Mother’s Day Analysis: Best Places for Single Moms to Live

Posted by: Emily Trinks    Tags:      Posted date:  May 5, 2011  

With Mother’s Day this weekend, Zillow Blog wanted to create a list of the metros across the country that are the best places for single moms to live. To help them out, we thought about the different aspects of a city that might make it more attractive for a single mother to raise a family and came up with this list of five metrics, and the following top 10 list:

1. Women’s Income
2. Housing Affordability
3. Crime
4. Education Spending
5. Walk Score

Women’s Income
This is a relevant metric because single mothers may be the primary providers for their families. Therefore, metro areas where women have the best opportunity to earn a higher income are preferred. We also measured how women’s income levels compare to men’s—and areas with the highest level of gender parity are preferred. We sourced our data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Reports. The two inputs (absolute level of income and gender parity of income) were equally weighted to construct a Women’s Income rank.

Housing Affordability
To measure housing affordability, we used the price-to-income ratio. We use the Zillow Home Value Index and median household income for a metro area to determine how many years of income a home costs. With values ranging from under 2 to over 6, this is a good way to compare relative affordability in different metro areas. The lower the price-to-income ratio, the more affordable home-ownership is in a given metro area.

Crime
While most people want to live in low-crime areas, we assume that this is a particularly important consideration for women living alone with children. We used the data on violent crimes (sourced from the Federal Bureau of Investigation) to determine which metro areas have the least amount of crime and would be most desirable.

Education
Another thing important to mothers is the quality of schools in an area. We used education spending as a proxy for school quality in a metro area. The Census Bureau reports per-student expenditure on education and also the spending on instruction per $1,000 of income and we ranked each. Similar to the Women’s Income rank, we used both factors so we could compare the absolute value of spending but also have a measure to evaluate how different areas value education spending. Both factors were equally weighted to construct an Education Rank.

Walk Score
Our last metric is the Walk Score, as reported by WalkScore.com. This measures the relative convenience of living in different areas—the higher the Walk Score, the more “livable” an area without a car. We know that single mothers are busy people, so if they have a short commute, can walk their children to school, or do daily errands without having to drive far,  and their quality of life will be higher.

We  ranked each of these five metrics and then took an average, double weighting the Affordability and Crime rankings.


About the author
Emily Trinks