For years, many large cities have struggled to attract families with children. Some forego city living for houses out in the suburbs, favoring less expensive housing or larger living spaces. Others may balk at living in urban centers plagued by high crime rates or poor public schools.

Yet a handful of big cities across the country have a relatively large number of families. The latest Census estimates depict wide variation in the presence of families with children, ranging from more than half of all households in Laredo, Texas, to less than one in every five households in San Francisco and Seattle.

We’ve compiled a series of data contrasting the presence of families in cities, showing jurisdictions where they’re most and least common.

Families take into account a number of considerations when they’re deciding where to live, and many factors influence their presence in cities accordingly. One major determinant is a city’s housing stock. Some cities lack a supply of adequate housing with enough bedrooms to accommodate families. In the hottest housing markets, it’s the high price tag that frequently pushes lower- and middle-income families out of cities. (See our recent report on family housing in cities.)

One basic measure of families in cities is the Census Bureau’s estimated share of households with children under age 18. As of 2014, children occupied 32 percent of American households, a figure that's slowly declined over the past decade.

Of the 100 most populated cities, the only jurisdictions where children resided in more than half of households were Laredo, Texas, and Santa Ana, Calif. Nearly all cities where they're most prevalent are found in California, Texas and Arizona.

City Households with Children Share Total Households Households with Children Under 18 Margin of Error (+/-)
Laredo, Texas 55.3% 66,985 37,065 1,584
Santa Ana, California 51.1% 78,068 39,863 2,033
Gilbert, Arizona 49.5% 72,417 35,878 1,448
Fremont, California 46.4% 73,007 33,868 1,754
Bakersfield, California 45.6% 114,774 52,316 2,591
Chula Vista, California 44.8% 78,058 34,961 2,010
Stockton, California 43.9% 95,166 41,804 2,016
Anaheim, California 42.2% 99,402 41,946 2,491
Fresno, California 41.4% 163,875 67,911 2,685
Irving, Texas 41.4% 84,734 35,097 1,755
Riverside, California 41.1% 90,204 37,083 1,988
Newark, New Jersey 40.7% 89,182 36,266 2,145
Garland, Texas 40.4% 75,775 30,580 1,908
Chesapeake, Virginia 39.9% 83,904 33,494 2,087
Fort Worth, Texas 39.5% 281,924 111,221 3,579
North Las Vegas, Nevada 39.1% 72,412 28,312 1,574
El Paso, Texas 39.0% 218,127 85,101 3,648
San Jose, California 39.0% 312,227 121,648 3,090
Glendale, Arizona 37.7% 77,424 29,222 1,662
Plano, Texas 37.5% 104,535 39,225 2,206
Chandler, Arizona 37.1% 88,216 32,761 1,904
Arlington, Texas 36.9% 135,093 49,909 2,323
Irvine, California 36.8% 90,513 33,309 2,421
Aurora, Colorado 36.8% 126,677 46,595 1,845
Virginia Beach, Virginia 36.4% 167,008 60,822 2,372
Anchorage, Alaska 35.7% 104,683 37,394 2,105
San Antonio, Texas 35.3% 492,940 174,246 5,891
Phoenix, Arizona 34.9% 532,210 185,648 5,087
Corpus Christi, Texas 34.6% 117,685 40,706 2,644
Wichita, Kansas 34.3% 149,920 51,465 2,531
Hialeah, Florida 33.8% 68,027 23,025 1,454
Long Beach, California 33.8% 161,870 54,656 2,081
Dallas, Texas 33.5% 484,335 162,412 4,099
