How Family Friendly Are Florida’s 20 Biggest Cities?

Samantha Leeds

Estately

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The number of parents opting to start their families in the city has been rising over 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 Florida’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 greatschools.org)
  4. Public education: The average school rating for the public school system (greatschools.org)
  5. Crime: The composite crime rate for violent crime, murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, property crime, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson per capita (FBI)
  6. Libraries: Public libraries per capita (publiclibraries.com)
  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 affordable to a family earning the median household income for that city (Estately and US Census).
  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)

Florida_map

The breakdown:

1. Tampa

America’s fifth most popular city, Tampa emerges as number one when it comes to families. The four-time Super Bowl host will unite your family over more than Super Bowl Sunday.

Upsides: 2nd lowest cost of living, 4th for libraries per capita, 4th for daycare centers per capita, 5th shortest commute, 5th for preschools per capita, 5th for public schools (Great Schools score of 6), 8th lowest crime per capita, 8th for parks per capita

Downsides: 4th most expensive housing market

2. Gainesville

Home to the University of Florida, Gainesville has been ranked the number one place to live in North America and one of the best places to “live and play” over the years.

Upsides: 1st for shortest commute, 2nd for public schools (Great Schools score of 7), 3rd most affordable housing, 4th for preschools, 5th lowest cost of living, 6th for parks, 8th for libraries, 8th for daycare, 10th lowest crime

Downsides:  Last for population under the age of 18

3. Clearwater

Home to famous residents like Kirstie Alley and Lisa Marie Presley, several historic avenues, and spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies, Clearwater has a lot to offer to families.

Upsides: 2nd lowest cost of living, 2nd for libraries, 4th shortest commute, 5th most affordable housing, 8th for preschools, 9th lowest crime, 10th for daycares

Downsides: 13th for public schools (Great Schools score of 5), 15th for population under 18

4. Orlando

The theme park capital of the world will have your kids in seventh heaven and keep those weekend adventures rolling in.

Upsides: 1st for daycare, 2nd for preschools, 5th for public schools (Great Schools score of 6), 5th for libraries, 7th for parks, 9th lowest cost of living, 10th shortest commute, 10th for population under 18

Downsides: The highest crime, 16th for housing affordability

5. Tallahassee

Florida’s capital city is the regional center for trade, agriculture, scientific research and it could be for your family as well.

Upsides: 2nd for public schools (Great Schools score of 7), 2nd shortest commute, 6th most affordable housing, 7th lowest cost of living, 7th for daycare, 7th for libraries, 9th for preschools

Downsides: Last place for parks, 2nd lowest population under 18, 8th highest crime

6. Palm Bay

Home to many of professional football’s stars, Palm Bay will help you tackle the task of raising a family head on.

Upsides: 1st for affordable housing, 5th for public schools (Great Schools score of 6), 6th lowest cost of living, 6th biggest population under 18, 7th lowest crime

Downsides: 16th for daycares, 15th for preschools, 14th for libraries, 13th for commute, 11th for parks

7. Jacksonville

The River City is a major military and civilian deep-water port. A city of arts and culture, it plays host to the nation’s second largest jazz festival among others and is a great setting for a well-rounded up-bringing. 

Upsides: 1st lowest cost of living, 5th for daycares, 5th for population under 18, 7th shortest commute, 9th for parks

Downsides: 2nd least affordable housing, 13th for public schools (Great Schools score of 5), 13th for preschools, 11th for crime

8. Hialeah

Hialeah is home to the largest Cuban-American population of any U.S. city and its high percentage of Spanish speakers has led companies like Telemundo to be headquartered in the city. Bilingual upbringing anyone?

Upsides: 2nd for daycares, 3rd for preschools, 5th lowest crime, 9th most affordable housing, 9th shortest commute

Downsides: 2nd lowest number of parks, 14th for population under 18, 13th for public schools (Great Schools score of 5), 11th for cost of living

9. West Palm Beach

With a massive list of notable residents including singer-songwriter Tori Amos, Glenn Close, and Tommy Lee Jones, and its proximity to Miami, West Palm Beach is a happening place.

Upsides: 3rd most parks, 6th shortest commute, 6th for preschools, 9th for daycares

Downsides: 15th for crime, 13th for public schools (Great Schools score of 5), 13th for cost of living, 12th for population under 18, 11th most affordable housing,

10. Miami

With one of the busiest cruise passenger ports in the world, Miami is a desirable destination and has a bustling international community.

