The best cities for working moms


A young mother balances her baby on her lap while she tries to get some work done on her computer

Over the past several decades, two concurrent trends have affected motherhood in the U.S. The first trend is that women today are more likely to become mothers than they were ten years ago. The second is that, compared to previous generations, today’s mothers are more likely to be in the workforce—putting in more hours outside of the home.

Women now make up almost half of the labor force and 73.7 percent of mothers choose to work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This means that more women face a delicate balancing act between work and family, and many families must rely on child care when both parents are at the office.

Despite positive changes in employment, the average woman still earns less than the average man. The pay gap for full-time workers hovers around 80.8 percent — an improvement over the past, but far from equal. With the nationwide average cost of child care reaching $11,959 (roughly 30 percent of the typical woman’s salary), making small changes to reduce these costs or increase income — whether by changing jobs, locations, or both — can go a long way towards improving financial security and quality of life.

An image depicting the pay and pay gap between men and women from 2005 onwards

Fortunately, some locations are far better for working mothers than others, based on factors like median salaries, wage gaps, unemployment rates, labor force participation and the cost of child care among others. To find these cities, Haven Life analyzed the largest 200 cities in the U.S. and created a composite score based on the following metrics:

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers (25 points)
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s (20 points)
  • Unemployment rate of mothers (20 points)
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce (10 points)
  • Length of women’s work week (including commute) (10 points)
  • State average cost of child care (15 points)

Here’s what Haven Life found:

Takeaways

  • While the national gender pay gap is 80.8 percent, Oakland, Calif., (ranked as the fourth best city for working moms) stands out as one of three large cities in the U.S. where women earn slightly more than men.
  • Holding other factors equal, compared with single moms, mothers in married-couple households with another earner have more flexibility in choosing whether to work. This is why the percentage of married mothers in the workforce was used to indicate where more moms choose to work even when there is less financial pressure to do so. Madison, Wis., Lexington, Ky., and Minneapolis (ranked second, third, and eighth overall) stand out as having a larger percentage of married mothers in the labor force than almost any other city in the nation.
  • The average cost of center-based infant care in the U.S. is now close to $12,000 per year, which accounts for more than 30 percent of women’s full-time earnings. Southern states offer more affordable child care options than states in the Northeast or on the West Coast.
  • Not a single Northeast city is represented in the top 20 best cities for working moms. Based on the composite score, cities in the West, the South, and the Midwest tend to offer better conditions for women balancing work and family life.

The 20 top cities for working moms

20. McKinney, Texas

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $52,177
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 72.4 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 1.8 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 72.8 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 41.4 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $9,102

The labor force participation rate for married mothers in McKinney is 72.8 percent, slightly higher than the U.S. average, and women earn a high median salary of $52,177. McKinney’s close proximity to the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area makes it ideal for professionals looking to grow their career. Some of the largest employers in Dallas include American Airlines, Bank of America, and Raytheon. As a place to live, McKinney maintains its small-town feel while offering numerous shops, restaurants, and art galleries for entertainment. For weekend fun, the Towne Lake Recreation Area is a local park that is perfect for families to picnic, fish, play outdoor sports, or rent paddle boats.

19. Chandler, Arizona

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $51,188
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 83.7 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 4.4 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 75.0 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 41.9 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $10,687

Located about 20 miles outside of Phoenix, Chandler is a suburban town with the trappings of a big city. Full-time female workers make a median salary of $51,188, while the state’s average cost of child care is $10,687 — about 10 percent below the national average. Some of the top industries in Chandler include aviation & aerospace, high-tech manufacturing, IT, and healthcare. Chandler is located half an hour away from the larger cities of Tempe, Mesa, and Phoenix, further expanding employment opportunities for working mothers. For those who are more entrepreneurial, Chandler also offers an Innovations Incubator for startups and emerging businesses. Within the city, public art exhibits and performance venues add to the cultural scene, while recreational areas like Tumbleweed Park offer myriad outdoor activities for families.

18. Seattle, Washington

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $62,997
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 77.5 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 4.1 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 74.4 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 41.9 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $14,208

Seattle is known for more than the Space Needle and Starbucks. It’s also an ideal city for young professionals and their families. Career opportunities are abundant in industries such as IT, green technology, hospitality, and film, while well-known businesses such as Starbucks, Costco, and Amazon are also headquartered in the Seattle metro. An added bonus is that the state of Washington has no income tax, which provides a little extra money for fun activities and savings. Outside of the office, natural wonders like the Cascade and Olympic Mountain ranges, the Puget Sound, Discovery Park, and Lake Washington are perfect for outdoor recreation, while museums, live music, and wine tastings are popular indoor activities. Even though the average cost of child care in Washington is above average, women’s salaries in Seattle far exceed the national median, making child care proportionally less expensive.

