This year ForbesWoman inaugurates its first annual list of the Best Cities for Working Mothers. To calculate the rankings, we started with the 50 largest cities in the U.S. and the premise that different mothers have different needs. So while it's safe to say that all moms want a secure and protected place for their children to live in, first-rate medical care and excellent schools, if they're running a business or earning a paycheck, there are other important considerations.
The potential for a relatively high income, job opportunities and family-friendly cost of living are obvious ones. But childcare is way up there too. Some big cities that seem like choice places to raise a family, such as Salt Lake City, Utah, and Orlando, Fla., offer comparatively fewer childcare options--including daycare centers and pre-K--for moms who work.
We took a slightly unusual approach to evaluating a city’s health care quality. We realized a mom wants options when it comes to pediatricians; trust and a good rapport are just as important as competence, after all. But we also included information from Dartmouth Atlas, which tracks the quality of health care across the U.S.
Researchers at Atlas, affiliated with Dartmouth College, have found that cities with a higher proportion of primary care physicians to specialist physicians have a better health care system. When there are more general practice physicians, their research suggests, a mom has a greater chance of getting in to see a doc when she needs one, and her child's care will be more closely overseen.
We also used two different data sets to evaluate education--the amount a city spends per pupil and ratings given by parents whose own kids attend a city's schools. The latter data comes to us exclusively from GreatSchools, a nonprofit which works to involve parents nationwide in improving school quality.
Working mothers also want to be able to afford to live (and play) in their city of choice, so we counted cost of living among our priorities. Many of the "obvious" but expensive West Coast meccas, such as San Jose, San Francisco and Seattle, are clearly still attractive despite their high costs. Some less-heralded cities, such as Columbus and Virginia Beach, may be less stylish, but their lower cost can translate into a good quality of life.
So how did New York and Austin end up as Nos. 1 and 2 of the same list? Austin does have a reputation for offering a high quality of living for all age groups, but New York is a playground for grownups, not a sanctuary for kids and their moms, right?
Answer: Austin and New York each shine in different categories of what a working (or job-seeking) ForbesWoman reader wants in her city of choice.
New York is--unfairly--known for being crowded and dangerous. But what it does have is plentiful park space and a low violent crime rate. Salaries there are also good, among the six highest of the cities we surveyed.
And the Big Apple is generous when it comes to what it spends on educating its students, coming in at the second highest, right behind another New York metropolitan area, Buffalo-Niagara Falls.
Austin parents love their schools. The city's unemployment, at 6.1%, is one of the lowest of the cities on our list. Like New York, it also boasts plenty of outdoor places for the kids to work off steam. Both cities score high for plentiful childcare options.
Four Florida cities make up the bottom 10--Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami and Orlando. They all have a dearth of outdoor space. Primary care physicians are also relatively low in number. When it comes to parent opinion of the public schools, parents in Jacksonville are particularly unhappy.
Do you agree with our results? What data categories would you like to see in next year's list?