'Kid-Friendliest' City in America Naperville Gets Top Rating for Low Crime, Unemployement

Article excerpt

Byline: Ray Minor Daily Herald Staff Writer

Group zeroes in on population changes

So how does an organization advocating a controlled national population pick Naperville - one of the fastest growing cities in the United States - as the best place to raise a family?

"That's a good question because it looks like we are contradicting ourselves," said Joy Fishel, a researcher with Zero Population Growth.

The organization doesn't just look at size or growth when it compares cities, Fishel said. It looks at the effects population changes have on the quality of life. While most towns with high marks are growing, two of the Top 10 are getting smaller.

"We are looking to see how cities that maintain their size also maintain their quality," she said. "What we are finding is that while cities with growth tend to do well, that growth is hurting other areas that are declining in population.

"We need to look at ways to structure the resources and stabilize the population so resources are used equally."

- Ray Minor

When it comes to raising a family, Naperville is as good as it gets.

So says a national group that rated Naperville the "kid-friendliest" city in the United States over 218 other communities.

A two-year study, released Tuesday by Zero Population Growth in Washington, D.C., called Naperville the best place to raise a family. The group cited the city's low crime rate, low unemployment and high incomes as prime reasons why Naperville does so well.

"I'm excited for the people of Naperville," Mayor George Pradel said. "People work hard to get that kind of recognition, and they've done a lot of good things for our kids. It's a credit to all the schools, the park district, the parents and all the other organizations in town."

The rating, compiled in a report called the Children's Environmental Index, looked at 20 categories, such as teenage birth rates, infant mortality, juvenile crime, school dropout rates, education spending and pollution.

The highest priorities are placed on education, children's health and environmental issues.

The study included all cities in the United States with at least 100,000 residents and eight other towns from states that don't have any cities with a population of 100,000.

This is the first of six studies from the group that included Naperville, which surpassed the 100,000 population mark only three years ago.

After compiling the ratings in all the categories, Naperville edged Overland Park, Kan., and Irvine, Calif., for the top spot.

Gary, Ind., was tagged with the lowest score.

"When we do a study, it's not just an attempt to look at the numbers but to take a look a the quality of life," said Joy Fishel, lead researcher for the report. "This is a wake-up call. We see that towns with a population decline are falling on the list while others that are growing are doing well. …