While the California Dream may be unattainable, there are plenty of US cities where solo parents can settle down, live comfortably, and raise the perfect family — all on a single paycheck.
- Atlanta, Washington, and Minneapolis rank highest, offering big city living without the exorbitant costs if you are willing live just outside of the city centers.
- As one of just four cities where the average property costs less than $200,000, Baltimore offers the best value for money for those hoping to get on the property ladder.
- California’s biggest cities are among the worst places for solo parents to settle due to a combination of unaffordable property prices, high child-rearing costs, and a lack of single people.
Being a single parent is by no means easy, especially in this day and age. Nobody is feeling the effects of rising living costs more than those raising a family on a single income. Property prices continue to climb month after month, so for many single-parent households living in the United States’ most costly cities, new homes are likely off the market for now.
Yet, solo parenting doesn’t have to be an eternal struggle. We analyzed the average income, house prices, cost of raising a child, educational ranks, and percentage of single people living in the area for the top 50 most populated cities in the US to determine which cities offer a haven for single parents (and the places that are best to steer clear of).
While budgets may not stretch to California’s sandy shores, there are still plenty of cities where single parents can afford to buy their own homes, settle down, and raise their children in comfort.
The best cities for solo parents seeking new homes: Atlanta to Denver
Surviving as a single parent doesn’t mean uprooting your life and moving to the sticks. In fact, major cities Atlanta, Washington, and Minneapolis rank as the top three places for single-parent families to live. This is due to several reasons, including the above-average salary these cities offer, which can leave money at the end of the month to set aside as a down payment.
Atlanta comes out on top due to the city’s ample supply of affordable housing. On average, properties in Georgia’s capital cost a reasonable $430,000, just over a third of what a comparable home would cost in America’s most expensive cities. New construction homes in Atlanta do come at a premium price, but even then, brand-new homes can be purchased on the city’s outskirts for under $300,000. And with 57% of the population living a single life, there’s a high chance of finding that special someone too.
You might be surprised to see Baltimore on this list, as it has a bit of a gritty reputation these days. Yet, Baltimore is one of just four places in the US where the average home still costs less than $200,000. That said, it may be advisable to consider neighborhoods with better schools which will push the housing price closer to $300k. With many large companies and government contractors serving the DC area, there are high-paying jobs within a reasonable commute. With a cheaper annual cost of raising a child than in Washington and a quality of education on par with Atlanta, the port city offers the perfect place for budget-conscious single parents to settle down.
Alongside Washington and Seattle, Austin is among the top destinations for single parents hoping to secure their children a top education. While those in Texas’ capital city aren’t among the nation’s top earners, the city’s growing status as a tech hub will likely change that… so it’s best to get in before the whole area becomes unaffordable. Currently, in Austin, new homes for sale on the city’s outskirts are available for around $300,000, but house-seekers looking for homes in the more popular areas should expect to pay $675,000 on average.
America’s most unwelcoming cities where single parents struggle to survive
California certainly has its charms — a constant supply of sun, iconic landmarks on every corner, and boundless social opportunities to meet ‘the one’. Yet, for the single parent, the sunny state is best avoided.
Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Long Beach, and San Jose rank as the four worst cities for solo parents. This is largely due to their astronomical housing costs and comparatively low average income. In LA, the average home costs 30 times the typical annual salary, compared to just six times the average in cities such as Baltimore.
Educational ranks are another major red flag. With each area assigned a ranking based on “educational attainment” and “quality of education” (determined using 11 metrics including the percentage of adults with a higher education, national public school and university rankings, and educational equality indicators), no city ranks lower than Bakersfield, and LA and Long Beach aren’t far behind.
San Jose, home to Silicon Valley, is the polar opposite. It offers the highest educational ranks in the US among all the cities analyzed — but good luck finding your soulmate in a place where just 27% of the population is single. You’re more likely to find yourself a high-paying job than a partner, yet with the average property costing $1.3m (the highest in the US cities analyzed) even an above-average income won't guarantee your ability to buy a home.
California takes up six spots on the top 10 worst US cities for single parents, followed by Texas with two. Property prices in El Paso and San Antonio are far cheaper than in their Californian counterparts, costing $300,000 and $315,000 on average respectively. Yet, most single parents will still struggle to get on the property ladder. With the average annual cost of raising a child in San Antonio standing at $21,000, approximately 74% of the average annual income in the city, for many solo parents, it’s simply impossible to maintain a family and save for a home.
To create this study, we analyzed the average annual income per person, average property price, the annual cost of raising a child, educational ranks, and the percentage of single people living in the area for the 50 most populated cities in the US. Each city was assigned a ‘NewHomesMate score’ for each factor based on a predefined scale, with the total score for each city used to determine the best and worst places for single parents to settle.
How the NewHomesMate score was calculated:
1. Average income. We scored the average income on a scale of 0 to 9 based on per capita income in the past 12 months (in 2021 dollars) by U.S. Census Bureau:
- 0 for under $25,999
- 1 for $26,000 – $31,999
- 2 for $32,000 - $37,999
- 3 for $38,000 - $43,999
- 4 for $44,000 - $49,999
- 5 for $50,000 - $56,999
- 6 for $57,000 - $62,999
- 7 for $63,000 - $68,999
- 8 for $69,000 - $74,999
- 9 for $75,000 - $79,999
2. Average home price. We scored the average home price on a scale of zero to nine based on Median Listing Home Price by Realtor.com (dated July 21, 2023):
- 0 for $900,000 or more
- 1 for $800,000 - $899,999
- 2 for $700,000 - $799,999
- 3 for $600,000 - $699,999
- 4 for $500,000 - $599,999
- 5 for $400,000 - $499,999
- 6 for $300,000 - $399,999
- 7 for $200,000 - $299,999
- 8 for $100,000 - $199,999
- 9 for $0 - $99,999
3. Annual cost of raising a child. We scored the annual cost of raising a child on a scale of zero to nine based on the Annual cost of raising a child by Smartasset.com :
- 0 for $35,000 - $36,999
- 1 for $33,00 - $34,999
- 2 for $31,000 - $32,999
- 3 for $29.000 - $30,999
- 4 for $27,000 - $28,999
- 5 for $25,000 - $26,999
- 6 for $23,000 - $24,999
- 7 for $21,000 - $22,999
- 8 for $19,000 - $20,999
- 9 for under 18,999
4. Educational ranks. We scored the educational ranks on a scale of zero to nine based on overall education ranks by WalletHub:
- 0 for 136-150
- 1 for 121-135
- 2 for 106-120
- 3 for 91-105
- 4 for 76-90
- 5 for 61-75
- 6 for 46-60
- 7 for 31-45
- 8 for 16-30
- 9 for 1-15
5. Single people. We scored the possibility to meet someone on a scale of zero to nine based on the percentage of Non-family households by World Population Review (dated July 21, 2023):
- 0 for under 28.3%
- 1 for 28.4-31.7%
- 2 for 31.8-35.1%
- 3 for 35.2-38.5%
- 4 for 38.6-41.9%
- 5 for 42-45.3%
- 6 for 45.4-48.7%
- 7 for 48.8-52.1%
- 8 for 52.2-55.5%
- 9 for 55.6-58.9%