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The Best Places to Raise a Family in California

So you want to raise your kids in the Golden State. The question is where? Are you a NorCal person, with its plethora of tech jobs and high costs of living? Or would you rather settle down in sunny SoCal? SmartAsset considered several factors and crunched the numbers to find the best places to raise a family in California.

Check out mortgage rates in California.

Study Specifics

In order to find the best places to raise a family in California, we looked at a number of livability and cost metrics. Specifically we compared Californian cities across the family poverty rate, average deficit for families in poverty, the high school graduation rate, the percent of the population under the age of 20, median monthly housing costs, median household income, property crime rate, violent crime rate, median home value change, unemployment rate, the cost of child care and the percent of high school graduates taking college preparatory courses. To learn more about where we got our data and how we put it together, check out our data and methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • Suburban cities are a good bet – Many of the cities in our top 10 are suburbs or satellite cities of larger ones. These satellite cities tend to offer the opportunity to working in the larger cities while avoiding the drawbacks that come with living in them.
  • There are good options across the state – The good news is that no matter where you find yourself working in California odds are there will be a good place to raise a family near you. The Bay Area, however, may be the best region. It has two cities in the top 10.
  • Costly housing – If you are already based in California, you probably do not need a reminder that housing is expensive. And the best places to raise a family come at a steep housing cost. The average median monthly housing cost across our top 10 is $1,818.

Best Places to Raise a Family in California

1. Roseville, California

Lying about 20 miles northeast of Sacramento is Roseville, our pick for the best city to raise a family in California. Roseville offers young families a good education system combined with a strong local economy. Roseville ranks fourth in the number of high school graduates taking college preparatory courses and 93% of high school students graduate. The city also scores in the top 25 for both its unemployment rate and its poverty rate. Plus, Roseville is one of the leading cities where millennials are buying homes.

2. Fremont, California

As one of the safest cities in the country, it is no surprise to see that Fremont is a good choice for raising a family. While Fremont ranks in the top 20 for its low property and violent crime rates, the city offers more than just a safe environment. Thanks to Fremont’s proximity to Silicon Valley, it offers parents some great opportunities to earn money. The unemployment rate is only 6.4% and the median household income is over $100,000. However, it may be necessary to be a high earner here. The average annual cost of childcare is over $15,000 and the median monthly housing costs sit just under $2,000 per month.

3. Torrance, California

Located just outside of Los Angeles, Torrance is another good option for families who put a premium on safety. Torrance ranked in the top 25 for both a low property crime rate as well as a low violent crime rate. The comparison to Los Angeles really brings that point home. Los Angeles has a violent crime rate four times higher than Torrance.

Torrance also has the sixth-highest high school graduation rate in the study, with 96% of high schoolers earning their diploma. One potential concern for young families is the relative lack of other children. Only 23% of the population of Torrance is under 20, which ranks 107th in our study.

4. Livermore, California

With the cost of living in San Francisco  reaching stratospheric levels it makes sense that people may look elsewhere to raise their family. The best option in the area, according to our data is Livermore. Only 3.4% of families here are below the poverty line and the unemployment rate is only 5.1%. Livermore ranks in the top three for both of those metrics. In fact, on just about every metric relating to earnings Livermore scores well. But all that earning comes at a price. The average annual cost of putting your infant in a child care center here is $15,435, or $1,286 per month.

5. Pleasanton, California

Also located in the Bay Area is Pleasanton, the fifth-best place to raise a family in California. Pleasanton shares many features with Livermore, including high household median incomes ($124,759), a low unemployment rate (5.5%) and a low poverty rate for families (3.2%). However Pleasanton comes with the same high cost of living as other Bay Area cities. Its median monthly housing costs are $2,354. What pulls Pleasanton down below Livermore is the average deficit of families in poverty. While only 3.2% of families fall under the poverty line, the ones who do find themselves with an average income deficit of $11,700. This ranks 127th in the study. In comparison Livermore families face an income deficit of only $8,100.

