- Washington, D.C.’s family-friendly work culture and above-average educational system made it the best city overall for working parents.
- Neighboring Arlington, VA took second place, where remote work has been widely adopted and has a high availability of flex offices.
- Seattle climbed onto the podium thanks to its wide adoption of remote work.
- Miami has the highest density of public schools per square mile, allowing parents to save time on school runs.
- Boston, MA boasted the highest number of pediatricians per capita in the nation.
Even on a good day, reconciling job and family matters can be an immense challenge. In fact, in the evolving landscape of modern work and parenting, the demands of the family and the job can and often do interfere. Thus, finding a satisfying balance between the two might feel like one of the most pressing issues for the current generation of young parents.
However, it’s important to realize that some cities offer a better infrastructure, work culture, and educational opportunities than others for creating the harmony between work and family life that young parents need.
So for a fair and objective comparison, we first had to quantify what makes a city family-friendly in the first place, in addition to what factors make it great for working while raising children. Specifically, we explored the must-haves for a healthy upbringing, factors that indicate a family-friendly work culture — like the prevalence of remote-eligible jobs, features that shed light on the availability and accessibility of education, as well as opportunities to minimize commute and work closer to home. This way we ended up with a comprehensive list of 10 carefully weighted metrics that, for an easier overview, we grouped into three categories by the aspects of family life that they influence most: education, work and health and environment. Consequently, our analysis showcases the top 20 cities that offer the most conducive environments for working parents.
Midsize Southern & South-Atlantic Hubs Lead the Way
In the Southern region, some cities have distinguished themselves as paradigms of successful work/life balance for parents. In particular, Washington, D.C. took the lead with high scores across the board, securing second place in the work category and the eighth spot for its education score. More precisely, the nation’s capital stood out with a remarkable variety and density of education options and a family-friendly work culture by offering more than four public schools and 1.5 coworking spaces per square mile, thereby creating an ideal environment for short and efficient morning commutes. Furthermore, the city had the third-highest, 81% share of residents working in jobs with a high potential of being remote . Plus, one in five local workers here were actually working remotely — another statistic that placed D.C. on the cutting edge.
Next-door neighbor Arlington, VA followed closely, ranking second overall and first in the work category, thereby embodying a strong remote work culture. More than 84% of the city’s active population has an occupation that’s eligible for remote work, placing Arlington second only to Irvine, CA in this regard. When it comes to actual remote work, the adoption rate in Arlington was also the third-highest in the nation — no less than 21.4% of the workforce was remote, on par with Seattle.
Atlanta, GA rounded out the Southern podium and the national top 10 — aided, to a large degree, by its favorable indicators in the work category. In fact, Atlanta was the leading non-coastal Southern hub when it came to remote work: almost 19% of the working population has said goodbye to the daily commute. Career opportunities are also plentiful, with almost 77% of active adults working in a job that can potentially be done remotely or in a hybrid setting. And, although the roughly one public school per square mile placed Atlanta behind some of the higher scorers on the list, taking kids to school likely won’t cancel out the time saved on commuting for most families.
Back on the coast, Miami, FL also showcased distinctive strengths that appeal to working parents. Namely, the city boasted the highest education score nationwide, thanks to the wide availability of schools — 367 public schools for every 100,000 children, which is more than eight per square mile (more than double the density measured in Washington, D.C.). Miami also excelled when it came to the availability of flexible offices with 2.3 coworking spaces per square mile. That was, by far, the highest density of flex workspaces in the nation, further reducing the time spent in morning and afternoon traffic.
Further down the list, Plano, TX, Austin, TX, Baltimore, MD and Richmond, VA also exhibited specific characteristics that elevated their appeal to working parents. In 16th place, Plano stood out for its highest childcare affordability score. Here, the average cost of center-based childcare required only 10% of the median household income. Meanwhile, Baltimore owed its high ranking to its education score: Maryland’s prominent position in the state-level public school ranking and the school density placed the city among the top performers. Additionally, Austin and Richmond also made the national top 20 due to healthy balances across the main metrics, ranking 18th and 20th, respectively, overall.