Upsides: 1st for preschools, 1st for libraries, 3rd for daycares, 5th for public schools (Great Schools rating of 6), 10th for parks

Downsides: 1st for most expensive housing, 2nd highest crime, 16th for population under 18, 12th for commute, 11th for cost of living

11. St. Petersburg 

The Sunshine City has broken records for consecutive days of sun. The popular retirement community has recently begun to grow in the youthful direction with recognition for its vibrant arts scene.

Upsides: 1st for parks, 2nd lowest cost of living, 3rd shortest commute

Downsides: 5th highest crime, 13th for public schools (Great Schools score of 5), 13th for housing affordability, 13th for daycares, 13th for libraries, 13th for population under 18, 12th for preschools,

12. Coral Springs

This master-planned community has won accolades for its overall livability, its low crime rate, and its family-friendly orientation.

Upsides: 2nd lowest crime, 3rd for population under 18, 5th for public schools (Great Schools score of 6), 5th for parks,

Downsides: 19th for libraries, 16th for preschools, 15th for commute, 14th for daycare, 14th for cost of living,  12th for housing affordability

13. Cape Coral [tie]

This Waterfront Wonderland is also a planned city. It is known for having more miles of canals than any other city in the world.

Upsides: 1st for lowest crime, 2nd for public schools (Great Schools score of 7), 9th for population under 18, 10th for cost of living

Downsides: 17th for preschools, 16th for libraries, 15th for parks, 15th for housing affordability, 14th for commute, 12th for daycare

13. Port St. Lucie [tie]

Home to hip-hop artist Vanilla Ice, of “Ice, Ice Baby” fame, and childhood home of actress Megan Fox, this city might just be a gateway to fame and fortune.

Upsides: 3rd lowest crime, 4th for population under 18, 5th for public schools (Great Schools rating of 6), 7th for housing affordability, 8th for cost of living

Downsides: The longest commute, fewest preschools, 17th for libraries, 16th for parks, 11th for daycare

15. Fort Lauderdale

What started as a U.S. stockade during the Second Seminole War grew into a tourist destination and a yatching center with lots of outdoor space.

Upsides: 2nd for parks, 3rd for libraries, 6th for daycare, 7th for preschools, 8th shortest commute

Downsides: 18th for public schools (Great Schools Score of 4), 18th for housing affordability, 18th for population under 18, 4th highest crime, 14th for cost of living

16. Pembroke Pines

This diverse community is the 11th biggest city in Florida and it has the best public school ratings of Florida’s 20 biggest cities.

Upsides: 1st for public schools (Great Schools score of 8), 4th lowest crime, 4th most affordable housing, 7th for population under 18

Downsides: 2nd lowest number of daycares, 18th for preschools, 4th longest commute, 17th for parks, 14th for cost of living

17. Hollywood

Not to be confused with the better known California city of the same name, Hollywood was named after the motion picture giant in the hopes of building its East Coast equivalent.

Upsides: 5th for public schools (Great Schools score of 6), 10th for housing affordability, 10th for libraries

Downsides: 17th for daycare, 16th shortest commute, 14th for cost of living, 12th for crime, 11th for preschools, 11th for population under 18

18. Pompano Beach

This thriving vacation home market might remain a vacation market.

Upsides: 4th for parks, 6th for libraries, 8th for housing affordability, 10th for preschools

Downsides: 3rd highest crime, 18th for public schools (Great Schools score of 4), 17th for population under 18, 15th for daycare, 14th for cost of living, 11th for commute

19. Miramar

The city of “Beauty and Progress” will need to keep progressing before rising up the ranks of family-friendly cities.

Upsides: 1st for population under 18, 5th for public schools (Great Schools score of 6), 6th lowest crime

Downsides: Fewest daycares and libraries, 2nd lowest number of preschools, 2nd longest commute, 14th for housing affordability, 12th for parks

20. Miami Garden

Home to the Miami Dolphins, Miami Gardens can at least attract families to its Sun Life Stadium.

Upsides: 2nd for housing affordability, 2nd for population under 18

Downsides: 3rd lowest number of daycares, libraries and parks, 3rd longest commute, 18th for public schools (Great Schools score of 4), 14th for cost of living, 14th for preschools

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