Wilmington is near the bottom of a new list of America’s best cities to raise a family.
It’s 173rd out of 182 cities on the list from WalletHub, a personal finance website. Dover is 139th.
In a stunning contrast, WalletHub a few months ago ranked Wilmington eighth on its list of best places to retire. Dover ranked 36th on that retirement list.
These sorts of lists – assessing a topic by developing various criteria, compiling a bunch of statistics and then weighing all the numbers – are popular items online, because they generate publicity for the site behind them with articles like this, posts on social media and chatter by disc jockeys.
Because there are only 50 states, only 3,141 counties or their equivalents and only so many large cities with decent data, some place must be at the top, and some place must be at the bottom.
Wilmington, for instance, was this year dubbed America’s most affordable city.
The lists from WalletHub are more sophisticated than most, by being more detailed in what was measured and more transparent about the sources.
For raising a family, WalletHub considered five big categories: family fun (where Wilmington ranked 127th and Dover 172nd), health and safety (Wilmington at 148th and Dover at 57th), education and child care (Wilmington at 61st and Dover at 88th), affordability (Wilmington at 145th and Dover at 143rd), and socioeconomics (city results were not listed).
These factors added up to 41.3 for Wilmington and 46.2 for Dover, on a scale of 100. At the top of the list was Fremont, California, with a score of 73.7; and the bottom was Cleveland, at 34.6.
In 2022, Wilmington ranked 164th and Dover ranked 153rd. “However, we don’t recommend comparison between reports from different years as we update the methodology every year,” WalletHub spokeswoman Diana Polk said.
What matters in raising a family
WalletHub compared 182 U.S. cities, including the 150 most populous U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populous cities in each state. The work considers only the city proper and excludes the surrounding metro area.b Wilmington’s metro area, for instance, includes New Castle, Cecil and Salem counties.
It considered 45 metrics, with some (marked *), available at the state level only and others (marked **), using the square root of the population to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities. The metrics were also weighted.
Family fun: playgrounds per capita** (1.11 points), ice rinks per capita** (0.56 points), skate parks per capita** (0.56 points), bike rental facilities per capita** (0.56 points), mini golf locations per capita** (0.56 points), parkland acreage per capita (0.56 points), walkability (1.11 points), bike score (1.11 points), number of attractions (1.11 points), recreation-friendliness (2.22 points, a WalletHub ranking that only covered the 100 largest cities, so Wilmington and Dover weren’t included), sports-fan-friendliness (2.22 points, another WalletHub ranking that placed Dover 236th out of 392 and Wilmington 355th), ideal weather (4.44 points for yet another WalletHub ranking, with Wilmington ranked 63rd for mildness and Dover 89th), share of families with young children (3.33 points) and average commute time (0.56 points).
Health and safety: air quality (1.43 points), water quality (1.43 points), limited access to healthy foods (1.43 points), pediatricians per capita (1.43 points), share of uninsured children (1.43 points), public hospitals ranking* (1.43 points), infant mortality rate (1.43 points), pedestrian-fatality rate (1.43 points), driving fatalities per capita (1.43 points), violent-crime rate per capita (2.86 points), property-crime rate per capita (2.86 points) and family homelessness (1.43 points).
Education and child care: school-system quality (6.15 points), high school graduation rate (1.54 points), child-care costs* (1.54 points), child daycare services per capita (3.08 points), childcare workers per total number of children under 14 years (3.08 points), parental-leave policy (3.08 points) and summer learning opportunities per capita** (1.54 points).
Affordability: cost of living (6.67 points), housing affordability (6.67 points) and wallet wellness (6.67 points for WalletHub’s personal finance ranking, with both Wilmington and Dover in the bottom quarter).
Socioeconomics: share of two-parent families (2.35 points), separation and divorce rate (2.35 points), share of families living in poverty (2.35 points), share of families receiving food stamps (2.35 points), unemployment rate (2.35 points), underemployment rate (2.35 points), debt per median earnings (2.35 points), wealth gap (2.35 points) and foreclosure rate (1.18 points).
Data used to create the ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, County Health Rankings, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Council for Community and Economic Research, the Trust for Public Land, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Partnership for Women & Families, TripAdvisor, Walk Score, Chmura Economics & Analytics, TransUnion, Yelp, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, GreatSchools.org, Numbeo, ATTOM and WalletHub research.
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