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’