How Family Friendly Are Washington’s 20 Biggest Cities?

Samantha Leeds

Lists + Maps


The number of parents opting to start their families in the city has been a rising trend of the last few decades. But choosing which city to call home can be a difficult decision. What makes for a good place to settle down is of course subjective, but at Estately we believe there are a number of objective factors that can help to measure a city’s family friendliness. With this in mind we set out to rank Washington’s 20 most populated cities using ten criteria:

  1. Youth population: The population of persons under 18 as a percentage of the over-all population (US Census)
  2. Commute time: The mean travel time to work for workers 16 and up (US Census)
  3. Preschools: The number of preschools per capita for the population of people 5 years and under (US Census and
  4. Public education: The average school rating for public elementary, middle and high schools (
  5. Crime: The composite crime rate for violent crime, murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, property crime, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson per capita (FBI)
  6. Libraries: Public libraries per capita (
  7. Open space: Public parks per capita (each city’s department of Parks and Recreation)
  8. Housing affordability: the number of houses on the market for $266,034 or less. This is the price of a home affordable to a family earning the median income in Washington state of $59,374 a year. (Estately).
  9. Daycare: The number of daycare centers per capita (The Yellow Pages)
  10. Cost of living: The yearly salary a family needs to earn to be considered earning a living wage (MIT)


The cities:

  1. Kennewick: This southeastern local is the largest of three cities collectively called the tri-cities. With the third biggest child population, the third most affordable housing market and the third lowest cost of living it certainly lives up to the tri-city name.
  2. Bellingham: Acclaimed for its outdoor opportunities such as easy access to the San Juan Islands and the North Cascades, Bellingham has the shortest commute time. It also ranks in the top five for public schools and preschools.
  3. Redmond: Redmond is the second smallest on the list. Home of Microsoft, it also holds the title for the lowest crime rate and the best public school ratings. However, it has one of the highest costs of living and an expensive housing market.
  4. Spokane: The second largest city in Washington, what Spokane lacks in safety it makes up for in cost of living, public libraries and parks. Spokane has the second highest crime rate, but its schools are ranked in the top 10 and it has the fifth most preschools per capita.
  5. Spokane Valley: Located along the Spokane river, The Valley has a much lower crime rate than its larger cousin and has the most affordable real estate market. It is tied with Spokane for the lowest cost of living, however it has the least parks and second lowest number of libraries.
  6. Bellevue: Across Lake Washington from Seattle, Bellevue has the third highest rated public schools and the second lowest crime rate. It also features the highest number of parks per capita and the fourth highest number of daycare facilities.
  7. Kirkland: The namesake of Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand, this city is tied with Redmond for the top public schools. However, it also has the second most expensive housing market and one of the highest costs of living. Kirkland has the third lowest crime rate.
  8. Pasco: The second of the tri-cities to make the list, Pasco has the number one children’s population. It also ranks top three for housing affordability and cost of living, as well as claiming the fourth lowest crime level.
  9. Marysville: Marysville’s workers may have the longest commute, but they live a city with the fifth lowest crime and the sixth most day care facilities per capita.
  10. Shoreline: North of downtown Seattle, Shoreline has the fourth best-rated public schools and it ranks number one for day care facilities per capita. It ranks in the top 10 for lowest crime rates, but is one of the more expensive areas to call home.
  11. Everett: Home to one of Boeing’s major assembly plants, Everett is home to top five ranking public schools and has the sixth highest number of preschools per capita. However, it’s crime rate is the fourth highest.
  12. Federal Way: Between Seattle and Tacoma, Federal Way ranks top two for per capita preschools, but bottom six for public schools and public libraries.
  13. Renton: Located at the mouth of Cedar River, Renton ranks top five for per capita day care and public libraries. It isn’t doing so great in the commute and affordability categories though.
  14. Tacoma: Home to Washington’s largest port, this city has the most libraries per capita and the fourth most affordable housing market. However, it has the highest crime rate and its public schools rank in the bottom five.
  15. Lakewood: Number one for preschools per capita, Lakewood is lacking in other areas such as highly rated public schools and public parks.
  16. Vancouver: Forming part of the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area, this city ranks top 10 for shortest commute, but lacks a well-rated public school system.
  17. Yakima: Located in the Yakima valley, this agricultural giant has the second shortest commute and the fifth lowest cost of living. However, it has the lowest rated public schools.
  18. Seattle: Though Seattle is the biggest city in Washington, it has the lowest percentage of kids. What it lacks in young people, day care and living cost, it makes up for in parks and public libraries with the third most per capita.
  19. Auburn: This city just makes it into the top 10 for preschools and day care facilities. But don’t expect to have a short commute or a lot of parks to roam in.
  20. Kent: The home to REI headquarters, Kent has the fifth biggest child population, but the second lowest number of preschools per capita and the lowest number of libraries. It’s workers also have the third longest commute.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Estately is a national online real estate search site whose articles have been featured in the The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, CNET, San Francisco Chronicle, Time, GeekWire, The Denver Post, and more.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  


