Best Places to Raise a Family in California (2022)

California once drew legions of fortune seekers to its short-lived Gold Rush. Although few newcomers are likely to strike gold in the literal sense today, the Golden State continues to charm big dreamers — and not just aspiring actors and tech developers, either. California’s many other riches are a magnet for families in search of opportunity.

There’s no shortage of economic activity in the state, for one. California’s GDP of over $2.7 trillion in 2017 exceeded those of all but four countries. That’s due in part to its way of setting kids up for success, by establishing some of the best universities in the world. And once employed, workers benefit from a comprehensive paid family-leave program. California was the first state to offer that incentive to American families and remains one of only a handful of states to implement such a policy.

In addition to economic, educational and family benefits, California has an abundance of fun and entertainment options, including Disneyland and Universal Studios. For outdoor-loving families, the state teems with natural beauty, providing plenty of opportunities to explore.

Such a combination of qualities makes California the ideal place for parents to raise their children. But some cities are more family-friendly than others. WalletHub compared 254 Golden State cities to determine which among them is most conducive to family life. In making such a comparison, we examined each city across 21 key metrics, ranging from “number of attractions” to “pediatricians per capita” to “unemployment rate.” Scroll down for the winners, additional expert commentary and a full description of our methodology.

Table of Contents

Main FindingsAsk the ExpertsMethodology

Main Findings

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Best Places to Live in California for Families

