For many families, the whole concept of work-life balance can seem downright mythical. With housing costs to keep up on, long commutes and exorbitant childcare costs, it can feel like the scales are always tipping in favor of working more. But utopias for working families do exist in the United States—according to a new analysis.
In its annual ranking of the Top 10 Cities for Working Parents, financial tech company SmartAsset looked at metrics such as median household income, median housing costs, average commute times, costs of childcare, state family leave policies and even the percentage of the population that puts in more than nine hours of overtime each week.
Their findings? The middle of the country is best for working families.
"East Coast cities score poorly in this study. Residents in East Coast cities, especially in the Northeast, face high costs of living, including childcare costs and housing costs," says Derek Miller, Certified Educator in Personal Finance. "The highest ranked Northeast city is Newton, Massachusetts, at 124."
Meanwhile, only one city on the West Coast—Santa Clara, California—broke the Top 10. Rather, to find an oasis for working parents, this study suggests looking to states like Iowa and Utah.
Here's the Top 10:
1. Ames, Iowa
Up from the second spot last year, Ames had the lowest unemployment rate of every city analyzed. Plus, the minority of workers logged more than 49 hours weekly, which left more time for families.
2. Provo, Utah
Affordable and safe with a low unemployment rate, Provo is a great place for families seeking balance.
3. Iowa City, Iowa
Edging out even Ames in terms of quality public schools, Iowa City also benefits from low unemployment rates and fewer overtime hours. The home of the University of Iowa only received poorer marks because of a slightly higher crime rate.
4. Orem, Utah
With an average commute time of only 18 minutes and low crime rates, Orem is a great place for working families. It was only notched for having the second highest median home costs of the cities in the top 10.
5. Jonesboro, Arkansas
Thanks to low childcare costs (an average $5,700 annually) and low housing costs, this Arkansas town is one of the most affordable on the list.
6. St. George, Utah
Perhaps the nearly non-existence commute times in St. George have something to do with the exceptionally high graduation rates? Less time in the car for parents means more time supporting their students' academics, after all.
7. Wichita Falls, Texas
Like St. George, families in Wichita Falls benefit from average commute times of just 15 minutes and high graduation rates.
8. Santa Clara, California
Although housing prices are much higher in Santa Clara than the other cities in the top 10, so are the average household incomes. Plus, residents of California benefit from stronger family leave policies.
9. Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Residents of Oshkosh enjoy a great balance of higher average incomes and lower housing costs—which means more money in the bank for family activities.
10. Abilene, Texas
Although the state of Texas has some work to do on accommodating families with leave policies, Abilene is still a great place to raise little ones thanks to strong public schools and low housing costs.
This list isn't the first to prove that when it comes to affordability and family-friendly amenities, the middle of the country is the place to be.