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Best Zip Codes for Renters Looking for Top-Rated Urban Schools

As older Millennials’ children are approaching school age (I know!), is the “urban generation” forced to look to the suburbs for better schools? What are the chances of finding good schools in the city and what does that involve in terms of rent costs?

According to our newest analysis of schools in the largest cities, top-rated urban schools do exist. We looked at elementary and middle schools rated 8,9, and 10 by, and set out to determine what cities and zip codes have the most top-rated schools and what it costs to live in these coveted zip codes.


San Diego ranks the highest by share of top-rated schools

Of all the elementary and middle schools located in the nation’s 30 largest cities by population, 16% are top-rated. That is, out the roughly 6,800 schools, around 1,100 have a GreatSchools rating of 8 or higher. The list includes cities like Philadelphia, Charlotte, and DenverSan Diego leads with the highest share of top-ranked schools, 38% of the city schools, followed by San Francisco, with 30% of its schools rated 8 and above, and Austin with a 28% share. Seattle is fourth from the top, and New York City is fifth. Washington, DC, San Jose, Portland, Oklahoma City, and Las Vegas wrap up the top 10 large cities with the highest share of top schools.

New York City takes the lead with the highest number of top-rated schools

Being the most populous, New York is home to the highest number of top-ranked schools, 239. This includes Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens only. The Big Apple also has a good share of top schools, more than a quarter of all schools being rated highly by GreatSchools. The second highest number of top schools is in San Diego, 88 in total, and third in Houston (4th largest by population) with 76 top-rated schools, respectively. Chicago, which is the third most populous city, only has 55 top-rated schools, same as Austin, which is the 11th most populous. Los Angeles, the second most populous city in the U.S., only has 46 top-rated schools. Compared to New York, Los Angeles with half the population size of NYC has 80% fewer top-rated schools.


Phoenix zip code 85048 is home to the most top-rated schools

Analyzing each city at the zip code level, 85048 in Phoenix ranks first with the most top-rated schools, 11, part of Ahwatukee Foothills. Following is San Diego zip code 92129, in the Rancho Peñasquitos area, all of its 10 schools being top-rated, and Brooklyn’s 11215, Park Slope/Gowanus, with 9 highly-rated schools. The following is a list of zip codes with at least 5 top-ranked schools:

Queens zip codes offer the best deal for renting near top schools

How do rent prices in zip codes with top-rated schools compare with rents in other zip codes? Of the 382 zip codes with top-rated schools where rent data was available, 45% are priced lower than the zip codes without top-rated schools, and 55% are priced above. However, in cases where there are very few zip codes with top-rated schools in a city, the average rents in those zip codes have a high probability of being below rents in the rest of the city. It is the case of Detroit’s 48323, the only zip with a top-rated school in the city, where the average rent of $691 is $359 lower than the rent in the rest of the city.

To see all 382 zip codes analyzed in 30 largest cities, check out the complete table below.

Here are the top 20 zip codes with high-ranking schools where renting is cheaper than in zip codes without a top-rated school:

Of these zip codes, 5 are in Queens, led by 11432, which has 2 top-rated schools and an average rent of $1,765, or $1,620 less than in other Queens zip codes without top schools. Chicago’s 60625 and 60616 are also on the list of lowest rents near top-schools, alongside DC’s 20019 and L.A.’s 90065.

Texas’ top-rated school zip codes are more high-budget but offer the highest living standards

For the zip codes with top-ranked schools where the average rent is higher than in the rest of the city, the biggest differences are noticed in Dallas, where living in a zip code with schools ranked 8 or above costs in some cases twice as much as living in an area without such a school. In some Austin zip codes with top schools it may cost about $1,000 more, and in Houston, $800 more. However, the higher prices are explained by the fact that many of the units in zip codes with good schools were built in the last 5 years, and are categorized as being high quality. While this means a higher rent, it also means more amenities, comfort, and higher-standard living conditions.

Browse, sort, and search rent and school information in 382 urban zip codes in the table below:


  • This report was prepared by, a nationwide apartment search website that enables renters to easily find apartments and houses for rent throughout the United States.
  • School data: licensed by This analysis includes only public and public-charter schools with at least one of the following grade levels: pre-K, elementary, and middle. High-schools were excluded. “Top-rated” or “top-ranking” schools as those schools rated 8, 9 or 10 as defined by GreatSchools’ rating methodology.
  • Population data: U.S. Census Bureau ACS 2017, 5-year estimates. This analysis includes the 30 largest U.S. cities by population. For New York City, we looked at the individual boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn.
  • Average rent data: Yardi Matrix, an apartment market intelligence source and RENTCafe’s sister company that researches and reports on large-scale multifamily properties of 50+ units across 130+ markets in the United States. To ensure a representative sample, the average rent is reported only for zip codes with a minimum of 200 rental units and 3 properties, in total 382 zip codes in the 30 largest cities. The average rent in each zip code with at least one top-rated school was compared to average rents in all other city zip codes without a top-rated school.

Fair use and redistribution

We encourage you and freely grant you permission to reuse, host, or repost the images in this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology. For more in-depth, customized data, please contact us at

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About the author

Sanziana Bona

Sanziana Bona is a creative writer and researcher for RENTCafé, with a strong passion for the dynamic real estate market, covering topics from lifestyle to market trends. She has a B.A. in International Relations and Spanish from Michigan State University, a LL.M. in International Business Law, Contracting and International Relations from Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economía. You can connect with Sanziana via email.

Sanziana’s work has been featured in CNBC, CBS News, NBC New York, The Press Democrat, Wolf Street and The Registry San Francisco, among others. Prior to joining the RENTCafé team, she wrote extensive analysis papers on world topics such as human rights violations, international laws, and world conflicts, as well as arts literature, in both English and Spanish.

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