The Best Places to Raise Your Kids 2009

BusinessWeek

Welcome to BusinessWeek's second annual roundup of the best places to raise your kids.

This year we are going state by state. Once again working with OnBoard Informatics, a New York-based provider of real estate analysis, we selected towns with at least 50,000 residents and a median family income between $40,000 and $100,000.

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We then narrowed the list of towns using the following weighted criteria: school performance; number of schools; household expenditures; crime rates; air quality; job growth; family income; museums, parks, theaters, and other amenities; and diversity.

We weighted school performance and safety most heavily, but also gave strong weight to amenities and affordability.

Bear in mind with this list, the organizing principle was affordability.

While the median household income varies by state, we purposely weighted the results to prevent pricing out most readers.

That's why, for example, Greenwich, Conn., with its good private schools, low crime, and abundance of cultural amenities, was left out. It simply costs too much to live there.

Of course, there are other places that are great for kids which did not make this list. In many states the competition was extremely close.

Moreover, we looked for communities that scored well across the board.

So, while there might be places that offer more culture, better schools, etc., other factors such as crime or a high cost of living knocked them down.

So, read on to find out which are the best places to raise your kids in every state.

Who knows? You might already live there.

Alabama

Huntsville

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Nearest city: Huntsville

Population: 162,819

Median household income: $69,000

Families don't have to leave Huntsville to find fun things to do.

The city is best known as the home of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, where scientists designed space rockets in the 1950s and visitors now come for interactive exhibits, rides, and movies.

The 104-acre Huntsville Botanical Garden has a new Children's Garden and Nature Center, which claims to have the nation's largest seasonal butterfly house.

Runners-up:

Dothan

Hoover

Alaska

Anchorage

Nearest city: Anchorage

Population: 281,070

Median household income: $80,927

Residents of Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, have a strong economy, teeming wildlife, low crime, and fresh air.

Runner-up: N/A*

*Only cities with at least 50,000 residents and a median family income between $40,000 and $100,000 were considered.

Arizona

Gilbert

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Nearest city: Phoenix

Population: 152,529

Median household income: $89,031

The fast-growing town has a skate park, a movie theater, and Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, which draws 200 species of birds.



Runners-up:

Phoenix

Scottsdale

Arkansas

Springdale

Nearest city: Fayetteville

Population: 56,499

Median household income: $53,385

Springdale in northwest Arkansas has its own minor-league baseball stadium, parks, a major rodeo event, and nearby hunting and fishing. The headquarters of Tyson Foods is also in Springdale.

Runners-up:

Conway

Fayetteville

California

Arcadia

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Nearest city: Los Angeles

Population: 56,394

Median household income: $81,417

Arcadia, about 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles, has some of the best schools in California.

Arcadia is also home to the Santa Anita Park racetrack and the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden.

Peacocks now live in the neighborhood near the arboretum where they walk on lawns or cross the street and, for some, are a bit of a nuisance.

Runners-up:

Diamond Bar

Monterey Park

Colorado

Fort Collins

Nearest city: Denver

Population: 126,496

Median household income: $76,172

Fort Collins, home to Colorado State University, has excellent schools, low crime, and a vibrant downtown known as Old Town.

It has miles of hiking and biking trails, 600 acres of parks, and 5,000 acres of natural areas.

Runners-up:

Aurora

Loveland

Connecticut

West Haven

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Nearest city: New Haven

Population: 54,765

Median household income: $63,191

West Haven is home to the University of New Haven and is about five miles from Yale University.

Families can spend a day at Bradley Point Park beach and Sandy Point bird sanctuary.

Runners-up:

East Hartford

Norwalk

Delaware

Wilmington

Nearest city: Wilmington

Population: 74,453

Median household income: $52,871

Wilmington is a well-connected city that's only about 30 miles from Philadelphia and is served by Amtrak, which carries residents to jobs in Washington, D.C., and New York.

Wilmington has an attractive riverfront with shops, restaurants, a minor-league baseball stadium, and concerts.

The city is surrounded by residential communities with strong schools, including Brandywine Hundred and Hockessin.

Runner-up: N/A

Florida

Pembroke Pines

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Nearest city: Fort Lauderdale

Population: 165,600

Median household income: $76,535

Fast-growing Pembroke Pines—east of the Everglades, about 15 miles south of downtown Fort Lauderdale, and 20 miles north of downtown Miami—has good schools and low crime.


Runners-up:

Sunrise

Ocala

Georgia

Warner Robins

Nearest city: Macon

Population: 54,315

Median household income: $56,813

The Robins Air Force Base is the state's largest industrial complex, and many of the residents of this proud Georgia town outside Macon are former military personnel. Warner Robins won the Little League World Series in 2006 and 2007.

Runners-up:

Athens-Clarke County

Marietta

Hawaii

Honolulu

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Nearest city: Honolulu

Population: 382,983

Median household income: $70,849

There's more to the capital of Hawaii than surfing, sunny weather, and sandy beaches.

It also has a thriving arts scene, great ethnic restaurants, and hosts the NFL Pro Bowl and college football's Hawaii Bowl each year.

Runner-up: N/A


Idaho

Boise City

Nearest city: Boise

Population: 206,926

Median household income: $66,921

The Idaho River flows through the center of Boise, the state capital that's nestled against the Rocky Mountains.

The city's location provides opportunities for outdoor recreational opportunities including skiing, boating, biking, rafting, hunting, boating, and hiking. Local attractions include the Basque Museum & Cultural Center, the Idaho Black History Museum, and the World Center for Birds of Prey.

It is also home to Boise State University, the state's largest university.

Runners-up:

Nampa

Idaho Falls

Illinois

Mount Prospect

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Village of Mount Prospect

Nearest city: Chicago

Population: 54,603

Median household income: $82,504

Mount Prospect, a suburb 25 miles northwest of Chicago, was not only the best place to raise your kids in Illinois, it topped our list nationally.

It has low crime, great schools, and homes for a wide range of incomes.

Children have access to ball fields, hiking trails, skating rinks, indoor swimming pools, recreational centers, stores, restaurants, and multiplex movie theaters.

Runners-up:

Des Plaines

Palatine

Indiana

Fort Wayne

Nearest city: Fort Wayne

Population: 208,385

Median household income: $55,194

Fort Wayne, in northeastern Indiana, is the state's second-largest city.

It is home to a philharmonic, museums, and the well-respected, 40-acre Fort Wayne Children's Zoo.

Runners-up:

Indianapolis city

Bloomington

Iowa

West Des Moines

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Nearest city: Des Moines

Population: 52,138

Median household income: $88,096

West Des Moines, the largest suburb of Des Moines, has plenty of recreational opportunities including a community center, 20 parks on 1,222 acres, 323 lakes, and 35 miles of trails.

Many of the residents here work in the financial industry.

Runners-up:

Ames

Cedar Rapids

For the complete list of best places to raise your kids, click here.

For all slides, relative safety was measured by the "total crime risk," an index of the combined risks of rape, murder, assault, robbery, burglary, larceny, and vehicle theft. Crime scores were based on demographic and geographic analyses of crime over seven years. School performance was based on state reading and math test scores and came from Great Schools. Zoo data came from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, and museum, theater, park, and recreation information came from InfoUSA. Air quality information came from the Environmental Protection Agency, household expenditures and diversity data were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, and job growth data came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Source: OnBoard Informatics.

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