Monday, August 17, 2009

What makes a city good for working moms?

Forbes magazine has figured out the best cities for working moms, and New York City -- also known as the most expensive city in the country, where $60,000 buys you about as much as a $26,000 annual salary in Atlanta -- comes out on top, followed by Austin, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Milwaukee, and Portland, Oregon.

So, what do those five cities have in common, and what makes them great for working moms in particular? A high concentration of moms who work outside of the home? Family-friendly companies? Spectacular, affordable childcare? Jobs with flexible hours?

Don't know. Forbes didn't focus on those things.

Instead, Forbes calculated the rankings by taking the 50 largest cities in the US and evaluating them in 11 categories: income, unemployment, living cost, health care, pediatricians, school quality, spending per pupil, child care, violent crimes, property crimes, and parks. All of which are important, yes, but none of which are specific to working moms or the challenges they face, as I point out over at The 36-Hour Day.

The reasoning behind the large number of categories makes sense: Different moms have different needs. But since all of the categories were weighed equally -- the number of pediatricians in an area meant as much in the rankings as cost of living, job opportunities, and availability of childcare -- the end result doesn't make much sense. Which is how you end up with New York City -- a place with high unemployment and an even higher cost of living -- in the number one spot. Which is odd, because Forbes declared it one of the worst cities for families just a few months ago. Austin -- a city whose best traits, according to Forbes, are a low unemployment rate and a high number of parks -- is in the number two spot. (You can see the complete list here.)

Going just by availability of childcare, Houston was the number one city for working moms, followed by Chicago and Miami/Fort Lauderdale; if your most important criterion is the ability to earn a lot of money, your best bets were the Washington, D.C./Alexandria area, San Jose, and San Francisco/Oakland. School quality your number one priority? Go with Minneapolis/St. Paul, Milwaukee, or San Francisco.

Also wondering: How many working moms live in the cities themselves, vs. in the suburbs? I live near Boston, not in it, but I'm able to take advantage of some of the great things -- like amazing health care and job opportunities -- Boston has to offer. For the record, Boston was right in the middle of the Forbes rankings; though it was in the top five for income, number of pediatricians, and spending per pupil, it's score was pulled down by its results in the cost of living, health care (too many specialists, not enough primary care doctors), and availability of childcare categories. But do I think it's a good city for working moms? Yes, I do.

What's my point? It's that even spread out among 11 categories, it's difficult to gauge what makes a city great for working moms in particular.

What do you think makes your city (or town) good for working moms? If you were in charge, what would you improve?

1 comment:

robbiebiro said...

It always depends on the age of the children (we have a 7 month old), but from what my wife has told me, parks and stores within walking distance are her #1 complaint about where we live on the peninsula in the Bay Area.
She hates having to put our daughter in the car seat and drive (on the freeway) 1/2 mile just to go to the grocery store or a good park.
We visited friends in So Cal in Del Mar, just north of San Diego and they have a bunch of parks and a large shopping center within stroller distance. Those aren't cultural meccas, but they can combine daily necessities with fresh air and exercise.