17. Albuquerque, New Mexico

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $40,371
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 87.8 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 4.3 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 74.1 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 40.1 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $8,412

Nestled in the Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque combines the comforts of big city living with easy access to nature. Popular outdoor activities include hiking, biking, and skiing. History buffs will also love the Native American history celebrated throughout the city in a variety of galleries, historic sites, and museums. Some of the most popular industries in Albuquerque include media, technology, bioscience, and semiconductors and electronics. Defense and research jobs are particularly prominent in Albuquerque due to the presence of Sandia National Labs, Kirtland Air Force Base, and Honeywell. Albuquerque has one of the lowest median salaries for women, at $40,371, but also a shorter work week at 40.1 hours (including time spent commuting). The state’s average child care cost of $8,412 is also well below the national average.

16. Scottsdale, Arizona

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $59,933
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 78.9 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 1.9 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 59.1 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 42.0 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $10,687

At 59.1 percent, Scottsdale has the lowest percentage of mothers in the workforce on this list. But women who do work earn a median salary of $59,933, far above the national median. Located just outside of Phoenix, Scottsdale is a Southwest city that boasts a bustling tourism industry with about 9 million visitors every year. The Old Town district celebrates its heritage as a cowboy town and is filled with saloons, cultural centers, and museums dedicated to cowboy history. Aside from employment in tourism and hospitality, many professionals in Scottsdale are engaged in fields like technology, bioscience, and financial services. Families can enjoy various activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding at nearby parks, as well as Camelback Mountain and Pinnacle Peak.

15. Portland, Oregon

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $46,640
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 88.0 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 2.5 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 74.6 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 40.4 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $13,292

In Portland, women earn more than what’s typical across the rest of the U.S.; however, the state’s high cost of child care will offset a portion of that difference. Regardless, Portland has earned attention in recent years as a destination for millennials and their families. Like many of the other major cities on this list, Portland is a burgeoning tech hub and jobs are available at employers such as Intel Corporation, Google, and Oracle, as well as Nike in nearby Beaverton. Oregon has no sales tax, which also eases the financial burden of living in a big city. Families can enjoy several fun activities together, such as skiing on Mount Hood or walking through Forest Park. Grocery stores and restaurants in Portland cater to a range of diets, including vegan, vegetarian, or paleo. Residents must not mind the rain, though — Portland is known for its high precipitation.

14. Nashville, Tennessee

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $41,008
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 92.9 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 3.5 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 73.9 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 41.7 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $8,524

Nashville is known for more than its country music scene. Even though there’s no shortage of musicians or festival planners in Nashville, the city also has a presence in industries such as healthcare, education, and financial services. One of Nashville’s largest employers, the Vanderbilt University Medical System, employs more than 20,000 people. Women in Nashville earn slightly less than the national median, but Tennessee’s low child care costs will help stretch salaries further. Families can explore green spaces such as Centennial Park or attend festivals and live music events. Since Nashville is geographically spread out, it is easiest to get around with a car, although there are public transportation options too.

13. Boise, Idaho

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $38,652
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 81.5 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 2.2 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 71.1 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 37.4 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $7,296

With a median salary of $38,652, Boise women earn below the national median, but also enjoy shorter work weeks (37.4 hours including commute times) and lower costs of child care ($7,296). Boise prides itself on its diversified economy, ranging from more traditional industries such as agriculture and government to more modern industries such as technology and healthcare. Some of the city’s major employers include Hewlett Packard, St. Luke’s Health System, and Micron Technology. Boise’s family-friendly activities are just as diversified as the economy. Local theaters, movies under the stars, and institutions such as the Basque Museum and Cultural Center are excellent entertainment options for families.

12. Charleston, South Carolina

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $43,475
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 85.0 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 3.4 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 76.2 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 41.1 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $6,840

Cobblestone streets and Georgian-style architecture dot the landscape of this charming southern city. Tourism is a major industry here, as well as military operations, higher education, and technology. Charleston’s top employers include the joint air force/naval base, manufacturers such as Boeing and Volvo, and colleges & universities such as the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina. The pay gap for Charleston women is 85 percent—more favorable than the national pay gap of 80.5 percent — and women earn a median salary of $43,475. At $6,840, South Carolina’s average child care costs are one of the lowest in the country. Charleston offers a vibrant nightlife, proximity to the beaches at Isle of Palms and multiple historic sites.

