Austin tries to play itself off as cool, hip and a little above it all. But a high-profile new ranking that’s declaring Austin the No. 1 City in America underscores something that’s been lurking under the illusions of weird all along.
It’s a great place to raise a family — as long as you can afford it. Just don’t tell the hipsters.
In fact, Austin’s been declared the No. 1 City in America For Young Families in a ranking that examined the 156 most populated cities in the country. And it’s hardly alone in flexing Texas power. Houston took second, Dallas came in fifth and San Antonio finished 14th.
It’s good to be a kid in the Lone Star State, too. That’s 27 percent of America’s Top 15 Kid-Friendly Cities residing in Texas.
Still, there can be only one No. 1, and Austin vaulted to the very top thanks to its No. 3 national ranking in Education and Environment (which takes into account things such as school rankings), a No. 4 spot in For Working Parents (a ratings category that delves into employment rates and commute times) and a No. 17 finish in the For Outdoor Activities category (which focuses mainly on the weather and opportunities to take advantage of it).
ValuePenguin, the data research site that compiled the rankings, also interviewed three experts, including two family psychologists, to bolster its findings. Austin apparently easily passes the psychological test as well.
Some of this is silly, of course. Anyone who’s spent any time in Austin with kids can tell you the same thing as all the experts: There’s a lot to do for the younger set, and it’s a pretty friendly place to do it in. Whether you’re doing the old tourist-friendly seeing the bats under the Congress Street Bridge, hanging out at Austin Lake Park or making a day of it at The Thinkery children’s museum, there always seems to be another new adventure available for the little ones.
My own kids fell in love with the Paramount Theater on a recent visit.
Even amid all the Austin — and Houston love — there is an undercurrent of housing concern in these new rankings, though. Austin ranks a mere 103rd in the For Buying or Renting a Home category — by far its lowest finish in any of the 16 metrics analyzed. There is a real worry that many of those young families are being priced out.
Of course, all problems are relative. Trying to make it work in Austin is still much better than being in Pueblo. This Colorado town that sits about two hours from Denver ranks dead last, 156 out of 156. Pueblo is even one spot behind Flint, Michigan, the land of poisoned water. That seems impossible to do.
Expensive Austin suddenly looks like paradise again.