Overall Rank

City

Total Score

‘Family Life & Fun’ Rank

‘Education, Health & Safety’ Rank

‘Affordability’ Rank

‘Socioeconomic Environment’ Rank

1Folsom, CA80.84533229
2San Ramon, CA77.8863692
3Los Altos, CA76.78171926
4El Dorado Hills, CA76.6714239111
5Dublin, CA76.1545111213
6Danville, CA75.94151389
7Pleasanton, CA75.7226161612
8Cupertino, CA75.223613531
9Aliso Viejo, CA75.153317738
10Roseville, CA74.95647473
11Rancho Santa Margarita, CA74.2465121027
12Elk Grove, CA73.141162579
13Rocklin, CA72.837734377
14Los Gatos, CA72.6218410139
15Saratoga, CA72.4812021123
16Eastvale, CA71.42211031125
17Yorba Linda, CA71.1520428225
18Palo Alto, CA70.938515744
19Fremont, CA70.499032627
20Sunnyvale, CA69.80781510014
21Temecula, CA69.72161101846
22Poway, CA69.18176242640
23Encinitas, CA69.0851355951
24Mission Viejo, CA69.01220232420
25Thousand Oaks, CA68.96169302353
26Rancho Palos Verdes, CA68.832369558
27Brentwood, CA68.62190522128
28Davis, CA68.57424019137
29Moorpark, CA68.52206185021
30Irvine, CA68.4152227969
31Santa Clara, CA68.3359429418
32Foster City, CA68.192177904
33Livermore, CA67.97104603936
34Lake Forest, CA67.90174512934
35Lincoln, CA67.67224372723
36San Clemente, CA67.67102386541
37Goleta, CA67.5741814972
38Vacaville, CA67.52107561499
39Tracy, CA67.41148742049
40Morgan Hill, CA67.31113446455
41Camarillo, CA67.14170453461
42Martinez, CA66.98137583560
43Orcutt, CA66.76109794343
44Fair Oaks, CA66.72147956110
45Chino Hills, CA66.65201732524
46Laguna Hills, CA66.63122556831
47Laguna Niguel, CA66.52230274045
48Oakley, CA66.41231103394
49Simi Valley, CA66.29178533176
50Carlsbad, CA66.16126644459
51Milpitas, CA66.12138499122
52Cypress, CA65.961682010735
53Petaluma, CA65.67236110587
54Manhattan Beach, CA65.48173598715
55Walnut Creek, CA65.27246196332
56Mountain View, CA65.221012113863
57Antelope, CA65.04912645172
58Brea, CA65.00144805647
59Murrieta, CA64.72119774292
60Redondo Beach, CA64.64149934164
61Pleasant Hill, CA64.571361025437
62Santee, CA64.56207693670
63Claremont, CA64.371931251375
64Orangevale, CA64.3414316215121
65Napa, CA64.01128614690
66Walnut, CA63.94251269610
67Beaumont, CA63.929210832108
68Fountain Valley, CA63.721943612854
69Placentia, CA63.711872513250
70Pacifica, CA63.59219318948
71Clovis, CA63.558611117156
72Diamond Bar, CA63.28228709530
73Menlo Park, CA63.19881418580
74Novato, CA63.091842914083
75San Dimas, CA62.47216966667
76San Jose, CA62.16258916085
77Santa Clarita, CA62.132128230123
78Campbell, CA62.051599210256
79Torrance, CA61.851996511662
80Rancho Cucamonga, CA61.5515512838106
81Union City, CA61.4621310011816
82Corona, CA61.3215412152103
83Hollister, CA61.3111254106146
84Fairfield, CA61.1916510561114
85Redwood City, CA61.11704820465
86El Paso de Robles (Paso Robles), CA60.902914115174
87Woodland, CA60.747312981119
88Rohnert Park, CA60.619357137149
89San Mateo, CA60.541335019458
90Huntington Beach, CA60.482157111581
91Burlingame, CA60.39794620071
92Manteca, CA60.3515013649115
93San Marcos, CA60.3210068152107
94Orange, CA60.211627614384
95San Juan Capistrano, CA60.101407514893
96La Mirada, CA59.912481065766
97San Diego, CA59.8722124147131
98Chula Vista, CA59.849783131129
99Alameda, CA59.812216313086
100Rancho Cordova, CA59.783911977190
101Dana Point, CA59.67242949857
102Newark, CA59.662389713319
103Newport Beach, CA59.602054116895
104West Sacramento, CA59.485314474162
105Cerritos, CA59.202081948517
106South San Francisco, CA58.881726620533
107Glendora, CA58.712331128688
108Lakewood, CA58.702181636091
109Yucaipa, CA58.6011715346168
110San Bruno, CA58.581529818926
111Redlands, CA58.5410821828135
112San Buenaventura (Ventura), CA58.48132132119105
113La Verne, CA58.442451854789
114Santa Rosa, CA58.426178182148
115Castro Valley, CA58.402376711382
116Lodi, CA58.2038164114154
117Temple City, CA58.001468821042
118Turlock, CA57.992020072173
119La Quinta, CA57.9622215748128
120Wildomar, CA57.7722510173151
121Tustin, CA57.747584197116
122Ceres, CA57.437137117217
123Arcadia, CA57.361968119668
124Menifee, CA57.2722313167142
125Jurupa Valley, CA56.8262198104163
126Sacramento, CA56.723209103230
127Carmichael, CA56.6118813937218
128Berkeley, CA56.5318114082164
129Burbank, CA56.52128123165117
130San Rafael, CA56.4817785181127
131Fontana, CA56.475821378165
132Chino, CA56.4418318870126
133Chico, CA56.449815487188
134West Covina, CA56.2922913312696
135Covina, CA55.91103146139161
136Gilroy, CA55.83182118150144
137Buena Park, CA55.61186134166101
138Seaside, CA55.5811691211102
139Daly City, CA55.562494322152
140Fullerton, CA55.49166130184104
141Whittier, CA55.45123167142133
142Citrus Heights, CA55.4012418975175
143Lake Elsinore, CA55.3213018676179
144Yuba City, CA55.2620013871201
145Concord, CA55.17210147145112
146San Luis Obispo, CA55.0531151162189
147Visalia, CA55.034717969231
148Hanford, CA54.979917158228
149Bakersfield, CA54.951524251221
150La Habra, CA54.94179104180147
151Culver City, CA54.831802259997
152Palm Desert, CA54.81211169110134
153Anaheim, CA54.6319152212152
154Indio, CA54.5540205136181
155La Mesa, CA54.52161127173155
156Monrovia, CA54.35227107176122
157Santa Paula, CA54.3415672202170
158Oceanside, CA54.12191142171125
159Santa Monica, CA53.9774173174160
160Pasadena, CA53.95167135155171
161Tulare, CA53.635416897235
162Beverly Hills, CA53.41111117224132
163Norwalk, CA53.30118165175158
164Vista, CA53.22121113218138
165Riverside, CA53.1710524084174
166Redding, CA53.106623493197
167Upland, CA52.94226177123143
168Santa Barbara, CA52.9027143235118
169Ontario, CA52.8050212159180
170Colton, CA52.7713221158212
171Azusa, CA52.6681166188183
172Garden Grove, CA52.60158120219136
173La Puente, CA52.5424116208210
174Hayward, CA52.40192149193140
175Highland, CA52.34110204125198
176Los Banos, CA52.3344158120241
177Escondido, CA52.3195155207157
178Salinas, CA52.2664181198167
179Santa Cruz, CA52.1143184192187
180Rialto, CA51.9934206153220
181Lompoc, CA51.997699201227
182Carson, CA51.8923420780178
183Oxnard, CA51.7680190199159
184Santa Maria, CA51.4457159220184
185Downey, CA50.90160187190166
186Hacienda Heights, CA50.9025422312998
187Glendale, CA50.6620987234130
188Costa Mesa, CA50.61125208216113
189Apple Valley, CA50.46141191124229
190Stanton, CA50.365590240194
191San Gabriel, CA50.3318510924978
192Cathedral City, CA50.2471201191207
193Antioch, CA50.12239193127182
194Baldwin Park, CA50.11197160217145
195Spring Valley (San Diego County), CA50.05115172195206
196San Leandro, CA50.01247197183100
197San Jacinto, CA49.95198224108208
198Pico Rivera, CA49.79195182177191
199Porterville, CA49.784174170251
200Palmdale, CA49.7268180156236
201Moreno Valley, CA49.62171229122202
202Coachella, CA49.332227203233
203Montclair, CA49.2069249167177
204Modesto, CA49.0713925083214
205Watsonville, CA48.7110145244199
206Perris, CA48.6789215161234
207Fallbrook, CA48.64164178227153
208Lawndale, CA48.6091175238150
209Pittsburg, CA48.42235161164213
210Banning, CA48.30203211178203
211Delano, CA48.301214206243
212San Francisco, CA48.25114236215139
213Alhambra, CA48.23243115232124
214Westminster, CA48.17189148237141
215Palm Springs, CA47.96135247141205
216Gardena, CA47.86145210214176
217Santa Ana, CA47.5385170243169
218Merced, CA47.4848176169250
219Hesperia, CA47.46157203144239
220Bellflower, CA47.43127195225195
221Monterey Park, CA47.42250122233120
222Vallejo, CA46.88241244111196
223Long Beach, CA46.8272216222215
224El Centro, CA46.5782235109245
225Stockton, CA46.3396248121242
226Victorville, CA46.2937241134248
227El Cajon, CA46.1994150231232
228Madera, CA46.0784220186238
229Fresno, CA46.0446232154249
230Calexico, CA45.83131202163244
231Paramount, CA45.5856231228222
232Rosemead, CA45.50232114251109
233Rowland Heights, CA45.30253217223111
234West Hollywood, CA45.17252245135192
235Pomona, CA44.78153226226209
236Los Angeles, CA44.6030228239225
237Bell, CA44.0428196252185
238Lynwood, CA43.7614238246211
239Lancaster, CA43.75129233172246
240National City, CA43.5367183248219
241Montebello, CA43.45244192230193
242North Highlands, CA43.3232219187253
243Richmond, CA42.65240237213200
244El Monte, CA42.28214156250186
245South Gate, CA42.2260246241204
246Hawthorne, CA41.7387230247216
247Hemet, CA41.12202253179237
248Bell Gardens, CA40.3049199254224
249Inglewood, CA38.64163239242240
250Oakland, CA38.56175252236223
251Compton, CA37.95134251229247
252Huntington Park, CA36.28106243253226
253San Bernardino, CA35.7583254209252
254Adelanto, CA35.0835222245254