11. Austin, Texas

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $48,902
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 93.2 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 2.7 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 61.1 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 41.6 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $9,102

The capital city of Texas, Austin has become a hotspot for millennials and young families in recent years. Women earn a median salary of $48,902, accounting for a pay gap of only 93.2 percent. However, only 61.1 percent of mothers participate in the labor force, much lower than in the U.S. overall. Austin has no personal income tax, and work is available in fields ranging from clean technology to digital media to space technology. Austin is becoming a major tech hub, and companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple, and Dell have corporate offices there. On weekends, residents can cool off in Barton Springs, enjoy live music, or visit one of the city’s numerous parks and lakes.

10. Naperville, Illinois

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $65,790
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 69.5 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 1.6 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 70.7 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 39.5 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $13,474

About an hour west of Chicago, the small city of Naperville is known for being family friendly as well as professionally-oriented. Women in Naperville earn a median salary of $65,790, much higher than the national median, but also 30.5 percent less than men in Naperville. Along with the higher salaries, Illinois has higher child care costs, at $13,474 per year. The biggest industries in Naperville include professional, scientific & technical services, as well as healthcare & social assistance. The city’s biggest employers are Edward Hospital & Health Services, Nokia, and Naperville public schools. During the summer, families in Naperville are often seen swimming or sunbathing at Centennial Beach or meandering down the Riverwalk, a walking trail along the DuPage River. The city’s historic district showcases an array of stunning architecture, while shops and restaurants in the downtown area ensure there is always plenty to do.

9. Tallahassee, Florida

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $37,889
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 91.9 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 4.9 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 74.4 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 36.8 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $9,018

The state capital of Florida is home to several universities, including Florida State University and Florida A&M University, contributing to the college town atmosphere and offering many opportunities for employment. Aside from education, the fastest growing industries in Tallahassee are professional services, healthcare, hospitality, and trade-transportation & logistics. Tallahassee is home to multiple cultural institutions, including the Tallahassee Automobile Museum, Goodwood Museum and Gardens, Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park, and San Luis Mission Park. Even though Tallahassee women earn slightly less than the national median, the gender pay gap in Tallahassee is narrow and the average cost of child care in Florida is also on the low end.

8. Minneapolis, Minnesota

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $50,074
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 94.5 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 4.0 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 78.3 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 39.5 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $15,704

One of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis is home to sites including the Mall of America, the Stone Arch Bridge, and the Mississippi River. Women who live in Minneapolis earn a median salary of $50,074, almost the same amount earned by men. Due to the proximity to Saint Paul, professionals living in Minneapolis have the advantage of choosing to work in either of Minnesota’s two economic powerhouses. This metro area prides itself on being home to more Fortune 500 companies per capita than any other city in the world, and work is available in industries such as financial services, technology, and renewable energy. Although the city is known for its harsh winters, the Skyway system, a series of interconnected, enclosed bridges, makes walking around in the cold much easier. When the weather is warmer, families can visit the city’s many parks, lakes, and wetlands.

7. Orange, California

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $51,210
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 99.4 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 2.3 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 63.3 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 39.3 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $16,542

Aptly named for its history of orange groves, the city of Orange is located in southern California and surrounded by other big cities such as Irvine, Anaheim, and Fullerton. The pay gap in Orange is almost nonexistent, and women earn a median salary of $51,210. However, the percentage of Orange mothers in the workforce is lower than the national percentage. Jobs in greater Orange county are plentiful in areas such as business & professional services, finance, healthcare, tourism, and information technology. Children are likely to love this small suburban city because it is only a few miles away from Disneyland in Anaheim (which is one of the region’s largest employers, too). Outdoor activities for families in Orange include hiking along Peter’s Canyon Trail or taking a drive to the beach.

6. Santa Rosa, California

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $48,167
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 95.3 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 1.2 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 70.0 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 38.9 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $16,542

Santa Rosa is located about 50 miles north of San Francisco in the heart of Sonoma Valley, California’s wine country. Local vineyards offer a plethora of wine selections, while farmers markets offer the freshest produce. Aside from agriculture and tourism, Santa Rosa’s well-balanced economy includes industries such as high-tech manufacturing, government services, education, and healthcare. Women working in Santa Rosa earn a median salary of $48,167, almost as much as men. At 1.2 percent, Santa Rosa has the lowest unemployment rate for mothers on this list. Within the city itself, festivals, public art exhibits, and numerous parks ensure there is plenty for families to do over the weekend.

