The best cities to raise a family

James McCay

Oct 25, 2023

Raising a family can be rewarding, but it’s never easy! As parents, we want to give our children the best that we can, so they are safe, happy, fulfilled, and prepared for the world.

If you have children of your own or are thinking of starting a family, you may be thinking about the city or town you call home. Is it a good place for kids?

Every family will have slightly different priorities when it comes to what’s important for raising children. Some things are universally desirable for families, such as a city’s safety, the number of kid-friendly activities, green spaces to explore, childcare availability, and education opportunities.

Could there be a city out there which is better for families? Would it be worth moving to?

As home loan experts, we looked at several cities across the globe to find out which ones may be more ideally suited for settling into a long-term home and raising a family. We examined 12 different data points from 38 cities to create an index ranking them based on which cities were the best.

Here are the results.

1. Stockholm – 6.57/10

The Swedish capital ranked first out of 38 cities to raise a family, narrowly beating Paris by 0.02 points. Stockholm took first place thanks to high scores in five of the 12 data points we examined. This included Sweden having the highest percentage of GDP spent on education out of any other nation on the index (7.2% of GDP).

Sweden had the third-highest happiness score at 7.4, the third-highest government spending on family benefits (3.4% of GDP), and the fifth-biggest combined parental leave at 68 weeks. At a city level, Stockholm is in the top 10 for green spaces with 23.53 parks and gardens per 100,000 residents. While Stockholm performed poorly for the number of child-friendly activities and things to do (coming in 30th place), the Swedish city performed well enough across all 12 data points that Stockholm took the number one spot.

2. Paris – 6.55/10

Just beaten out by Stockholm was Paris, scoring 6.55/10. The city performed well in several areas. Paris had the fourth-highest number of activities for kids at 464 and the seventh-highest walkability score at 73.2%. France also had the fifth-biggest government spending on family benefits (2.9% of GDP) and the biggest number of combined parental leave at 312 weeks (Spain and Germany had the same amount of parental leave too).

Paris didn’t get a higher score due to low affordability, with the cost of living at US$4,052 a month for a family of four, and an average number of green spaces (3.76 per 100,000).

3. Tokyo – 6.41/10

Third on our list is Japan’s capital Tokyo, which scored 6.41/10. The Japanese city is a safe bustling metropolis, having lots of parks and green spaces to explore. Tokyo had the fifth-best safety score and the eighth largest number of family-friendly activities (362), including museums, shrines, aquariums, zoos, and more. It had the fifth-best walkability score (79.3%) as well as 32 green spaces per 100,000 residents, the fifth highest on our index.

Japan is known for its intense work culture which sees many people working long hours, and the country has been grappling with a problem of loneliness for years, well before the COVID-19 lockdown (which only exacerbated the issue). Japan had one of the lowest happiness scores on our index, which stopped Tokyo from achieving a higher score. Loneliness, isolation, and happiness are prominent issues – so much so that in 2021, the Japanese Government appointed a Minister of Loneliness position in 2021 to help address concerns.1

4. Sydney – 6.19/10

Sydney, Australia is the only city to be in the top five which isn’t a nation’s capital. The city scored 6.19/10 overall thanks to strong scores in several areas. There are plenty of family-friendly activities, where Sydney ranked 12th out of 38 (with 226 things to do with kids). The city also did well thanks to Australia’s high happiness score; the fifth highest for cities on the index, tying with New Zealand and Austria. While the pandemic lockdown saw Australia’s happiness score drop severely, it has since bounced back.

On the flipside, Sydney is very expensive, having the eleventh-most expensive cost of living at US$4,099 a month for a family of four (not including rent or mortgage repayments). This made Sydney more expensive than Paris and Auckland, but cheaper than Seoul and Dallas. Also, Sydney’s walkability measures are behind the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy’s (ITDP) targets, which stopped it from potentially achieving a higher score.

5. Helsinki – 6.15/10

Right behind Sydney was the Finnish capital Helsinki, with a score of 6.15/10. Helsinki had the highest safety score of all 38 cities on the index, and the nation of Finland is the happiest on earth, according to the World Happiness Report 2023. Finland also had the fifth-highest spend on family benefits (2.9% of GDP). Helsinki didn’t do so well in the number of kid-friendly activities available for families, coming in at 28th place with 98 activities.

All cities ‘quick view’ results

To help make it easier to view the rankings for all 38 cities, we’ve put together a ‘quick view’ that condenses these 12 data points into four categories. For each specific metric, the cities were given a score out of 10 based on how they performed, with the quick view categories providing an average score based on their specific data points (the regular index score is based on all 12 data points individually – see more about our methodology below).

The categories and the specific data points they’re based on are explained below.

    • Safety and wellbeing: safety, happiness, family benefits spending, combined statutory parental leave and child vaccination rates.
    • Family activities: things to do, green spaces per 100,000 people, and walkability.
    • Education: the percentage of GDP spent by the government on education.
    • Expenses category: average cost of living, healthcare costs, and average income.

The best cities to raise a family ‘quick view’

CitySafety and wellbeing category scoreFamily activities category scoreEducation category scoreExpenses category scoreIndex score
New York3.
New Delhi1.
San Francisco3.
Buenos Aires2.
Rio de Janeiro1.
Los Angeles2.
Sao Paulo1.
Washington D.C.
Mexico City0.

You can view the full index scores with all 12 data points here.

