We still have the Nationals.
We are, however, no longer the top city for families, according to Parenting magazine. The magazine’s editors are publishing their latest annual ranking of best cities for families online today, and have grouped Washington, D.C., and Arlington together, placing them at No. 6.
Last year, Washington, judged as a single entity, ranked first in the nation. The news prompted a raucous response: applause from fans like me and howls from many others in the region, who ridiculed the idea that the city’s costs, crime, schools and traffic are family friendly.
Editors have responded by fiddling with their ranking formula and reconfiguring our geography.
This year, they gave more weight to the education category, which an editor told me pushed D.C. down the list but propped up Arlington.
Cities were also judged on criteria such as health, economy, community, culture and reader opinion.
The other cities in the top 10, in order of rank: Boston; Burlington, Vt.; Portland, Me.; Austin; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Minneapolis/St. Paul; Madison, Wis.; Omaha; and Sioux Falls, S.D.
This is the third year the magazine has ranked best cities for families, and each year editors have tweaked their formula.
The first year, when they relied more on hard statistics for unemployment and crime, Arlington came in at No 1.
That citation said the county had “fabulous schools, great home values and an attractive unemployment rate.”
Last year, the District soared to first place, Stephanie Wood, the magazine’s executive editor told me then, because the researchers had begun weighting “charm and culture ” among other attributes. That meant the abundance of free museums and parks in D.C. had much to do with the results.
Arlington sank to No. 70.
The editor who oversaw this year’s ranking project, Ana Connery, told me that researchers decided to group the city and county together this year because “we figured with the close proximity of Arlington and D.C., both areas have access to each other’s cultural institutions, parks, hospitals, etc.”
This year’s citation for the combined “city” of Arlington and D.C. reads:
As last year’s best of the best, Washington DC, stirred up a lot of controversy. Critics focused on the city’s reputation for crime and poor performing schools while ignoring the large number of Blue Ribbon schools and the unique cultural cache of raising a kid in our nation’s capitol. This year, we figured we should include the broader DC area and include Arlington, VA, which is nestled right across the Potomac River. Arlington shares the capitol’s amazingly low unemployment rate thanks to a plethora of government jobs and numerous corporate headquarters. The Metro system connects Arlington to DC, giving residents the ability to live in Arlington and work in the capital or vice versa. Houses are comparatively expensive, but low property taxes help ease the burden. Education is a focus in Arlington with 90 percent of high school graduates continuing their education and nearly 37 percent of Arlingtonians holding graduate or professional degrees. With a bustling economy, the Arlington/DC area provides great jobs for parents and a great cultural spot to raise kids.
I’ll post my interview with Parenting’s Connery later today. In the meantime, what do you think?
Is it valid to consider this region as a “city”? If so, is this mega-city sixth-best in the nation for families?