Houston, Texas 32.9% 834,204 274,231 6,849
Charlotte, North Carolina 32.9% 310,106 101,879 3,750
Las Vegas, Nevada 32.7% 212,742 69,605 2,807
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 32.7% 233,161 76,237 2,583
Sacramento, California 32.3% 177,553 57,423 2,363
St. Paul, Minnesota 32.2% 110,978 35,696 1,964
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 31.9% 237,213 75,773 3,449
Colorado Springs, Colorado 31.8% 174,943 55,696 2,896
Fort Wayne, Indiana 31.6% 100,239 31,641 2,251
Jersey City, New Jersey 31.5% 98,873 31,101 2,100
Los Angeles, California 31.3% 1,343,084 419,928 7,872
Raleigh, North Carolina 31.2% 173,456 54,136 3,496
Winston-Salem, North Carolina 31.1% 95,771 29,832 2,093
Lubbock, Texas 31.1% 94,682 29,423 2,318
Mesa, Arizona 31.0% 170,193 52,811 2,225
Lincoln, Nebraska 30.9% 108,954 33,638 2,011
Norfolk, Virginia 30.6% 87,760 26,848 1,797
Albuquerque, New Mexico 30.5% 219,867 66,994 3,061
Tulsa, Oklahoma 30.2% 165,817 50,127 1,791
Jacksonville, Florida 30.2% 320,809 96,924 4,608
Omaha, Nebraska 30.2% 174,747 52,698 2,190
San Diego, California 30.1% 493,446 148,655 4,762
Detroit, Michigan 30.0% 253,490 76,110 2,884
Memphis, Tennessee 29.8% 250,553 74,701 2,922
Oakland, California 29.7% 156,724 46,608 2,334
Columbus, Ohio 29.7% 339,145 100,631 4,131
Nashville, Tennessee 29.6% 258,263 76,425 4,007
New York, New York 29.5% 3,148,067 928,471 10,625
Greensboro, North Carolina 29.3% 113,350 33,161 2,443
Buffalo, New York 29.0% 110,070 31,888 1,890
Lexington, Kentucky 28.9% 127,412 36,763 2,128
Louisville, Kentucky 28.7% 244,583 70,276 3,130
Toledo, Ohio 28.7% 116,450 33,427 2,100
Indianapolis, Indiana 28.6% 328,526 93,796 3,610
Reno, Nevada 28.4% 92,608 26,289 1,579
Chicago, Illinois 28.3% 1,031,672 292,186 5,093
Tucson, Arizona 27.6% 204,262 56,348 3,041
Austin, Texas 27.4% 360,996 98,977 4,283
Kansas City, Missouri 27.4% 195,125 53,446 2,774
Cleveland, Ohio 27.3% 165,984 45,356 2,374
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 27.1% 577,862 156,822 5,249
Tampa, Florida 27.0% 140,429 37,962 2,056
Durham, North Carolina 27.0% 104,830 28,332 2,552
Orlando, Florida 26.8% 109,685 29,347 2,442
Baltimore, Maryland 26.6% 238,897 63,634 3,470
Denver, Colorado 26.6% 281,928 74,971 3,052
Henderson, Nevada 26.5% 107,007 28,409 1,912
Paradise, Nevada 25.5% 91,155 23,281 1,945
Portland, Oregon 25.2% 257,267 64,750 3,035
Miami, Florida 25.0% 158,039 39,432 2,529
Honolulu, Hawaii 24.7% 127,394 31,506 1,715
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 23.9% 91,034 21,766 2,073
Richmond, Virginia 23.7% 88,421 20,986 1,874
Minneapolis, Minnesota 23.6% 169,306 39,993 2,314
St. Louis, Missouri 23.3% 137,784 32,058 2,324
Madison, Wisconsin 22.9% 103,771 23,782 1,491
Cincinnati, Ohio 22.7% 137,197 31,130 2,588
New Orleans, Louisiana 22.4% 152,788 34,271 2,163
Boston, Massachusetts 22.4% 253,749 56,852 2,955
Arlington, Virginia 21.3% 100,732 21,490 2,063
St. Petersburg, Florida 21.2% 103,519 21,943 1,972
Atlanta, Georgia 20.7% 189,431 39,269 2,442
Washington, DC 20.4% 277,378 56,554 3,061
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 19.6% 131,112 25,733 1,847
Seattle, Washington 19.6% 304,564 59,543 2,969
Scottsdale, Arizona 19.0% 102,535 19,438 1,691
San Francisco, California 17.8% 353,406 62,779 3,696

