2021’s Best Cities for Single Dads

Father drinking coffee and sitting at his computer while holding his baby on his lap

Raising kids on your own isn’t easy when you’re a working dad. Your life becomes a balancing act between a million priorities, all of them equally important.

For peace of mind, it helps to bring up your family in a city where single fathers receive maximum support from their community.

LawnStarter ranked the Best Cities for Single Dads by comparing the 200 biggest U.S. cities on 34 key indicators of a single-dad-friendly environment. 

What makes a city suitable for solo dads and their children? Affordable housing and child care, world-class hospitals and schools, and strong public programs are among the most important factors. Even a short commute goes a long way. 

Check out our ranking below, followed by some highlights, lowlights, and expert parenting advice. 

On Father’s Day, June 20, give dad some extra attention so he feels loved and appreciated.

Table of Contents

  1. City Rankings
  2. Highlights and Lowlights
  3. Ask the Experts
  4. Methodology
  5. Why This Study Matters

City Rankings 

See how each city fared in our ranking:

OVERALL RANKCityOverall ScoreAffordability RankChild Care RankHealth and Education Systems RankHome and Outdoor Environments RankWork Environment RankSocioeconomic Environment RankDad Protections RankDad Support Rank
1Boston, MA58.28181190163014660140
2Salem, OR57.8815265962648115413
3Eugene, OR57.46158575523130475
4Portland, OR55.76168140396269384109
5Fremont, CA55.75195198261186618119
6Seattle, WA55.241571952336127116012
7Bellevue, WA54.641691921444123360158
8Irvine, CA54.521891644161106718169
9Springfield, MA54.4210217712054131731114
10Worcester, MA52.821381961145065811162
11Cary, NC52.60452531130891150
12Sunnyvale, CA52.541991971114389118164
13San Francisco, CA52.3519619333121188101836
14San Diego, CA52.231791881017887341817
15Washington, DC52.1913115216779178211738
16Overland Park, KS52.16181712809115153
17Spokane, WA52.01381536532181226051
18Sacramento, CA52.00130183361716895184
19Pasadena, CA51.9018317027182132251831
20Providence, RI51.8411413517566281501139
21Syracuse, NY51.81375913373218812163
22Torrance, CA51.6217714928196129141859
23Madison, WI51.489011921257327320
24Buffalo, NY51.37276815942918912136
25Naperville, IL50.82348673199291200
26Yonkers, NY50.801701031789168611262
27Jersey City, NJ50.59147105162149193438115
28Tacoma, WA50.371161868177147766011
29New York, NY50.3319710810670198821243
30Elk Grove, CA50.2714917119811662418185
31Denver, CO50.121411304512814237653
32Sioux Falls, SD49.923124104751115127
33Rochester, NY49.70658717456519512100
34St. Paul, MN49.52661459423211016526
35Frisco, TX49.3912361581965115190
36Santa Rosa, CA49.30190168517160521885
37Olathe, KS49.1210383339718115145
38Lincoln, NE48.961743521147111544
39Rancho Cucamonga, CA48.80167159491171802618173
40Oakland, CA48.7117619410892153591822
41Vancouver, WA48.641341558653115706088
42Raleigh, NC48.3210545443891549118
42Modesto, CA48.3292163221831501121873
44Santa Clarita, CA48.25163184371481972218113
45Chula Vista, CA48.22173178541221394018147
46Fullerton, CA48.2118218091921253518177
47Fort Collins, CO48.161401414334164465130
48Lakewood, CO48.0215113461151332865122
48Hayward, CA48.0219119934901484618129
50Minneapolis, MN47.94511478815316365132
51Atlanta, GA47.60456014110915465731
52Gilbert, AZ47.538212112951701973112
53Long Beach, CA47.5116618799176125971821
54Orange, CA47.351921656918786361860
55Boise City, ID47.2443513127245511529
56Glendale, CA47.21185157181661024718198
57Omaha, NE47.052032054569115131
57Bakersfield, CA47.0599144971911001271881
59Huntington Beach, CA46.981861581021811612018174
60Scottsdale, AZ46.8753100621471441373138
61Escondido, CA46.8617816182911051001889
62San Jose, CA46.81198200601391381618125
63Chandler, AZ46.537112281791242373104
64Stockton, CA46.401261434119317514118108
65Bridgeport, CT46.3414817518415652164790
66Oceanside, CA46.24180174891181526218149
67Colorado Springs, CO46.221131514789109586599
68Fresno, CA46.119115667190431861855
69Des Moines, IA45.972527852426931158
70Arlington, VA45.8077150571914115199
71Paterson, NJ45.651591201988815181893
72Corona, CA45.54171179981271925318179
73Kansas City, MO45.33411932119778811510
74Riverside, CA45.14156173801841219418151
75Plano, TX45.077958134915712115194
76Aurora, CO44.8515513852591766465118
77Garden Grove, CA44.8218416991155828618175
78McKinney, TX44.806154261318717115187
79Louisville, KY44.75292170226610411537
80Los Angeles, CA44.681881911101941361161827
81Fontana, CA44.541541725919515610518170
81Salinas, CA44.54172189551638814818137
81Baton Rouge, LA44.5471515043191669146
84Huntsville, AL43.9214064283473115167
85Ontario, CA43.8817516211713514013518116
86Oxnard, CA43.7018718214998851231886