6. Temecula, California

Temecula ranks as the sixth-best place to raise a family in California. This city scores in the top 35 in eight out of our 12 metrics. Scores which stand out include the sixth-lowest violent crime rate in the state (102 violent crimes per 10,000 residents), 23rd-highest graduation rate (94%) and 24th-highest percentage of residents under the age of 20 (32%). Compared to other cities in California, Temecula also has fairly low child care costs. The average annual cost of keeping an infant in a child care center is $12,400.

7. Rocklin, California

The second city in the Sacramento metropolitan region to crack our top 10 is Rocklin. If you work in the Sacramento area and you put a high value on safety, perhaps consider Rocklin over Roseville. Rocklin ranks ninth for lowest violent crime rate, with 104 violent crimes per 10,000 residents. Rocklin also has top 25 scores in five other metrics including family poverty rate, high school graduation rate, median household income, property crime rate and percent of high school graduates taking college preparatory classes.

8. Redondo Beach, California

Redondo Beach is located 23 miles away from Los Angeles. This city is the second-smallest in our top 10 with a population of 67,695. Redondo Beach has the lowest poverty rate for families in the study, with only 2.9% of families falling under the poverty line. Generally speaking, Redondo is an expensive, older community which may not suit some families. Median monthly housing costs are $1,974 and only 22% of residents are under the age of 20.

9. (tie) Mountain View, California

Mountain View ranks in the top 30 in six different metrics. Three metrics in particular – unemployment rate (6.1%), median home value change (12.3%) and median household income ($103,488) – pushed Mountain View up our rankings. Mountain View ranks first in median home value change and in the top five for the other two metrics.

9. (tie) Davis, California

The smallest city in our top 10, Davis, is tied with Mountain View for the last spot on the list. Davis has the lowest median housing costs, with the average resident paying only $1,381 per month. The education system is also pretty capable. Davis ranks in the top 25 for both high school graduates completing college preparatory courses and percentage of high school students who graduate. Job opportunities in Davis are fairly readily available, as well. The city has an unemployment rate of 6.3%.

The Best Places to Raise a Family in California

Data and Methodology

In order to find the best places to raise a family in California, SmartAsset looked at data on all cities with a population of at least 50,000, and ranked them across 12 factors. Specifically, we looked at:

  • Family poverty rate. This is the percent of families who fall below the poverty level. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 5-Year American Community Survey.
  • Average deficit for families in poverty. This measures how far below the poverty level families are. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 5-Year American Community Survey.
  • Median monthly housing costs. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 5-Year American Community Survey.
  • Median household income. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 5-Year American Community Survey.
  • 5-year median home value change. This is the percent change in median home value from 2011-2015. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 and 2015 5-Year American Community Survey.
  • Average annual cost of child care. This is the cost of keeping an infant in a child care center. Data is from 2014 and measured at the county level. Data comes from kidsdata.org.
  • High school graduation rate. Data comes from the U.S. Department of Education and is for the 2014-2015 school year.
  • Percent of high school graduates taking college preparatory courses. Data is from kidsdata.org and is for 2015.
  • Percent of the population under the age of 20. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 5-Year American Community Survey.
  • Unemployment rate. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 5-Year American Community Survey.
  • Property crime rate. This is measured as the number of property crimes per 10,000 residents. Data comes from FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Reporting Program and from local police departments and city websites.
  • Violent crime rate. This is measured as the number of violent crimes per 10,000 residents. Data comes from FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Reporting Program and from local police departments and city websites.

We ranked each city across each of the metrics giving all metrics equal weight, except for property crime rate and violent crime rate which we gave a half weight. Then we found the average of the rankings for each city. We assigned a score to each city based on the average ranking. The city with the best average ranking received a 100 and the city with the lowest average ranking received a 0.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/PeopleImages

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Derek Miller Derek Miller studied economics at the University of Edinburgh and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. As the data journalist for SmartAsset, he conducts and writes data-driven studies on a broad range of personal finance topics.

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