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The top 10 best cities to raise a family (not in Seattle)

With the cost of living on the rise in Washington, families are searching for the best bang for their buck — where they can earn a decent living, be safe, and not be charged an arm and a leg for it.

That’s the question that three professors aimed to answer. Yes, this is another one of those “best places” rankings, using various data from the census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, FBI, and more. This time it’s courtesy of the folks at WalletHub, who put the three profs to the task of determining Washington’s best cities to raise a family.

Be honest: Is Sammamish really all that great?

Considering 114 cities across four main factors — family life and fun; education, health and safety; affordability; and socioeconomics — they determined which cities are the best to raise a family. In short, to rise to the top, a city either has to be way-out-there, or way-up-there. Just to round out the top 10:

  1. West Richland
  2. Snoqualmie
  3. Sammamish
  4. Bainbridge Island
  5. Richland
  6. Woodinville
  7. Pullman
  8. Maple Valley
  9. Tumwater
  10. Camas

Obviously, the “affordability” factor is largely why the state’s largest city — Seattle — isn’t in the top 10. Seattle ranks at 64, scoring lowest (85) across affordability, education, health, and safety. Though, Seattle ranks highly in other categories — first in attractions … actually, that’s it.

Taking a closer look at West Richland and Richland, two neighboring cities that make the top 10 list, affordability is their biggest selling point. They rank first and second in this regard. The median income in Richland is $71,025 while the median house/condo value is $233,587. In West Richland it’s $86,686, with home values at $221,743. In Seattle dollars, that isn’t too high. It’s probably enough for a decent down payment to buy a closet to live in on Capitol Hill (if you rent to a roommate). But it goes much further on the east side of the state. In fact, while about half of Seattle earns more than six figures, West Richland has the highest family income when considering the cost of living.

In Snoqualmie, the median income is about $143,622, and the median house/condo value is $568,963.

Like Seattle, Bainbridge Island isn’t too affordable. And when it comes to “family, life, and fun” it ranks near the bottom at 82. But you can’t beat the schools. Bainbridge is frequently listed as the top school district in the state.

In fact, many of the communities are just to the side of major cities. Not Portland, but Camas. Not Olympia, but Tumwater. Not Seattle, but Sammamish, Bainbridge Island, or Snoqualmie.

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Just a few other interesting points that WalletHub uncovered:

  • Fort Lewis is the community with the most kids, followed by Snoqualmie, Sunnyside, Bothell East, and Grandview.
  • Lowest violent crime: Snoqualmie; Mercer Island; Sammamish; Newcastle; and Camas.
  • Lowest percentage of families below poverty level: Snoqualmie; Maltby; Silver Fires; Woodinville; Union Hill-Novelty Hill; and Bothell East.
  • Lowest divorce rate: Fort Lewis; Sammamish; Snoqualmie; Union-Hill-Novelty-Hill; Cottage Lake.

And because you are all wondering, the absolute worst city in Washington to raise a family is White Center. Yep. This unincorporated community is apparently, unaffordable (ranked 114), not too into schooling (72) and not fun for families (74). Hey, keep in mind, I didn’t say it — WalletHub did.


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