87Oklahoma City, OK43.642650569910810611516
88Salt Lake City, UT43.5888421187830781155
89Little Rock, AR43.551430781315610311532
90Milwaukee, WI43.51521291575817171737
91Lexington, KY43.45691030295084115121
92Thornton, CO43.32146132126116183426597
93Newark, NJ43.28142139199169131192887
94San Bernardino, CA43.15132166139154781941861
95Greensboro, NC43.00632984574912591161
96Winston-Salem, NC42.8154456851751499171
97Aurora, IL42.781191125764167499184
98Peoria, AZ42.5984110731371714173154
99Anaheim, CA42.581931811241721039618186
100Lubbock, TX42.48568254627140115102
101Moreno Valley, CA42.2916516614816017913418166
102Metairie, LA42.2123241876890679183
103Rockford, IL42.18167238140361749165
104Charlotte, NC42.171017311180145579194
105Honolulu, HI42.032001464210864457347
106Pomona, CA41.9917415411220011415718126
106Mesa, AZ41.997011872123831197396
108Toledo, OH41.9863971125321961152
109Lancaster, CA41.9612116017619816913218107
110Phoenix, AZ41.9481124104199101136736
111Anchorage, AK41.9313369123721183911514
112Tempe, AZ41.82939710017461027398
113Durham, NC41.71836215167736891106
114Austin, TX41.5012895921141175011515
115Santa Ana, CA41.49194176180173551451864
116Reno, NV41.411081061197440859167
117Columbus, OH41.37597616347371261159
118Alexandria, VA41.3316414263201891511553
119Henderson, NV41.1189131128107923391146
120Tallahassee, FL41.001044966134116311545
121Jacksonville, FL40.7585911717711611111528
122Tulsa, OK40.663134833159142115103
123St. Louis, MO40.6511331291417215411524
124Nashville, TN40.559455161191129011542
125Indianapolis, IN40.5347128461537613811525
126Mobile, AL40.51249583967158115192
127Baltimore, MD40.44581481771001511397335
128Macon, GA40.4230181451206317973188
129Wichita, KS40.411378113604611011580
130Palmdale, CA40.3414318515619720011718140
131Murfreesboro, TN40.268032871411174115189
132Tucson, AZ40.254885121180121787372
133Grand Rapids, MI40.214435137411143115110
134Virginia Beach, VA40.15139113504116227115128
135Chesapeake, VA40.14106115486515829115178
136Kansas City, KS40.127243771445817611519
137Knoxville, TN40.0640116110310169115168
138Fort Wayne, IN40.00584127406210911568
139Enterprise, NV39.911371361363795489192
140Shreveport, LA39.81920901705718791160
141Glendale, AZ39.78681041381681221447356
142Springfield, MO39.764216116358172115123
143Columbus, GA39.65497514610111316573165
144Montgomery, AL39.4932311641504116211523
145Tampa, FL39.448799291121199111574
146Chicago, IL39.39103125185129182759134
147Pittsburgh, PA39.173392951066183115148
148Augusta, GA39.04736188487919173197
149Amarillo, TX38.99281412510594124115157
150Orlando, FL38.89124827914210411311548
151Chattanooga, TN38.803666130845412011579
152Joliet, IL38.65551091721241845691176
153Spring Valley, NV38.541271171831151989166
154Fayetteville, NC38.4312521341131341829163
155Richmond, VA38.41100114143452515311541
156Clarksville, TN38.1778411221219012111582
157Irving, TX38.1312053109941357711595
158Arlington, TX37.95954810175159107115101
158Corpus Christi, TX37.95752240164128131115152
160Albuquerque, NM37.8835107931893311411558
161Cincinnati, OH37.7726714211129168115111
162Midland, TX37.5286121961619531115135
163Jackson, MS37.445771821362219011549
164San Antonio, TX37.4197377496106146115184
165St. Petersburg, FL37.229688135977080115132
166Hollywood, FL37.1214594107851559211554
167Las Vegas, NV37.09110127169165841189176
168Dallas, TX36.821236117012617313711530
169Pembroke Pines, FL36.80150891059317230115196
170Paradise, NV36.731099819462315191105
171Miramar, FL36.611626311511012066115144
172Savannah, GA36.30118231971383917073191
173Fort Worth, TX36.1576561651511818711577
174Akron, OH36.0322811558238177115117
175Grand Prairie, TX35.76117641477616099115142
176New Orleans, LA35.5546831731887116091195
177Fort Lauderdale, FL35.49136741581861498911550
178Newport News, VA35.41107102131130110108115143
179North Las Vegas, NV35.3812912619387961339191
180Cape Coral, FL35.371441111601714379115181
181El Paso, TX35.30607013214698159115159
182Dayton, OH35.19810119155419711552
183Port St. Lucie, FL35.121531231036316372115182
184Birmingham, AL35.03212618613342183115139
185Philadelphia, PA34.919813316613216516711533
186Killeen, TX34.197493144102177152115134
187Pasadena, TX33.94674717983194155115141
188Memphis, TN33.93505716816744185115155
189Sunrise Manor, NV33.9011213619518741849170
190Cleveland, OH33.8915961541042019911578
191Houston, TX33.6911177152152174147115124
192Miami, FL33.591617976162141161115156
193Garland, TX33.461357119269164129115120
194McAllen, TX33.23192818115899180115193
195Laredo, TX32.4762801908681193115172
196Mesquite, TX31.941154420014518512711557
196Norfolk, VA31.94122116153159137156115180
198Hialeah, FL31.801601314015693175115171
199Brownsville, TX30.84642518917553198115183
200Detroit, MI30.3539901711853520011569
infographic depicting best and worst cities for single dads

