How friendly is California to families? – LA Daily News

”Survey says” looks at various rankings and scorecards of geographic locations, noting that these grades are best seen as a mix of art and data.

Buzz: California cities did fairly well in a recent ranking of family-friendly places to live, including two of the top three — Fremont and Irvine. But the statewide grade overall was just average.

Source: WalletHub analyzed 48 economic and demographic factors to create relative scores for 182 cities in five key criteria — family fun, health and safety, education and child care, affordability and socio-economics.


California struggles to keep and attract young families. And this report — like many other studies — raises the big question every household has to ask: “Is California worth the price?”

Yet the state’s average to above-average grades suggest there’s real family value in the California lifestyle — with cost-of-living being the huge challenge.

Yes, rankings like these are more fodder for discussion than any perfect scorecard of where to live. Yet, if you take a bigger picture view, you see many California cities got good grades in this study.

My trusty spreadsheet tells me the average overall ranking for 29 Golden State cities in this scorecard was 75th place — 20 spots higher than the No. 95 average for the other 153 cities in the rest of the nation. It broke down like this …

Family fun: California’s average rank was 51 spots higher — (No. 49 vs. 100). There are lots of things to do in this state.

Health and safety: California 54 spots higher — (No. 46 vs. 100). Less crime, good health facilities.

Education and child care: California 28 spots higher — (No. 68 vs. 96). Better than most.

Affordability: California 48 spots lower — (No. 132 vs. 84). Nobody should be surprised.

Socio-economics: California 32 spots higher — (No. 64 vs. 97). A surprising conclusion.

And when WalletHub graded all the overall states on their family-friendly qualities, California scored a middle-of-the-pack No. 25.

The Golden State was ranked No. 1 for fun; No. 40 for safety; No. 43 for care; a very surprising No. 17 for affordability; and No. 42 for socio-economics.


California has work to do: 11 of its 26 cities tracked fell to the bottom half of the rankings — Anaheim, Riverside, Oxnard, Fontana, Fresno, Ontario, Moreno Valley, Santa Ana, Oakland, Stockton and San Bernardino.

Bottom Line

You might conclude that families do best outside big cities. Just look at the top five cities nationwide.

No. 1 Overland Park: suburb of Kansas City (No. 84).No. 2 Fremont: outside of San Francisco (17).No. 3 Irvine: down the freeway from Los Angeles (83).No. 4 Plano: outside of Dallas (130).No. 5 Columbia, Md.: between Baltimore (172) and Washington, DC (44).

And note the bigger cities at the bottom of this scorecard: Detroit then Cleveland, Memphis, Hialeah, Fla., and Newark, N.J.


“When choosing a home, most families will prioritize places that have a reasonable cost of living, low crime rates, access to affordable high-quality childcare, and an effective public school system,” WalletHub quoted Early Childhood Education Journal editor Patricia Crawford as saying. “Families should also consider the availability, quality, and affordability of community resources such as libraries, museums, cultural centers, and green spaces.”

Post Script

The best states for families, according to WalletHub were Massachusetts, then Minnesota and North Dakota.

Worst? New Mexico then Mississippi and West Virginia.

And how did this grading score California rivals? No. 28 was Texas; No. 36 Florida; No. 41 Nevada; and No. 42 Arizona.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at