These Are the Best (and Worst) Cities for Single Parents

Here are some of the best places for single parents to live based on things like median income, housing, and child care costs.

As of 2020, there were more than 18 million children living with a single parent in the United States. It's a figure that has been rising for decades and according to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. now has more single-parent households than any other country in the world.

The share of children living with single mothers, in particular, has nearly doubled over the past 50 years, according to a report from 24/7 Wall St.

For more than a few of these households, making ends meet on a single income can be daunting, particularly at a time when inflation is ratcheting up the price of everything from food to gas and energy costs. The cost of housing is generally the most significant expense for families, and that 24/7 Wall St. report suggests it's an especially heavy burden for single mothers who earn 45.3 percent of the national median for all households.

The good news is that certain metros are better equipped to set single parents up for success based on things like the average income for area residents, as well as the local cost of such expenses as housing and childcare. A variety of data crunching organizations have come up with lists designed to help point single parents to more affordable regions.

In 2019, for instance, the insurance company Fabric analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data to come up with 10 cities that may be more affordable options. The company looked at cities with at least 350,000 people across the country to score them on average income, employment rates, cost of living (specifically housing and child care), education levels, and length of commutes.

Here are the 10 cities that ranked the highest:

  1. Ann Arbor, Michigan
  2. Lansing, Michigan
  3. Austin, Texas
  4. Asheville, North Carolina
  5. Little Rock, Arkansas
  6. Wichita, Kansas
  7. Raleigh, North Carolina
  8. Omaha, Nebraska
  9. Huntsville, Alabama
  10. Naples, Florida

If you look at the entire country, the median income for a single-parent household is $37,100—and it ranges from $22,000 to $78,000 in cities across the U.S.

In top spot Ann Arbor, Michigan, the average income is $55,350 with what Fabric defines as the average cost of living. In Lansing, Michigan, it's $46,390, with a below-average cost of living. Nearly all of the top 10 cities had a good ratio of cost of living to cost of housing—housing costs accounted for less than 25 percent of a single parent's income in all but Naples, Florida (which was reported as 27 percent).

Of course, budget isn't the only concern. Time is precious when you're a parent, especially a single one. All 10 cities on this list had average commute times of less than one hour each day. And less commuting time means more time at home with your kid(s)—that's a win in any parent's book.

A couple of years ago, the personal finance website WalletHub released a survey that focused solely on the single moms in cities across the country (data that remains the most recent available from the number-crunching site). The site's report, Best & Worst Cities for Single Moms, looked at a variety of metrics across 150 cities that would make life easier for a mom raising children on her own, such as housing affordability and access to adequate child care.

An image of a pile of roadmaps.
Getty Images.

Here are the 20 cities that ranked the highest:

  1. Scottsdale, Arizona
  2. Madison, Wisconsin
  3. Fremont, California
  4. San Francisco, California
  5. Seattle, Washington
  6. Pembroke Pines, Florida
  7. Irvine, California
  8. Honolulu, Hawaii
  9. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  10. Overland Park, Kansas
  11. Plano, Texas
  12. Des Moines, Iowa
  13. Omaha, Nebraska
  14. Raleigh, North Carolina
  15. Orlando, Florida
  16. Huntington Beach, California
  17. Gilbert, Arizona
  18. Little Rock, Arizona
  19. Tacoma, Washington
  20. Rancho Cucamonga, California

Gilbert, Arizona, ranked high (#17) because it boasts the highest median annual income for single moms at $46,856. Meanwhile, Brownsville, Texas, ranked low (#119) because it has the highest percentage of uncoupled moms with underaged children living below the poverty level, at 61.2 percent.

In #7 Irvine, California, more than half of single moms hold at least a bachelor's degree! And Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky, (#61) has the highest number of childcare workers per 1,000 children aged 13 and younger, so getting access to quality childcare is a reality for many.

Among the worst cities on this list was Los Angeles, where it can be hard to find affordable housing.

Some superstar solo cities made it onto both lists, including Little Rock, Arkansas; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Omaha, Nebraska. So put those three on the shortlist for any single parents out there looking for their new home.

Finally, that more recent 24/7 Wall St. report, (which was last updated in January 2020) identifies some of the best and worst cities for single moms as well. Its analysis is based on a variety of social and economic indicators tied to income, with a particular focus on housing affordability, access to early education, and public transportation.

Based on these factors, the report points out that "single mothers earning the median wage would need to work as few as 47 hours a week to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment in Bloomsburg-Berwick, Pennsylvania. In Honolulu, Hawaii, however, they would need to work as many as 152 hours a week—an impossible feat."

Here are the cities that 24/7 Wall St. says are the best for single moms based on its own affordability analysis:

1. Norwich-New London, Connecticut
2. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Connecticut
3. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
4. Bridgeport-Stamford, Norwalk, Connecticut
5. Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina
6. New York, Newark, New Jersey
7. Trenton, New Jersey
8. Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania
9. Boulder, Colorado
10. La Crosse-Onalaska, Wisconsin-Minnesota

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