Highlights and Lowlights

The Boston (Single) Pops

Boston tops our ranking of the Best Cities for Single Dads. The city performs well in a number of metrics, but the real reason Beantown is No. 1 is because of high marks in the Dad Protections category, thanks to generous time off and paid family-leave policies.

Two other Massachusetts cities — Springfield and Worcester — also perform well overall at Nos. 9 and 10, respectively. While these smaller towns don’t have all the amenities of Boston, they share statewide parent-friendly protections, which make The Bay State an excellent choice for dads raising their children alone.

Pleasant Parenting in the Pacific Northwest

Oregon and Washington are another regional hotspot that dominated our ranking of the Best Cities for Single Dads: Five of the top 10 cities are from Oregon and Washington. 

Pacific Northwest cities performed exceptionally well in several categories. Bellevue, Washington, came in at No. 14 on Health and Education Systems and No. 3 on Socioeconomic Environment. In Oregon, Salem, Eugene, and Portland all share fourth place on Dad Protections.

Clearly there’s something special about being a single dad in Cascadia. 

Tough Times in Texas

Life in Texas can be tough for fathers flying solo. Brownsville lands at No. 199 on our ranking of the 200 biggest cities, Houston at No. 191, and El Paso at 181. Even the overall highest-ranking Texas cities, Frisco at No. 35 and Plano at 75, finish well behind the leaders of the pack. 