West Coast Secures 5 High Ranks for a Total of 7 Western Cities in the Top 20
Not to be outdone, the Western U.S. also hosted an impressive roster of locations at the top end of the list. Notably, Seattle, WA landed in third place overall and also boasted the third-highest work score, thanks to its advanced remote work culture. To that end, 21% of the active population works remotely — the third-highest share nationally. The city also came in fifth for remote-eligible jobs, 79% of the workforce having an occupation that allows for remote and hybrid work. In terms of education, Seattle’s strong suits were its high density of public schools at 1.7 per square mile, as well as the state’s prominent school system, which placed Washington 13th in the national public school ranking.
Remaining on the coast, San Francisco, CA missed the podium by less than two points in the national ranking. While it scored high in the work department — due to its third-highest coworking space density of 1.4 spaces per square mile, an 18% share of remote workers and 77% share of workers in remote-eligible jobs— the Bay Area city also ranked seventh in the health and environment metrics. Plus, San Francisco has one of the highest numbers of pediatricians per capita in the country (288 specialists per 100,000 children). It also has above-average air quality, which was matched only by Columbus, OH among similar-sized cities.
Further southeast, Fremont, CA was the best Silicon Valley city for working parents as 23% of the active population works remotely — the highest share in the nation. Fremont also boasted the third-highest health and environment score with more than 93 acres of green space for every thousand residents (second only to Scottsdale, AZ). Although the level and availability of school education were not its forte, the high salaries in Fremont mean that the average cost of center-based childcare was just 13% of the median household income, landing the city in sixth place overall.
Speaking of Scottsdale, AZ, the city came in eighth place nationally, but that score was only partly due to its staggering 128 green acres per 1,000 residents. The Phoenix metro city also received the fifth-best work score with workers in remote-eligible jobs making up 81% of the active population, 22% of whom work from home. In terms of education, its affordability is also worth mentioning as the average family spent just 12% of its income on center-based childcare.
Further inland, Denver, CO secured 13th place in the national ranking with notable education and work scores. While Colorado’s 8th place in the national public school ranking had a significant upward influence on Denver’s education score, the city earned high points across all metrics in the work category. Further down the list, Irvine, CA and Portland, OR deserve the spotlight at #15 and #17, respectively. Specifically, Irvine registered the highest share of workers in remote-eligible positions in the nation at 86%, while Portland stood out for its great air quality and strong remote work indicator (18%, the same as San Francisco).
Boston, Jersey City & Pittsburgh Emerge as Best Northeastern Cities for Parents
On the opposite coast, the Northeast had three notable cities within the top 10 where the findings aligned particularly well with the needs and preferences of working parents: in this case, Boston, MA secured fifth place, leading the health and environment category by a large margin due to the wide availability of children’s health care with 386 pediatricians for every 100,000 children. Massachusetts’ school system also ranked fifth in the nation. However, education here is not just top-notch in quality, but also noteworthy for availability. On average, there were almost three schools per square mile in Boston. Coupled with 1.1 coworking spaces per square mile, Boston parents have all of the right conditions to spend the least amount of time possible on the road.
Further south, Jersey City, NJ ranked #7 and performed particularly well in the education metrics. As a matter of fact, the state of New Jersey is #1 in the nation for its high-quality schools, which are also close to home for many families as the city has more than 3.7 schools, on average, for every square mile. But, perhaps best of all, center-based childcare here was one of the most affordable in the country at just 11% of the median household income.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh, PA rounded out the Northeastern podium, finishing ninth nationally with a focus on the education metrics. Even so, Pittsburgh finished in the top five by the number of schools relative to the school-age population by registering 243 schools per 100,000 children. Pennsylvania also offers some of the best education in the U.S., ranking ninth in the nation. Combined, these indicators placed Pittsburgh in the #4 spot by education.
Lastly, although Newark, NJ fell far outside of the top 20 (landing at #76), the city’s education score still deserves a mention as children here benefit from the same high-quality education system that put Jersey City in the top 10. Its 3.7 schools per square mile alone was also a match for its eastern neighbor.
Minneapolis & St. Louis Represent Midwest Among Most Parent-Friendly Cities
Only two Midwestern cities stood out as great fits for parents aiming for a perfect balance between career ambition and family values. Minneapolis, MN ranked #12 overall, putting education first with 3.2 schools per square mile. Although it lost important points when it came to the affordability of childcare, this was still enough to earn the city 10th place for its education score. Another great local feature was the availability of flexible workspaces: its 0.6 coworking spaces per square mile was comparable to that of Pittsburgh, and Minneapolis was even hot on the heels of Seattle in this respect.