Ask the Experts

Families share a number of common priorities when choosing a new place to call home. With that in mind, we asked a panel of experts in fields such as family studies and public health to share their insight regarding the process of evaluating prospective California cities on a family’s shortlist. Click on the experts’ profiles below to read their bios and their thoughts on the following key questions:

  1. What are some tips for young families looking for quality public schools and affordable housing in California?
  2. How can local officials in California make their cities more attractive to young families?
  3. Looking just within California, to what degree is child development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the city in which they live?

Ask the Experts

Methodology

To help families find the best Golden State cities in which to put down roots, WalletHub compared 254 cities in the state across four key dimensions: 1) Family Life & Fun, 2) Education, Health & Safety, 3) Affordability and 4) Socioeconomic Environment.

We evaluated these categories using 21 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with 100 indicating the most suitable conditions for family life.

We then determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.

In determining our sample, we considered only the “city proper” in each case and excluded surrounding cities in the metro area. Other cities were not included in the sample due to limited data access.

Family Life & Fun – Total Points: 25

  • Playgrounds per Capita: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
  • Number of Attractions: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
    Note: “Attractions” includes, for instance, museums, theaters and zoos.
  • Share of Families with Children Aged 0 to 17: Double Weight (~8.33 Points)
  • WalletHub “Weather” Ranking: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
  • Average Commute Time: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)

Education, Health & Safety – Total Points: 25

  • Quality of School System: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
  • High School Graduation Rate: Half Weight (~1.47 Points)
  • Air Quality: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
  • Pediatricians per Capita: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
  • Share of Uninsured Children Aged 0 to 17: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
  • Violent-Crime Rate per Capita: Double Weight (~5.88 Points)
  • Property-Crime Rate per Capita: Double Weight (~5.88 Points)

Affordability – Total Points: 25

  • Housing Affordability: Full Weight (~12.50 Points)
    Note: This metric was calculated by dividing the median annual family income by housing costs, which account for both rental and sale prices.
  • General Affordability: Full Weight (~12.50 Points)
    Note: This metric was calculated by dividing the median family income by the cost-of-living index.

Socioeconomic Environment – Total Points: 25

  • Separation & Divorce Rate: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
  • Share of Two-Parent Families: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
  • Share of Families Living Below Poverty Level: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
  • Share of Households Receiving Food Stamps: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
  • Unemployment Rate: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
  • Wealth Gap: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
  • Foreclosure Rate: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)

Sources: Data used to create these rankings were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Renwood RealtyTrac, SchoolDigger.com, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Areavibes, County Health Rankings and WalletHub research.

Image: Spotmatik Ltd / Shutterstock.com

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