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We know Bellingham is a great place to live, but is it good for raising a family?

Bellingham regularly appears near the top on the endless stream of national and state rankings compiled by online websites.

Recent opportunities for the City of Subdued Excitement to puff out its chest with pride include:

Being ranked the 12th-best city nationwide to start a beer brewery by Bid-On-Equipment.com.

Ranking among the top 10 small cities in the United States for coffee in a list by National Geographic Travel.

Earning spots on all three of the American Lung Associations’s cleanest cities lists for air quality — one of only six cities nationwide to do so.

But when it comes down to best cities in Washington state to raise a family, Bellingham apparently isn’t all that highly regarded. It ranked only 75th out the 114 cities in the state ranked by WalletHub.com in a list released Thursday, Oct. 3.

In fact, Bellingham ranked last among the three Whatcom County cities to appear on the list, as Ferndale was No. 33 and Lynden checked in at No. 36.

According to the Wallethub release, the ranking looked at 21 “key indicators of a suitable environment for raising children,” ranging from median family income to school-system quality to housing affordability.

The top-ranked city in the state to raise a family, according to Wallethub, was West Richland, followed by Snoqualimie, Sammamish, Bainbridge Island and Richland. Spokane was No. 45, Mount Vernon 58th, Seattle 64th, Tacoma 98th and Everett 110th.

Though Bellingham ranked 14th among cities in the state in Wallethub’s family life/fun categories, its ranking of 71st in education/health/safety categories, 84th in affordability categories and 87th in socioeconomic categories pulled the city deep into the overall rankings.

More specifically, according to an email about the list of 114 cities, Wallethub said Bellingham ranked:

90th in percent of families with children younger than 17.

88th in median family income adjusted for the cost of living.

43rd in the quality of the local school system.

97th in high school graduation rate.

48th in violent crime rate.

56th in housing affordability.

85th in percent of families living below poverty level.

93rd in divorce rate.

On the positive side, Wallethub said Bellingham was tied for first with Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma and Walla Walla for most attractions. The city also ranked 26th in the state for the unemployment rate and 22nd for playgrounds per capita.

Meanwhile, Ferndale’s affordability — it ranked 18th in the state in those categories — lifted it to a higher spot in the list. Ferndale also was 35th and 37th in education/health/safety categories and family life/fun categories, respectively.

Lynden was strongest in socioeconomic categories (24th) in the state, but also scored well in education/health/safety categories (28th).

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David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.
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