Finance Blog. Follow her on Twitter @Glink.

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