American cities dominate the bottom 10 rankings

In our index of 38 cities, six of them are from the USA. All except New York were in the bottom 10 of our index. Washington D.C. was second last at 3.33/10, Los Angeles and Dallas tied for fourth-last at 3.67, Chicago scored 3.85/10, placing it sixth from the bottom, while San Francisco had the seventh-worst score at 3.92/10. In contrast, New York ranked 22nd (4.61/10).

Why do these American cities perform so badly in our index?

According to the data, these cities had some of the lowest safety scores in comparison to other cities from the index, low walkability measures, some of the highest average cost of living figures and expensive healthcare costs. While New York had a high number of kid-friendly activities, most of these American cities fared poorly or averagely in other data points apart from average income, where some had higher scores.

Where do Australian cities stand?

Two Australian cities were listed on the index: Sydney and Melbourne. Sydney came fourth while Melbourne ranked in 11th place. Sydney and Melbourne did well thanks to high safety and happiness scores, government spending on family benefits and education as a percentage of GDP. Where Sydney and Melbourne didn’t perform as well as other cities was in the increased cost of living, walkability (as measured by progress towards ITDP targets), and household out-of-pocket medical costs.

Looking at the index as a whole, however, Sydney and Melbourne perform quite well and are up there with some of the best cities in the world to raise a family.

General Manager of Money at Compare the Market, Stephen Zeller, notes that while each data point was equally weighted, some people might have a different view based on what they think is more important when it comes to raising kids.

“Some people might value safety and would prefer to raise a family in a city like Helsinki, Vienna, or Zurich, which had the best safety scores. Others might want to look at things to do and green spaces, or the cost of living and earning potential instead,” he said.

“When it comes to settling down and raising a family, you might be buying a home and planning on staying put for a while, so you want to make sure you’re happy with where you’re living and that it suits your family – otherwise you may have to make compromises on what’s important to you.”

How comparing home loans can help you settle down and raise a family

If you’ve found a place for your family to call home, you may benefit from comparing home loans. Stephen Zeller explains how a family looking to settle down can benefit.

Zeller explains that banks and lenders all offer different interest rates, features and charge different fees for their loans. They also look at you’re the location and size of the property, what type of home it is, the size of your deposit in relation to the loan and your credit history. These factors can change the interest rate banks offer, which make a big difference over decades.

“Regardless of your family situation, comparing loans from different lenders can help you weigh up interest rates, features, and fees to look for a better deal. Even half a percentage point difference on your interest rate can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars throughout your loan, depending on how much you borrow.”


To calculate this index, 12 data points from 38 cities were gathered and cities were given a score between 0 and 10 for each data point, depending on how they performed compared to one another. These 12 scores out of 10 were then averaged for each city to calculate the index ranking, with a higher score representing a better city to raise a family. The data sources and how each one was scored are listed below:

  • Safety: safety scores out of 100 based on police crime reports and polls regarding safety, with a higher safety score getting a higher score out of 10.
  • Happiness: happiness was scored out of 10 for the country based on polling data regarding self-evaluation of their life and happiness. A higher happiness score received a higher score out of 10.
  • Things to do: the number of activities and locations to visit that were categorised by TripAdvisor as: “things to do with kids”. This data was sourced between 14/08/2023 and 16/08/2023 and is subject to change. The more listed activities, the higher the score out of 10.
  • Estimated monthly cost of living: the average monthly cost of expenses in USD for food and groceries, transportation, utilities, childcare, clothing, sports, and leisure activities per month for a family of four. This does not include rent or mortgage repayments. The higher the average cost of living, the lower the score out of 10.
  • Walkability: a city’s progress towards the walkability goals listed by the ITDP Pedestrians First The toolkit lists a city’s progress towards five distinct goals (percentage of residents near services, percentage of residents near transit, block density, population density, and car-free areas). For our index, we gave the city an average based on their progress towards these five goals. A higher average result was given a higher score out of 10.
  • Family benefits spending: the percentage of a nation’s GDP that was spent on welfare for families with children, as well as healthcare and housing assistance costs. Data for cities in OECD member countries was sourced from OECD Data, while cities in non-OECD nations were sourced from World Bank Group. A higher percentage of GDP was given a higher score out of 10.
  • Combined parental leave: the total combined length in weeks of statutory parental leave (where a worker can take paid or unpaid leave to care for a child without losing their job) for mothers and fathers. A higher number of weeks was given a higher score out of 10.
  • Green spaces: the number of parks and gardens in a city, regardless of size, per 100,000 residents. The sources for the number of parks were listed below, while the population for cities was estimated figures for 2023 and sourced from the United Nations. The higher the number of green spaces per 100,000, the higher the score out of 10.
  • Child vaccination: the percentage of children who have received vaccinations for Diphtheria and Measles, calculated as an average for each country. Data for OECD member nations was sourced from OECD Data, while non-OECD countries data was sourced from UNICEF. Countries with a higher average vaccination rate received a higher score out of 10.
  • Education spending: the percentage of a nation’s GDP spent on education. Cities from countries with higher spending had a higher score out of 10.
  • Average income: the average monthly after-tax income of a city per person, in USD. Cities with a higher average wage received a higher score out of 10.
  • Healthcare costs: the average out-of-pocket cost for healthcare in a nation in USD. Costs were converted from local currencies into USD using Google’s currency converter tool on 21/08/2023. The higher the average out-of-pocket cost, the lower the score out of 10 on our index.

N.B. Wellington did not have walkability data available from the ITDP Pedestrians First toolkit. The index calculations for Auckland’s score were used instead.

Green spaces data sources:


  1. Japan’s ‘minister of loneliness’ in global spotlight as media seek interviews. Shun Kawaguchi, The Mainichi. 2021.