An aerial view of homes in San Jose
San Jose ranked in the top 10 U.S. cities to raise a family. File photo.

San Jose ranks as one of the top cities in the country to raise a family, but lack of affordability is also pushing some people out the region.

WalletHub ranked San Jose seventh as the best place to raise a family out of 182 U.S. cities surveyed. Four other California cities made the top 10, with Fremont ranking No. 1, Irvine at No. 3, San Diego at No. 8 and Huntington Beach at No. 10.

The personal finance company looked at dozens of factors in five key areas — family fun, health and safety, education and child care, affordability and socioeconomics — in determining its ranking. San Jose received a total score of 63.88 out of 100 points when all factors were added up.

San Jose scored 10th in education and child care, which evaluated things like the quality of education, high school graduation rate and child-day care per capita. The city also scored 17th in health and safety and 15th in socioeconomics, which looked at factors including the percentage of two-parent families, unemployment rate and share of families living in poverty.

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Susan Ellenberg, who raised her three children in San Jose, said the city has great libraries, parks and neighborhoods where children can walk to school and make friends.

“I was delighted to see that (ranking),” Ellenberg, whose district includes West San Jose, told San José Spotlight. “When I think about the work that I’m doing through the board of supervisors, my ideal vision is always that Santa Clara County will be the best county in the state to raise children.”

But when it came to affordability San Jose fell to 56th in the ranking.

Jennifer Cloyd, CEO of child development nonprofit First 5, said San Jose’s lack of affordable child care and cost of living still make it challenging for families to stay local.

“We’re actually experiencing a little bit of a family flight,” Cloyd told San José Spotlight. “But what’s great about San Jose is that there are many families that are fourth and fifth generation San Jose natives. I think families really value being able to stay in their communities.”

San Jose’s population has shrunk 4% to 971,000 residents in 2022, down from just over 1 million residents in 2020, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data. A number of issues have caused this flight out of the city, including the lack of affordable housing, the ability to work remote post-pandemic and the overall high cost of living in the region.

San Jose’s lack of affordability is what drove Debra Townley and her son into homelessness for five years after a divorce.

“It’s always been expensive living here,” Townley told San José Spotlight. “I was able to afford it when I was married to an engineer who was working in an elite position. Without that, it’s a struggle.”

People need to earn approximately $60 an hour to afford the asking rent of $3,000 a month in San Jose. The city’s minimum wage for most workers is $17.55 an hour.

​​Three-quarters of extremely low income families are already spending more than half their monthly wages on housing, according to a report released by housing think tank California Housing Partnership, and 54,600 low-income households aren’t able to find affordable homes.

“What we have here is an enormous wealth gap,” Ellenberg said, “and I think we need to do a much better job equitably distributing resources.”

Contact Joyce Chu at [email protected] or @joyce_speaks on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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