Dinner around the kitchen table, bedtime stories and tuck-ins: When it comes to the day-to-day duties that parenting entails, we typically think of these sweet moments of connection. But much of the work of parenting is less memorable and less enjoyable. It’s time spent cleaning and commuting, getting everyone to school and soccer practice and back home again. The ease with which we are able to manage these everyday logistics can have big consequences when it comes to the quality of life we enjoy with our children.
What our daily lives look like depends in large part on where we live. How far do we have to travel to get to work and to school? How close are the nearest parks and pediatricians?
With key factors like these in mind, Coworking Cafe, a website for finding and booking co-working spaces, recently compiled a list of the best U.S. cities for working parents.
How were the rankings determined?
Coworking Cafe rated cities on the basis of 10 metrics that were divided into three categories: education, work and health, and environment.
Cities that scored high in the work categories had a higher share of “remote eligible” jobs and people working remotely.
“We considered the prevalence of jobs that can be performed remotely and the actual share of remote workers as two of the most important quantifiers of family-friendliness, seeing as remote work generally allows for increased levels of flexibility,” Balazs Szekely, a writer at Coworking Cafe, told HuffPost.
This kind of flexibility can help families manage drop-off and pickup from school, as well as allow for a parent to attend school activities, doctor’s and dentist’s visits, and the like.
Other factors used to rank the cities included “the availability and proximity of coworking spaces, schools, pediatricians and green spaces” and “affordability of childcare, the quality of education and environmental factors,” such as air quality, Szekely said.
In addition to school rankings, analysts included school availability, measured both by how many public schools there were per square mile and how many per 100,000 children. This number varied significantly (and more than you might expect based on population alone) with almost 34 times more schools per square mile in some cities than in others. For example, the school density in Miami was almost double that of Washington.
When it comes to child care for younger children and infants, analysts weighed accessibility by measuring cost as a percentage of average median income. This varied substantially among cities. “Our findings show that center-based childcare can demand from 10% all the way to 37% of the median household income,” Szekely said.
Another metric that showed “shocking variance,” he said, was the accessibility of pediatricians. “At county level there can be anywhere from 8 to 386 pediatricians per 100,000 children.”
Which cities ranked highest?
Of the 20 cities that made the list, Washington came in first place. The cost of child care as a share of median household income was relatively high (30%), but this was offset by high numbers of remote-eligible jobs (81.2%) and remote workers (19.8%), as well as good ratios of public schools, pediatricians and green spaces to population.
Nearby Arlington, Virginia, came in second, with child care costs as a share of median income at 19% and with 21.3% of employees working remotely.
The top 20 cities were:
Jersey City, New Jersey
Szekely noted that some cities’ high scores in certain categories were offset by their low scores in others, keeping them off the list. Two examples were Chandler, Arizona, which scored high in the proportion of remote-eligible jobs and workers but low in educational rankings. Newark, New Jersey, had the opposite issue, with high rankings in education metrics but low ones in the categories related to remote work.
The South did well, with seven cities in the top 20. The West also stood out, with three cities in California (San Francisco, Fremont and Irvine) making the list.
“High scorers were scarcer in the Northeastern and Midwestern regions,” Szekely said. “Only Boston, Jersey City and Pittsburgh made the top 10, with Minneapolis and St. Louis coming in at 12th and 14th places, respectively.”
The big metropolises of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles were notably absent from the list.
What do working parents value most?
While the most populous places didn’t make the top 20, the cities that did make the list aren’t the smallest, either.
“The common wisdom that a smaller, quieter community is better for raising children might only hold half the truth, especially for career-oriented parents,” Szekely noted.
Remote and hybrid work options mean less commute time for parents and also a broader range of choices when determining where to live, because remote workers can set down roots wherever they choose.
However, Laura Vanderkam, author of “I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time,” noted that there are more jobs that could be remote than people actually working remotely. The data from Coworking Cafe corroborates this, with remote-eligible jobs for Washington and Arlington four times as high as the share of remote workers.
A majority of parent workers prefer remote or hybrid options. A 2022 survey of 1,600 workers with a child younger than 18 at home found that 62% of these parents wanted to work remotely, while an additional 35% wanted a hybrid arrangement. More than half (57%) of parents said that if they were no longer allowed to work from home they would search for a new job. Seventy-five percent agreed that the best way for employers to support working parents was to offer the option of remote work.
“Ideally, employees have some control over their hours and can take time during the traditional workday to attend to family needs without it being a huge problem. Also, in a family-friendly work culture, using that flexibility won’t limit people’s careers — ultimately they’re judged on their work rather than traditional face time,” Vanderkam told HuffPost.
Vanderkam refers to this as the “softer” issue of work culture, which she insists “really does matter.”
“When managers focus on results and investing in people’s careers long-term, they don’t get as upset about, say, someone taking a meeting by Zoom because his/her kid is home sick from day care,” she said, citing the benefits of this kind of positive work culture for parents — and everyone else.