SOURCE: Governing calculations of 2014 American Community Survey data for 100 largest cities. Note that some cities have higher margins of error as these are one-year estimates. Part of the differences have to do with demographics. Hispanic households, in particular, are more likely to have children since Hispanic women have far higher birth rates than other demographic groups. In eight of the top 10 cities with the most households with children, Hispanics make up more than 40 percent of the population.

Laredo, for example, sits just across the border from Mexico, and 95 percent of its residents are Hispanic. Suburban sprawl also isn’t as much of an issue there as in some of the more developed urban regions elsewhere.

Conversely, cities tend to have fewer children if they’re home to more retirees or older households. This likely plays a role in places like Scottsdale, Ariz., and Pittsburgh -- two cities with relatively large populations over age 60.

Part of how cities fare in the years to come will depend on whether Millennials, who flocked to urban areas in recent years, migrate to suburbs. Demographers and city officials have offered different reports so far. In the District of Columbia, an analysis of tax returns showed that new parents were more likely to leave than other residents during the first four years after having their first child.

A distinction should also be made between densely populated urban centers and larger cities that are more suburban in nature like Gilbert, Ariz., an affluent suburb of Phoenix, where nearly half of all households have children, just behind Laredo and Santa Ana.

By contrast, most jurisdictions where children are least likely to reside are either densely populated northern cities surrounded by sprawling suburbs or high-cost coastal cities.

For a look at differences across more similar jurisdictions, here’s a comparison of the 50 largest cities, grouped by population density:

City Density Share With Children   City Density Share With Children
Density: 10,000+ / sq. mile            
New York 28,056 29.5%   Boston 13,589 22.4%
Chicago 11,960 28.3%   Washington, DC 10,793 20.4%
Philadelphia 11,635 27.1%   San Francisco 18,187 17.8%
Miami 11,997 25.0%        
Density: 5,000-9,999 / sq. mile            
San Jose 5,754 39.0%   Cleveland 5,013 27.3%
Long Beach, Calif. 9,417 33.8%   Baltimore 7,694 26.6%
Milwaukee 6,238 32.7%   Minneapolis 7,544 23.6%
Los Angeles 8,383 31.3%   Seattle 7,962 19.6%
Density: 3,000-4,999 / sq. mile            
Fresno, Calif. 4,609 41.4%   Omaha 3,514 30.2%
San Antonio 3,117 35.3%   San Diego 4,247 30.1%
Dallas 3,762 33.5%   Detroit 4,903 30.0%
Houston 3,737 32.9%   Columbus 3,851 29.7%
Las Vegas 4,518 32.7%   Austin 3,064 27.4%
Sacramento 4,955 32.3%   Denver 4,339 26.6%
Raleigh 3,078 31.2%   Portland, Ore. 4,643 25.2%
Mesa 3,405 31.0%   Atlanta 3,425 20.7%
Density: <3,000 / sq. mile            
Fort Worth 2,391 39.5%   Tulsa 2,029 30.2%
El Paso 2,660 39.0%   Jacksonville 1,142 30.2%
Virginia Beach 1,811 36.4%   Memphis 2,085 29.8%
Phoenix 2,975 34.9%   Nashville 1,355 29.6%
Wichita 2,438 34.3%   Louisville 1,884 28.7%
Charlotte 2,721 32.9%   Indianapolis 2,355 28.6%
Oklahoma City 1,023 31.9%   Tucson 2,329 27.6%
Colorado Springs 2,292 31.8%   Kansas City, Mo. 1,495 27.4%
Albuquerque 2,968 30.5%   New Orleans 2,268 22.4%

SOURCE: Governing calculations of 2014 Census estimates. Population densities refer to square miles of land area. Cities such as San Jose and Fresno, Calif., are both characterized by relatively high concentrations of families with children given their population densities. By comparison, less than a quarter of households have children in Atlanta and New Orleans, despite the fact that those cities aren’t as dense. 

New York might best be considered in its own separate category given how much both its population and density dwarf all other cities. The city’s diverse demographics, along with the large number of rent-controlled apartments that make living in the city affordable for many families who would otherwise be priced out, likely help boost New York's totals. 

One more way to gauge how well cities appeal to families is to compare them to their surrounding jurisdictions.

Significant disparities in the presence of families exist in some regions. As one would expect, these tend to be particularly evident in the nation’s most expensive cities. In the San Francisco metro area, for example, households are about twice as likely to have children if they’re located outside the city. Seattle officials have similarly long sought to boost the city's supply of affordable family housing.

A different set of factors are at play in Atlanta, which trailed its metro area more than any other city reviewed (in terms of percentage-point differences). Families with children account for just over one-fifth of city households, compared to 38 percent for the rest of the metro area. One contributing factor is likely suburban sprawl: The region ranked as the second most sprawling metro area nationally in a Smart Growth for America report last year.

Of course, a litany of other considerations, such as the quality of schools, built environment and proximity to jobs further influence how well cities attract and retain families.

This table shows differences in shares of city households with children compared to surrounding metro areas (with city data subtracted). Census estimates are shown for metro areas' largest cities.

