Each year, personal finance website WalletHub seeks to determine the best and worst U.S. cities to raise a family. And in 2019, one Georgia city ranked among the very bottom of the pack.
For the report, analysts compared 182 cities, including the 150 most populated and at least two of the most populated cities in each state, across five key dimensions: family fun; health and safety; education and child care; affordability and socioeconomics.
Those dimensions were further evaluated using 47 relevant metrics, ranging from playgrounds per capita and quality of school system to infant mortality rate and housing affordability. Only the “city proper” was considered.
Overland Park, Kansas; Fremont, California and Irvine, California rounded out the top three. The three least conducive cities for families, according to WalletHub, were Detroit, Newark and Cleveland.
But Georgia’s Augusta wasn’t too far from last place. The city ranked 173rd overall (or ninth worst), a one-point drop from its spot at No. 172 last year and a blow to its 2017 rank at 143rd.
Some factors pushing Augusta to the bottom of the list
According to WalletHub, the metro — where 25% of the population is considered impoverished — ranked in the bottom 50 for all five dimensions measured, but its place at No. 174 in education and child care (making it eighth worst in the category) stands out in particular.
Analysts measured education and child care using eight specific metrics: school system quality, high school graduation rate, day care quality, child care costs, child day care services per capita, childcare workers per number of children under age 14, parental leave policies and summer learning opportunities per capita.
While U.S. News & World Report recently named Augusta’s Davidson Magnet School the third best public high school in Georgia and No. 107th in the nation, compared to similar sized metros, Augusta has an overall lower score of college readiness.
Child care costs are also an issue in the city (and statewide). In Georgia, the average annual cost of infant care is $8,530, 18.4% more per year than in-state tuition for a four-year public college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
“According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), child care is affordable if it costs no more than 7% of a family’s income,” EPI reports.
The median household income in Augusta-Richmond County, according to the latest Census numbers, is $50,492. By the HHS standard, only 16.9% of Augusta families can afford the average annual cost of infant care.
Georgia laws also do not require maternity leave pay and neither moms nor dads have extensive rights in the state.
At least 180 countries in the world have laws guaranteeing some form of paid maternity leave and only nine are without — six Pacific island nations, Papua New Guinea, Surinam and the United States.
In the U.S., four states—California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York—now offer paid leave funded through payroll taxes.
Here’s more on how Augusta fared in the 2019 WalletHub ranking:
- Family fun: 135
- Health/safety: 161
- Education/child care: 174
- Affordability: 154
- Socioeconomics: 149
Other Georgia cities on the list:
Atlanta came in at No. 91 on WalletHub’s list, ranked among the top 20 in family fun and 47th for affordability.
Columbus ranked 154th overall and in the bottom 45 in all categories but family fun, for which it ranked 99th in the nation.
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