Many Texas cities also perform poorly in the Dad Support category, with El Paso at 159 and McAllen at 193. 

Brownsville, in fact, is an interesting tale of two cities. While Western Gulf Coast city is a surprising No. 1 for its low cost of living, it also ranks 197 in uninsured children, 195 in food insecurity, and last in median annual income for working men. 

They say everything is bigger in Texas, but maybe not better when it comes to Best Cities for Single Dads.

Ask The Experts

The pandemic tested dads’ limits and in many ways made them better parents. But now that life is returning to normal, will single parenting be like it was pre-pandemic?

We asked a panel of experts to weigh in. See what they had to say below.

  1. Post-pandemic, what can single dads expect their roles to look like?
  2. What are the best ways for single dads to find social and emotional support if they don’t have a strong network?
  3. What less familiar government incentives or social programs are available to single dads (or single parents in general) struggling financially?
  4. How are societal pressures and expectations different for single dads vs. single moms?
  5. What are some meaningful ways that busy single dads can spend more time with their kids?
Alicia Pieper
Assistant Professor
Daniel J. Puhlman Ph.D., C-LMFT
Assistant Professor of Family Studies, College of Education and Human Development
Allen Sabey, Ph.D., LMFT
Core Faculty, Marriage & Family Therapy Program, Therapist, The Family Institute
Alicia Pieper
Assistant Professor
Kent State University

Post-pandemic, what can single dads expect their roles to look like?

If they are a parent with total custody, I would expect their role to be very much like it was before. They have many of the problems single mothers have, such as needing more flexible work hours, family leave time, suitable childcare, etc.

Hopefully, if they were able to keep their job and work from home, the pandemic allowed many fathers to spend more quality time with their children.

What are the best ways for single dads to find social and emotional support if they don’t have a strong network?

Develop their own support organizations. Find other single fathers with similar problems. Single mothers have had support organizations for years. Men need to create similar organizations.

How are societal pressures and expectations different for single dads vs. single moms?

Most women are socialized to be self-supporting, independent, but also “motherly.”

Men are socialized to be “manly” to be strong, aggressive, protective, a “take charge” mentality. Men are teased if they “act like a girl.”

A single father is going to have to learn how to be nurturing, to show emotions, to be “motherly” when they become a single father.

What are some meaningful ways that busy single dads can spend more time with their kids?

  • Encourage their employer to allow them to work part-time from home.
  • Be willing to spend their free time with child-oriented activities rather than participating in free time with their buddies.
  • Give up working overtime or accepting promotions that will require more time.
  • Participate in volunteering at school.
  • Start their own company, which will allow them to work at home.
  • Take the child to work with them if it is safe.
  • When doing household tasks, encourage the kids to help (many young kids love to “help” their parents).
Daniel J. Puhlman Ph.D., C-LMFT
Assistant Professor of Family Studies, College of Education and Human Development
University of Maine

Post-pandemic, what can single dads expect their roles to look like?

Life after the pandemic is such a major question for anyone in our society where we are all subject to changes and shifts in our lives.

It’s really difficult to predict what that will look like, but based on research we do know that various factors will likely have important impacts. Family routines, family structure (divorce, step-parents, etc.), work schedules, financial changes, and family or social support networks have a substantial impact on fathers that will force many dads to rethink their ways of living and the choices they make around their children.

Single fathers have the luxury of adjusting to these changes and making decisions independently, but they also tend to lack the supports that are helpful in adjusting to these changes.

What are the best ways for single dads to find social and emotional support if they don’t have a strong network?

For single Dads, creating a support network around their children can be incredibly helpful. Men tend to center friendships and social networks around activities like sports, business, games, etc., where conversations and interactions are built around a common experience.

Getting involved in activities in which their children are involved is a great way to build a network. Single dads can introduce their children to their own personal interests and support their children’s growth and learning in these activities based on their own skill sets and abilities.

Coaching or volunteering in activities also provide opportunities to connect with other dads and like-minded individuals.

Attending events focused on children and engaging with other parents can be instrumental in connecting with others in meaningful ways.

