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Video: Looking to move? Best places for families

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    announcer: oats with pecan bunches.

    >>> this morning on "today's family," the best and worst places to raise your family. when it comes down to it, we all want the same things for our kids -- good schools, safe streets and economic opportunities. well, the editors at "children's health" magazine have come up with their list of the best and worst based on those concerns and more. steve perrine is the magazine's editor. good to see you, steve.

    >> good to see you, al.

    >> now, what criteria did you use to compile the list?

    >> we went with six categories -- health, education, employment, we looked at safety issues and we looked at family life , things like how many parks, how many recreational opportunities are there.

    >> okay. so, let's get started. first of all, best cities. starting with a town close to where we are right now. number ten, yonkers.

    >> yonkers was kind of a sleeper for us, but it's only 15 minutes from the big apple . so, you've got all of the opportunities that new york has, but it actually has a higher per capita income than new york city and a lower cost of living .

    >> all right. now, number nine, omaha, nebraska. and you call this a city, an economic sleeper.

    >> sure. it's sort of a little cultural mecca of the midwest. it's got the largest community playhouse in america. it's got an opera house . it's got a very high per capita income . so it's really a great place to live.

    >> now, we go to number eight, cheyenne, wyoming, and number seven not surprisingly, honolulu , hawaii . now, what about the health of families in honolulu ?

    >> well, honolulu 's one of the healthiest places to raise a child. you have very low rates of obesity, low rates of disease. and cheyenne also is terrific because it's kind of been recession-proof this year. housing prices are stable. half the unemployment rates of the rest of the country.

    >> and hawaii has a pretty good health care plan, don't they?

    >> they have a great health care plan, and also, hawaii has the best parental leave laws of any state in the union.

    >> all right. number six, lexington , kentucky, capital of the world -- the horse world, as it were.

    >> it is. it's also one of the educational capitals. you know, lexington is around the university of kentucky , so it's a very educated population. one of the things they're most educated about is nutrition. when it comes to children's health issues, that's critical.

    >> sure.

    >> they actually banned friers, deep friers from school lunch programs in lexington .

    >> that's pretty forward thinking.

    >> it is.

    >> number five, fremont, california. and number four, lincoln, nebraska. lincoln, you say, according to your research, is not only one of the prettiest places, but also one of the cheapest.

    >> one of the most affordable. they have a great per- family income , but a housing price is only about $140,000. maybe that's one of the reasons why cornhuskers live longer than just about anybody else in the country.

    >> do they really?

    >> they do.

    >> so huski ining corn is good for you.

    >> and low stress, i think is good for you as well.

    >> there you go. number three, fargo, north dakota , and number two, madison , wisconsin.

    >> both scored very well across the board. madison particularly has the lowest rate of infant mortality around the country. in fact, madison almost made number one, but they missed out on one area where our number one exceeded all expectations. number one place to raise children in the country is burlington , vermont.

    >> burlington , vermont. now, what makes burlington number one?

    >> great education system , very healthy population. but one thing stood out to us. it's got one of the lowest rates of obesity anywhere in the country and the fewest fast-food restaurants of any city in the usa.

    >> wow. and quickly, the worst city?

    >> some of the worst got hit really hard by the recession. so you're talking about places in florida, in arizona, where housing prices really collapsed. you're talking about detroit, where, you know, jobs have disappeared. so, economic stability was really important to this poll.

    >> all right. they could be nice cities, just economically they're suffering right now.

    >> but they may have a bright future .

    >> all right, steve perrin , thank you so much.

    >>> and coming up, actress suzanne

updated 10/20/2009 10:37:25 AM ET 2009-10-20T14:37:25

From the moment she finds out she's expecting, a new parent's mind begins to construct a fantasy of the perfect place to build a nest: a community that's safe, nurturing, stimulating, and economically sound. A neighborhood where parents reflect your values — education, health and fitness, concern for the environment — and raise their children the same way. The kind of place where a child can slip on her rubber boots, grab her colorful umbrella, and play on the quiet, tree-lined street outside her home without worry.

The editors of Children's Health wanted to find where in America such places existed and how we can make the communities we live in today more like that ideal, so we embarked on a comprehensive statistical analysis to rank 100 noteworthy American cities scattered across the country. We considered more than 30 factors that parents deem vitally important, including crime and safety, education, economics, housing, cultural attractions, and health. (See the criteria used.) When we crunched the numbers, these were the cities that best complemented family life.

1. Burlington, VT
Living on Lake Champlain rewards you with more than scenic views and colorful fall foliage. The schools' per-pupil spending and graduation rates rank near the top of the country, as does the percentage of the population with advanced degrees and the median family income. And, as is often the case, wealth leads to health — there's less obesity here than anywhere else in the country, possibly because the city also has the fewest fast-food restaurants per capita.