5. San Francisco, California

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $76,500
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 91.1 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 5.1 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 70.8 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 44.5 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $16,542

San Francisco is known for its high prices, proximity to the bay, and its thriving tech scene. The key sectors in the San Francisco economy are IT & software, social & digital media, life sciences & biotech, environmental & cleantech, professional services, and international business. Some of the city’s major employers include Wells Fargo, Salesforce, Uber, Deloitte, and Amazon. At $76,500, San Francisco has the highest median earnings for full-time female workers on this list, but also the longest work week for women (including commute times). Outside of work, residents in San Francisco can enjoy a vibrant arts scene, nightlife, and the smorgasbord of restaurants that have earned the city a reputation as a foodie’s paradise.

4. Oakland, California

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $56,991
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 103.6 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 3.1 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 69.6 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 42.7 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $16,542

Oakland is located a few miles away from San Francisco, offering proximity to the San Francisco job market with lower housing costs. Major employers in Oakland include Kaiser Permanente, local and state government, and a number of local hospitals. Women in Oakland earn a median salary of $56,991. Oakland is the only city on this list where women earn more money than men, continuing the trend of California cities having smaller pay gaps compared to the rest of the cities on this list. For outdoor recreation, Oakland is home to the Claremont Canyon Fire Trail and a lagoon called Lake Merritt, both of which are perfect for visiting during sunny summer days. Children will enjoy attractions such as the Children’s Fairyland amusement park, the Oakland Zoo, and the Chabot Space and Science Center.

3. Lexington, Kentucky

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $40,713
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 87.5 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 2.5 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 78.9 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 39.2 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $6,258

Kentucky offers the lowest cost of child care of any state represented on this list, at $6,258 per year. Lexington women also earn a median salary of $40,713, slightly lower than the national median. The University of Kentucky is the city’s largest employer, while state and local government, health systems and hospitals, and manufacturing and distribution facilities are other major sources of employment opportunities. For recreation, the Kentucky Horse Park is popular among families with kids. Lexington is also home to a variety of festivals and events such as the Festival of the Bluegrass and the Kentucky Crawfish Festival.

2. Madison, Wisconsin

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $48,243
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 86.9 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 2.6 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 82.3 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 37.3 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $12,268

At 82.3 percent, Madison is the city on this list with the highest percentage of married mothers in the workforce. Madison’s key industries are manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, information technology, and life sciences. Students from the local University of Wisconsin – Madison contribute to the city’s youthful atmosphere, while the university and its affiliated health system account for a significant number of local jobs. Madison is situated between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, offering ample opportunities for water sports and beach-going. Madison is a highly walkable and bikeable city, and many residents opt to travel without a car.

1. Arlington, Virginia

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: $76,438
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 84.0 percent
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 2.9 percent
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 77.3 percent
  • Length of women’s work week: 44.5 hours
  • State average cost of child care: $13,728

Arlington is located outside of Washington, D.C., and many residents commute from Arlington to the nation’s capital every day using the city’s extensive rail system. Women in Arlington earn a median salary of $76,438, and the pay gap is narrower than the U.S. average. Major industries for Arlington residents include medical technology, education technology, cybersecurity, media & publishing, and nonprofit management. Arlington is known for its historic character and charm, with local sites including Arlington National Cemetery, Mount Vernon, and the Manassas Battlefield. Average child care costs of $13,728 in Virginia are slightly higher than the national average, but still less than 20 percent of the median salary for women.

Methodology

All employment-related statistics are from the U.S. Census Bureau 2017 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. child care cost estimates are from the Child Care Aware 2018 Report: The U.S. and the High Cost of Child Care, which considered the annual cost of center-based infant care. Child Care Aware does not report this data for Montana or South Dakota.

For each city, a composite score was calculated based on the following metrics:

  • Median earnings for full-time female workers: 25 points
  • Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s: 20 points
  • Unemployment rate of mothers: 20 points
  • Percentage of married-couple mothers in the workforce: 10 points
  • Length of women’s work week (including commuting): 10 points
  • State average cost of child care: 15 points

Only the 200 most populous cities in the United States were considered.

Haven Life Insurance Agency LLC (Haven Life) conducted this analysis for educational/informational purposes only. Haven Life is an online life insurance agency offering term life insurance issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company. Haven Life does not provide tax, legal, investment, or housing/real estate advice, and the information in the study should not be relied on as such. You should consult your own tax, legal, investment, and other advisors, as appropriate, before engaging in any transaction.

The post The best cities for working moms appeared first on Blog | Haven Life | Life insurance & Personal Finance Tips.

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