37 Things You Should Know Before Moving to Seattle

10 Washington State Cities on the Rise in 2014

Related Articles

13 Things to Know About Living in Renton, Washington

Located on the southeast shore of Lake Washington, Renton is Washington state's 8th largest city and an increasingly popular place to call "home."

Read more

23 Reasons NOT to Live in Seattle

There are 326,202 men in Seattle, but only one of them is Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin—the city's most handsome man (and a Stanford grad). Your odds of dating him are very low. There's probably a waiting list.

Read more

What do Residents in Washington’s 25 Largest Cities Spend on Housing?

The general rule of homeownership is you shouldn't spend more than 28% of your income on housing. While that number is somewhat arbitrary, it certainly doesn't match what many Washington state residents are paying during a time of skyrocketing home prices.

Read more

35 Things You Should Know Before Moving to Washington State

Home to over 7 million people, Washington state has incredible wilderness areas, modern cities, and a diversity of geography and people. Sure, it rubs up against Canada, and it's littered with earthquake fault lines and explosive volcanoes, but it does have plenty of upsides

Read more

12 Things You Should Know About Poulsbo

Poulsbo is known by many nicknames: The Jewel of Kitsap County, Little Norway, Valhalla on Puget Sound, Paul's Bow, Dampnessville, Lil' Lutefisk, Big Dreary, The Lute, and Gateway to Lemolo. And while this Kitsap County town has many monikers, the rest of the state probably only knows of Poulsbo for its Norwegian heritage.

Read more

Map of Washington State’s Cultural Differences

From the rain-soaked forests of the coast to the fertile, rolling hills of the Palouse, Washington state is a great place to live. However, choosing where in this great state to buy a home is a conundrum.

Read more

13 Struggles Only Bainbridge Islanders Can Relate To

Bainbridge Island routinely finds itself on lists of the best places to live, but that doesn't mean the locals don't have their challenges. Here are 13 struggles only people from Bainbridge Island can relate to...

Read more

19 Things to Know About Living in Tacoma

Located on Commencement Bay in the south Puget Sound, Tacoma is the third most populated city in Washington state, and an increasingly popular city to call home.

Read more

25 Reasons Washington Is Better Than Oregon

What is it about Washington state that makes it superior to its neighbor to the south? Could it be its residents' dashing good looks, superior hygiene, or ability to commune with wild animals?

Read more

10 Washington State Cities On The Rise In 2014

Washington state has no shortage of great cities, but which are the state's most up-and-coming cities? Estately set out to determine this by ranking the state's most populated cities from those most on the rise to those which are lagging behind the furthest.

Read more

29 Things You Should Know Before Moving to Bellingham

A hidden gem of the Pacific Northwest, little Bellingham, Washington, is a pretty college town just a handful of miles from the Canadian border. Is it right for you?

Read more

Which Washington Cities Are Home To The Most Enthusiastic Seahawks Fans?

Seattle Seahawks fans can be found in droves across Washington state, but Estately wondered which cities in the state were home to highest concentration of Seahawks fans.

Read more