See the rest of the list below:

2. Madison, WI

3. Fargo, ND

4. Lincoln, NE

5. Fremont, CA

6. Lexington, KY

7. Honolulu, HI

8. Cheyenne, WY

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9. Omaha, NE

10. Yonkers, NY

11. Austin, TX

12. St. Paul, MN

13. Jersey City, NJ

14. San Francisco, CA

15. New York, NY

16. Little Rock, AR

17. Washington, DC

18. Minneapolis, MN

19. Colorado Springs, CO

20. Billings, MT

21. Boston, MA

22. Seattle, WA

23. Sioux Falls, SD

24. Pittsburgh, PA

25. Bangor, ME

26. San Diego, CA

27. Albuquerque, NM

28. Raleigh, NC

29. Portland, OR

30. Providence, RI

31. Louisville, KY

32. Manchester, NH

33. Wichita, KS

34. Anchorage, AK

35. Lubbock, TX

36. Boise City, ID

37. Durham, NC

38. Des Moines, IA

39. San Jose, CA

40. Nashville, TN

41. Montgomery, AL

42. Atlanta, GA

43. Spokane, WA

44. Denver, CO

45. Fort Wayne, IN

46. Newark, NJ

47. Aurora, CO

48. El Paso, TX

49. Indianapolis, IN

50. Kansas City, MO

51. Charlotte, NC

52. Charleston, WV

53. Buffalo, NY

54. Oklahoma City, OK

55. Richmond, VA

56. Rochester, NY

57. San Antonio, TX

58. Arlington, TX

59. Columbia, SC

60. Tulsa, OK

61. Greensboro, NC

62. Baton Rouge, LA

63. Norfolk, VA

64. Columbus, OH

65. Anaheim, CA

66. Corpus Christi, TX

67. Jacksonville, FL

68. Los Angeles, CA

69. Fort Worth, TX

70. Chicago, IL

71. Oakland, CA

72. St. Louis, MO

73. Tucson, AZ

74. Cincinnati, OH

75. Riverside, CA

76. Philadelphia, PA

77. Wilmington, DE

78. St. Petersburg, FL

79. Salt Lake City, UT

80. Dallas, TX

81. Houston, TX

82. Jackson, MS

83. Baltimore, MD

84. Bakersfield, CA

85. Hartford, CT

86. Birmingham, AL

87. Milwaukee, WI

88. Sacramento, CA

89. Grand Rapids, MI

90. Modesto, CA

91. Toledo, OH

92. Las Vegas, NV

93. Phoenix, AZ

94. Tampa, FL

95. Cleveland, OH

96. Fresno, CA

97. Memphis, TN

98. Orlando, FL

99. Miami, FL

100. Detroit, MI

Love thy neighbors: A lesson from Lincoln, Neb.
Cornhuskers are some of the longest-living people in the nation, in part because they're so darn neighborly. "A key factor to a long, healthy life is a sense of belonging to your community," says John Scheer, Ph. D., an associate professor of nutrition and health sciences at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. In fact, one study found that older people with strong social ties were more likely to live 10 years longer than those who kept to themselves. If your own ties are frayed, volunteer for something that will reconnect you to your town, like working at a farmer's market or coaching T-ball.

Leave the car parked: A lesson from San Francisco, Calif.
Hills and cable cars aside, few American cities make it as easy to walk as San Francisco. Dan Burden, founder of the nonprofit Walkable Communities Inc., ranks the city as one of his favorites, but he says any community can become more pedestrian-friendly. Widening sidewalks and narrowing traffic lanes are a start, as is replacing traffic signals with roundabouts. "They force drivers to slow their speed," he says, "and they move 30 percent more vehicles than traffic signals do." Trees can also inspire walking by providing shade from the sun and a barrier from cars. Plus, in urban environments such as San Francisco, trees can increase property values by 20 percent and reduce air temperature, yielding huge energy savings for nearby homes and businesses.

Build parks: A lesson from New York, N.Y.
"If there's one thing I've learned about parks during my three-decade career," says New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, "it's that a city can never have too many." Well-maintained parks benefit nearby homeowners as well as local governments. According to the National Recreation and Park Association, a house within 800 feet of an urban park sells for 2 to 3 percent more than neighbors farther away, and that translates into a larger tax roll for the government.

Dream big but start small, says Warrie Price, president of the Battery Conservancy, an organization that's rebuilding 25 acres of parkland at Manhattan's southern tip. "Short-term improvements help demonstrate the power of beauty," she says. Peter Harnik, who runs the Trust for Public Land's Center for City Park Excellence, recommends creating a civic organization and lobbying for a park or refurbishing an existing space. Try contacting a local business or foundation, or even grassroots fundraising, for financial support.


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