Similarly, in 14th place, St. Louis, MO appeals to parents with entirely different charms. For instance, the city shined brightest in the health and environment category with its remarkable 332 pediatricians per 100,000 children, second only to Boston. Moreover, St. Louis also had the second-highest public school availability by population at 309 public schools per 100,000 children, scoring higher than Minneapolis in the education category. Yet, in terms of the work metrics, St. Louis lagged behind its fellow Midwestern contender, mainly because of the narrower adoption of remote work and lower percentage of residents working in occupations with a high potential for being remote.
The Stay-At-Home Parenting Dilemma: Expert Insights
Faced with the rising cost of childcare, one solution that many families opt for is stay-at-home parenting. However, as Daniel Puhlman, assistant professor of family studies at the University of Maine, put it in a CoworkingCafe expert survey:
“This is a substantial decision for most families to make. Of course, location and living costs factor into this and, for some families, being able to move to a place where this balance makes more sense is ideal.”
Similarly, Jessica Troilo, associate professor of child development and family studies at West Virginia University, agreed that location has the weight to tip the balance in this decision.
“Salaries for the same position can vary based on location, as can the cost of childcare,” Troilo said. “It’s important to consider the percentage that they are spending on childcare, rather than the dollar amount of childcare alone.”
Meanwhile, for professions that allow for working from home, going remote is an attractive solution that maximizes the family income, while also unlocking significant savings in childcare costs. Even so, Angela Hattery, professor of women and gender studies at the University of Delaware, called attention to the potential mental health effects of wearing the two hats simultaneously.
“Though flexible work schedules and remote work allow parents who otherwise couldn’t stay at home to do so, there is also evidence that it ends up putting incredible pressure on the stay-at-home working parent,” she warned.
Yet, beyond the financial and career effects of the decision, Professor Hattery is confident that, for the balanced development of children, the quality of the care matters more than who the provider is — at least in the timeframe of typical work hours.
“The data are very clear that what matters most is that caregivers are stable, loving and attentive to the child’s needs (…), not their relationship to the child,” Hattery said.
Summing up, Professor Puhlman reminded us that, while being home with a child in the early years is the best situation for the entire family, it’s important to weigh all the factors at play — especially the quality of childcare that the family can afford and the proximity of these options to the family home. At the same time, he recognizes that changing work trends open up new possibilities and make hybrid solutions possible.
“As many employers allow for working from home, this changes the climate for parents and enables parents to work without as much sacrifice to their career trajectories,” he said. “I think the best strategy for parents is to think carefully about their career and family goals and make decisions that align with both.”
1. Education Score – 40% of the total index
– Childcare affordability– Annual median center-based childcare cost per child – average (including costs for infants, toddlers and preschool-age children); inflation-adjusted to 2021 [U.S. Department of Labor (2018 – county level)] – 25%
– Ranking of public schools nationally by state – Public School Rankings [World Population Review (2023 – state level)] –25%
– Public school availability – Number of public schools per 100,000 children [GreatSchools.org (2023 – city level)] –25%
– Public school density – Number of public schools per square mile [GreatSchools.org (2023 – city level)] –25%
2. Work Score – 40% of the total index
– Share of remote workers– Share of working population that doesn’t commute to work [U.S. Census Bureau – 5-year estimates (2021 – city level)] – 40%
– Share of remote-eligible jobs– Share of residents working in jobs with high-potential for being remote [U.S. Census Bureau – 5-year estimates (2021 – city level)] – 40%
– Coworking space density– Number of coworking spaces per square mile [Source: proprietary CoworkingCafe database (2023 – city level)] – 20%
3. Health & Environment Score – 20% of the total index
– Pediatrician availability – Number of pediatricians per 100,000 children [The American Board of Pediatrics (2023 – county level)] –40%
– Availability of green spaces – Acres per 1,000 residents [The Trust for Public Land’s public database (2023 – city level)] –30%
– Air quality – Air Quality Index [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2022 – city level)] –30%
- CoworkingCafe focused on U.S. cities with at least 200,000 residents that had data for all metrics analyzed.
- Data points were analyzed comparatively with the extreme values within the data pool determining the highest and lowest possible scores for each metric.
- The air quality index reflected that of the wider metro area when city-level data was not available.
Fair Use & Redistribution
We encourage you and freely grant you permission to reuse, host, or repost the images in this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to CoworkingCafe.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.