Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Here Are the Best Places in Missouri to Raise a Family

Posted By on Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 9:29 AM

click to enlarge Skiing in Wildwood, Missouri — because the family that freezes together, stays together. - COURTESY OF FLICKR/PAUL SABLEMAN
  • COURTESY OF FLICKR/PAUL SABLEMAN
  • Skiing in Wildwood, Missouri — because the family that freezes together, stays together.
A new list that seeks to identify the best places in Missouri to raise a family doesn't have a high view of St. Louis — the city ranked dead last.

The Gateway City is 86 out of the 86 cities on the list, which was compiled by personal finance site WalletHub. That's below Ferguson, below Bellefontaine Neighbors, below Jennings.

But plenty of St. Louis suburbs did A-OK according to WalletHub's analysts, who crunched such factors as "family life and fun," "education, health and safety" and "affordability" to come up with a roster of great places to raise the kiddos.

In fact, Wildwood made the grade at No. 1 in the state, followed by Eureka (No. 3), Creve Coeur (No. 4), Chesterfield (No. 5), Wentzville (No. 6), Webster Groves (No. 7) and O'Fallon (No. 9). Indeed, of the top fifteen places across the state, the St. Louis area scored eleven. Take that, Kansas City!

You can see the top 15 below:

click to enlarge screen_shot_2017-11-21_at_8.54.14_am.png

That said, a word about this ranking ...

We have to challenge any list that gives Wildwood top marks for affordability — much less ranks Creve Coeur at No. 1 in the state on such a metric. They're both lovely places, but let's just say most minimum wage employees (and, yeah, journalists) aren't going to be house-hunting in either place any time soon. How did these expensive suburbs make the grade while St. Louis (and, yeah, Jennings) scored much, much lower?

Reading the fine print, its index of affordability is calculated by looking at two numbers: housing costs divided by median income of its residents, and the median family income divided by the cost-of-living index. But, as it turns out, while the study is ranking municipalities, it uses county-wide data to determine the costs of renting — and so both Jennings and Wildwood get the same score for "annual fair market rent," even though a Jennings domicile wouldn't be anywhere near as expensive as a Wildwood one. St. Louis city, by that measure, is much less affordable than pricey suburbs like Wildwood and Creve Coeur.

So as much as it's great to see St. Louis area municipalities being honored for their great schools, safe neighborhoods and places for family fun, the affordability index is dubious at best, and outright misleading at worst.

We're glad Wildwood is affordable for high earners. But for the rest of us ... well, we'll always have St. Louis.

And hey, St. Louis ranked 48th for family life and fun. When it comes to playgrounds per capita, museums, zoos and share of families with children, we're no Wildwood .... but at least we're not dead last.

Editor's note: We amended this post a few days after publication after hearing from WalletHub. The company stands by its study. However, they explained that our analysis of how affordability was calculated was incorrect: median family income for the area was the base, not median income per municipality as we'd assumed. We regret the error.

After we looked at things more deeply, however, we realized what was skewing the affordability index: Namely, that expensive St. Louis County suburbs were using the same rental prices as less costly ones — the analysts used county-wide rental data.

We updated our story to reflect the additional information and our concerns about the misleading nature of the study.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com




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