There are of course more structured activities and supports (i.e. support groups, parenting classes, clubs, etc.) that bring together single fathers often provided by social-service agencies that can be excellent ways for fathers to engage with other like-minded individuals, as well.

What less familiar government incentives or social programs are available to single dads (or single parents in general) struggling financially?

Every state and local municipality varies in the extent to which programs are available to fathers. Unfortunately, father-focused programming is lacking across the board, although some communities are better than others.

I suggest reaching out to the professionals in the local organizations and searching websites to see what is available in each specific community. Families or fathers with lower incomes have more resources available to them, especially financially, and it would be valuable to reach out to your local health and human services departments to see what is available and what criteria are needed to participate in the programs.

How are societal pressures and expectations different for single dads vs. single moms?

Fortunately, the climate on this topic is shifting. Historically, single fathers were not as common as today, and the single parenting world was pretty well dominated by single moms.

As more fathers are taking active roles in their children’s lives independent of the involvement of their ex-partners, single-fathering has become less taboo. In some ways single fathers have been given more credit for their involvement with their children.

Mothers are often assumed to be actively involved with their kids and being a single parent is expected, whereas fathers who step up as single parents have been an exception rather than a rule.

Many single fathers report being approached with compliments and surprise at their engagement with their children, which, while helpful, can be off-putting to some fathers, suggesting that their involvement as a father is optional.

What are some meaningful ways that busy single dads can spend more time with their kids?

The key for busy single fathers to better engage with children is to structure their lives and activities around the needs and interests of their children.

If fatherhood is central to a man’s identity, they will be more likely to arrange their lives in ways that make sense to be a more engaged father, and sometimes that is very challenging and requires sacrifice. Sometimes this can mean taking a less active role in their careers and making active sacrifices to be present for their kids.

Maybe careers and jobs that require frequent travel, burdensome performance expectations, or have poor family policies are not the best fit for single fathers who want to be actively involved. This can be challenging for some careers and so other strategies may be more beneficial.

I suggested getting involved as coaches or volunteers for children’s activities in a previous question, which I think applies to this one, as well.

Participating in activities with children or setting up activities that are natural and organic to the needs of the family environment can be helpful. Letting kids participate in activities, such as home maintenance, car repairs, or lawn care, can be great ways to accomplish needed tasks, teach your children life skills, and build a strong relationship with them.

Allen Sabey, Ph.D., LMFT
Core Faculty, Marriage & Family Therapy Program, Therapist, The Family Institute
Northwestern University

Post-pandemic, what can single dads expect their roles to look like?

Transitions can be difficult, even if it’s a transition back to “normal.” Life will not be the same after going through all that we have during the pandemic.

Single dads would do well to pause and take stock of what they’ve experienced and how their and their children’s lives have changed.

Are there changes that they would like to keep in place or work to amend?

For many families, the pandemic highlighted dynamics and roles that were already in place. Are single dads satisfied with these dynamics?

Some families have reported increased closeness while others have experienced heightened conflict.

What are the best ways for single dads to find social and emotional support if they don’t have a strong network?

Single dads often have a lot of roles and responsibilities, and they can find it difficult to take care of themselves as much as they do for others. So, it’s a feat for some to just acknowledge that they need social and emotional support. That’s often the hardest step.

Once single dads are aware that they need more support than they currently have, consider if there are any friendships that could be strengthened by initiating doing things together or calling to talk.

There is a socialized barrier that many men feel that prevents men from expressing or acting on their desire for stronger and deeper friendships.

Men who are looking for social and emotional support can trust that there are many men who feel similarly, but who may be equally reluctant to reach out.

There are also some wonderful organizations around that are explicitly aimed at creating and strengthening friendships for men, including the Mankind Project and Everyman.

How are societal pressures and expectations different for single dads vs. single moms?

As I mentioned above, it is generally more natural for women (e.g., single moms) to reach out to a friend for support. But that is just societal conditioning.

Men and single dads need just as much support just as women and single moms, but dads are often more reluctant to share that they are overwhelmed or struggling.

What are some meaningful ways that busy single dads can spend more time with their kids?