City Percentage Point Difference City Households With Children MSA Households Outside City With Children MSA Households Outside City MSA Households Outside City With Children
Atlanta, Georgia -17.5 20.7% 38.3% 1,792,016 685,902
San Francisco, California -16.5 17.8% 34.3% 1,312,519 449,771
Honolulu, Hawaii -16.3 24.7% 41.1% 181,608 74,552
Washington, DC -15.9 20.4% 36.2% 1,876,769 680,236
Seattle, Washington -13.9 19.6% 33.5% 1,101,695 368,917
Austin, Texas -11.9 27.4% 39.3% 342,980 134,777
Baton Rouge, Louisiana -11.5 23.9% 35.4% 214,062 75,744
Raleigh, North Carolina -10.6 31.2% 41.8% 284,091 118,666
Cincinnati, Ohio -10.3 22.7% 33.0% 691,945 228,500
Houston, Texas -9.5 32.9% 42.4% 1,391,919 589,488
Minneapolis, Minnesota -9.4 23.6% 33.0% 1,167,957 385,542
Madison, Wisconsin -9.2 22.9% 32.2% 155,600 50,029
New Orleans, Louisiana -9.1 22.4% 31.5% 321,927 101,390
Boston, Massachusetts -9.0 22.4% 31.4% 1,524,068 479,091
Richmond, Virginia -8.9 23.7% 32.6% 385,582 125,839
Portland, Oregon -8.6 25.2% 33.8% 637,534 215,371
Denver, Colorado -8.2 26.6% 34.8% 772,443 269,104
Memphis, Tennessee -8.0 29.8% 37.8% 242,776 91,753
St. Louis, Missouri -7.8 23.3% 31.1% 958,416 298,206
Indianapolis, Indiana -7.5 28.6% 36.1% 416,239 150,171
Nashville, Tennessee -7.4 29.6% 37.0% 416,402 154,103
San Diego, California -7.2 30.1% 37.4% 607,412 226,988
Chicago, Illinois -6.8 28.3% 35.1% 2,410,502 846,634
Tulsa, Oklahoma -6.7 30.2% 37.0% 209,973 77,638
Omaha, Nebraska -6.7 30.2% 36.8% 171,536 63,137
Kansas City, Missouri -6.6 27.4% 34.0% 604,910 205,715
Dallas, Texas -6.4 33.5% 39.9% 1,960,904 782,710
Baltimore, Maryland -6.4 26.6% 33.0% 793,707 262,002
Miami, Florida -6.2 25.0% 31.1% 1,889,286 588,454
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania -6.1 19.6% 25.8% 860,839 221,879
Lexington, Kentucky -6.1 28.9% 34.9% 69,304 24,218
Columbus, Ohio -6.0 29.7% 35.7% 425,250 151,894
Los Angeles, California -5.4 31.3% 36.7% 2,944,890 1,079,375
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -4.8 27.1% 31.9% 1,652,945 527,847
New York, New York -4.8 29.5% 34.3% 4,004,693 1,371,877
Orlando, Florida -4.2 26.8% 31.0% 690,614 213,865
Fort Wayne, Indiana -3.7 31.6% 35.3% 62,900 22,182
Durham, North Carolina -3.1 27.0% 30.1% 108,333 32,591
Reno, Nevada -2.9 28.4% 31.3% 76,255 23,874
Louisville, Kentucky -2.8 28.7% 31.6% 249,390 78,686
San Antonio, Texas -2.8 35.3% 38.1% 293,520 111,864
Jacksonville, Florida -2.2 30.2% 32.4% 208,184 67,513
Charlotte, North Carolina -2.2 32.9% 35.0% 573,175 200,660
Greensboro, North Carolina -2.1 29.3% 31.4% 176,100 55,265
Albuquerque, New Mexico -1.7 30.5% 32.2% 122,685 39,444
Toledo, Ohio -1.6 28.7% 30.3% 126,502 38,380
Sacramento, California -1.3 32.3% 33.7% 620,071 208,882
Fresno, California -1.3 41.4% 42.7% 134,118 57,309
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma -1.2 31.9% 33.2% 262,665 87,103
Wichita, Kansas -0.6 34.3% 34.9% 90,310 31,518
Detroit, Michigan -0.5 30.0% 30.6% 1,401,094 428,376
Bakersfield, California -0.5 45.6% 46.1% 146,361 67,443
Tucson, Arizona -0.3 27.6% 27.9% 185,475 51,749
Riverside, California -0.3 41.1% 41.4% 1,227,446 508,231
Cleveland, Ohio -0.2 27.3% 27.5% 682,509 187,877
Stockton, California 0.6 43.9% 43.3% 126,708 54,868
Tampa, Florida 1.0 27.0% 26.0% 1,009,306 262,372
Winston-Salem, North Carolina 1.5 31.1% 29.6% 161,228 47,795
Las Vegas, Nevada 1.9 32.7% 30.8% 518,580 159,854
San Jose, California 2.5 39.0% 36.5% 327,074 119,272
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2.5 32.7% 30.2% 393,087 118,560
Buffalo, New York 2.9 29.0% 26.1% 360,494 94,028
Virginia Beach, Virginia 3.9 36.4% 32.5% 470,181 152,905
Phoenix, Arizona 3.9 34.9% 31.0% 1,058,030 327,574

SOURCE: Governing calculations of 2014 American Community Survey data. Data shown for most populous city in larger metro areas. Data was excluded for cities where households outside of the city account for less than one-third of metro area households.