In the great, sprawling landscape of our American nation, the place you pick to raise your family is of extreme importance. Of course, it’s not always up to you where you land, since jobs and marriage and even time itself can conspire to send you places you never even dreamed of. All that said, if you want to do right by your kids, you might try to steer clear of the places on this list. Listen, every city has pockets of enlightenment and culture and neighborhoods where things are safe and the kids are happy. This study of the most populated cities in America, though, says the following places are kind of toxic for your growing clan. Get ready to fear for your child’s safety. (For the flip side, see the 15 Best Places to Raise and Educate your Kids.)
1. Jackson, MS
While Jackson isn’t the worst place in America when it comes to stuff to entertain your family, the odds you’d actually want to raise your kids there are slim. Jackson rates near the bottom when it comes to health, safety, education, affordability and socioeconomic environment. It’s a cesspool, folks. Sorry.
2. Birmingham, AL
Where even Jackson can boast a few family-friendly attractions, Birmingham is almost universally abysmal. On the list of the country’s 150 most populous cities, Birmingham doesn’t rank above 130 in any category, which is to say that every single part of the city rates well below the national minimum.
3. Detroit, MI
America’s failed city, Detroit is world renowned for its disastrous living conditions. Whether because it’s deeply in debt, it’s having trouble paying it’s emergency services, or it’s unable to teach its children to read, Detroit isn’t much of a drawing card for families looking for a place to roost. It’s only number three on this list because it gets a bonus for being affordable and having the Red Wings.
4. Miami, FL
Okay, on the level, there are several neighborhoods around Miami that are perfectly pleasant. The city itself is known for its vibrant nightlife, great climate and Mediterranean feel, which makes it a fine place for young (rich) adults. Unfortunately, the city does poorly when it comes to every area except education — and even there it ranks 70th.
5. Baton Rouge, LA
It’s slightly surprising that Baton Rouge is the first Louisiana state on the list. Not to speak ill of the Cajun state (or Bobby Jindal’s management), but Louisiana consistently ranks among the states with the lowest quality of life. The study here merely affirms that notion, ranking the state capital among the nation’s worst for raising a family.
6. Mobile, AL
Mobile has to be super proud of their health and safety record. They have to be because it’s the only statistic in the city that cracks the top 100 (and it still comes in at 96). Beyond that mild accomplishment, the city’s education system is notoriously poor, as is the relationship between the city’s upper class and its working class citizens.
7. Shreveport, LA
Another entrant from the statistical worst state in the nation … I say “statistical” because it’s definitely not, no matter what the numbers say. Louisiana has New Orleans and some of the coolest culture in America. Anyway, Shreveport is a hole you’d best keep your kids away from.
8. Fort Lauderdale, FL
Shockingly, the Spring Break capital of the world has a solidly mediocre educational system. Maybe that’s because party schools spring up at the birthplace of the beer fountain. Unfortunately, beyond that moderate plus, Ft. Lauderdale ranks near the bottom of the list in terms of family-friendly activities, health and safety. Sure, there are some okay schools in the region, but generally speaking the public schools here aren’t great.
9. New Orleans, LA
Hey, it’s another city from Louisiana! New Orleans is obviously most famous for throwing the best party on the planet. And since the city is steeped in unique culture and musical history, some family-friendly activities pop up as a result. Outside of the city knowing how to have a rolling good time, New Orleans doesn’t have much else going for it in terms of a recommended place to raise and educate your kids according to this study.
10. Washington, DC
Anyone who’s actually lived in or even visited the nation’s capital can tell you the cost can be a bit prohibitive. Sure, there are a lot of museums and a great zoo for families to enjoy, but not all kids can be dragged through educational exhibits every weekend. Things have gotten better in this gritty city in recent years, but it still has a long way to go when it comes to health, safety and the socioeconomic environment.
11. Hialeah, FL
So, here’s the thing. Hialeah is actually quite pretty. It’s a suburb of Miami and has a tendency to attract the city’s wealthier citizens. That’s probably why the city ranks dead last in terms of affordability. Not that you’d want to move there with kids, anyway, since the city’s health and education levels are mediocre at best.
12. St. Louis, MO
Give St. Louis credit for getting close to the top-third in education. The city does value its schools and colleges, some of which are pretty prestigious. That said, the city is considered extremely unsafe. (Ahem, Ferguson.) In addition to the lack of safety, let’s just say the socioeconomic situation there is … tense.
13. San Bernardino, CA
San Bernardino proudly ranks in the top third of the nation for family-friendly activities, so it’s at least fun. So, hey, if don’t mind the fact that the city ranks 130 in education, you can live in the scenic California town. Of course, since the place ranks 128 out of 150 for affordability, you better have the income.
14. Little Rock, AR
Hey, on the bright side, you can probably afford to live in Little Rock. Even better, history is around every corner as the city was instrumental in the Civil Rights struggle (so, hey, if you love bloodshed …). Unfortunately, when it comes to family-friendly activities, health, education, and safety, Little Rock doesn’t even get above 137 in this study.
15. Atlanta, GA
If you could grade Atlanta, the city would get around a 33, which isn’t awful. It hovers around the 100 mark in nearly every category, meaning that it doesn’t do any one thing really terribly. Unless health and safety are important to you. Atlanta ranks 145 in that category. The city is home to the freaking CDC and it still ranks only 5 from the bottom in health.