Research that I’ve conducted with young children and their parents indicated that, by far, the two best ways to show love and affection toward children is through physical and verbal expressions of love (e.g., “I love you,” “It’s so fun spending time together”) and through playing together. Play is how children communicate, and there are endless ways of playing together with children.

Single dads can make driving together into a game (e.g., take turns making up sentences to a story), bath time into a game (e.g., time how long they can hold their breath underwater), and eating meals into enjoyable conversation (e.g., ask if they could have a superpower, what would it be).

With teenagers, asking simple questions and just listening to understand (rather than quickly giving advice or trying to help them feel better about something) helps them to feel comfortable sharing and coming to their parents. It’s much more about the quality of time rather than the quantity of time.

Methodology

We ranked the 200 largest U.S. cities from best (No. 1) to worst (No. 200) based on their overall scores (out of 100 possible points), averaged across the weighted metrics below. 

MetricWeightingMin. ValueMax. ValueBest
Affordability
Cost of Living374206Min. Value
Housing Affordability for Male Workers322.6375.35Max. Value
Copays as a Share of Household Income10%22%Min. Value
Child Care
Baby Supply Stores per 100,000 Residents106.87Max. Value
Child Care Workers per 100,000 Residents363.48443.42Max. Value
Hourly Cost of Babysitter2$11.25$19.25Min. Value
Annual Cost of Child Care2$5,864 $21,256 Min. Value
Health and Education Systems
Hospitals per Capita10147.78Max. Value
Quality of Public Hospitals38095Max. Value
Family Practitioners per 100,000 Residents23.16124.06Max. Value
Share of Uninsured Children30.05%13.97%Min. Value
Quality of Public Schools3610.5Max. Value
Home and Outdoor Environments
Median Air Quality Index120119Min. Value
Walk Score11398Max. Value
Pedestrian Fatalities per 100,000 Residents107.67Min. Value
Yard Size1274423951Max. Value
Crime Index1088Max. Value
"Best Cities for Water Quality" Rank11200Min. Value
Share of Homes with Severe Housing Problems10.10.33Min. Value
Work Environment
Average Length of Work Week (in Hours) for Men236.746.4Min. Value
Average Commute Time (in Minutes) for Men217.848.6Min. Value
Socioeconomic Environment
Median Annual Income for Working Men331974116445Max. Value
Share of Men with College Degree210.175.5Max. Value
Share of Working Men in Poverty21.60%19.93%Min. Value
Share of Children Under 18 in Poverty23.150.2Min. Value
Food Insecurity10.060.18Min. Value
Dad Protections
Length of Paid Family Leave Allowed3012Max. Value
Share of Wage Replacement20%100%Max. Value
Availability of Job Protection in Paid Family Leave Policy (Yes/No)301Max. Value
Availability of State Law Allowing Sick Leave for Child Care (Yes/No)301Max. Value
Availability of Protected Time Off for School Events (Yes/No)201Max. Value
Dad Support
Single-Dads per 100,000 Residents2332.21521.61Max. Value
Availability of Fatherhood Program(s)201Max. Value
Dad Support Groups per 100,000 Single Dads20420.49Max. Value

Sources: AreaVibes, Care.com, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Child Care Aware of America, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, LawnStarter, Livability, Meetup, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, NeighborhoodScout, Niche, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Walk Score, Workplace Fairness, and Yelp

Why This Study Matters

Fatherhood isn’t what it used to be. In recent years, paternal roles have changed, and attitudes about family have shifted, especially during the pandemic.

What hasn’t changed are the struggles of single parenting, like finding child care, relying on a single income, maintaining work-life balance, or holding a steady job.

Now that the pandemic is all but behind us, solo dads are back to juggling some of the same pre-pandemic responsibilities, too: putting in extra hours at work for additional income, taking the kids to dance or soccer practice, prepping meals.

Doing all of that alone can leave dads vulnerable to stress and hardship.

That’s why support in every possible form is so important: Every bit of help — even clean air and a spacious yard for kids to run around and play while dad tries to get work done — can make a huge difference. 

And you can help your dad, too. Mow his lawn this week ahead of Father’s Day or hire a pro to take that chore off his hands so you can spend more time with Pops this weekend.

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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