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The Best Places for Young Families in Idaho

Twin Falls, Idaho

Relocating to a new city or state is a major decision for anyone; but for young families also looking to buy a home, the move can seem like it’s quickly morphed into a big bang of possibilities.

Yes, you’ll likely spend lots of time comparing housing details, such as affordability and mortgage costs. But with children in the mix (or about to come on board), you’ll also find yourself comparing — and prioritizing — lifestyle factors such as the quality of schools, job prospects and commute times, as well as the presence of like-minded families that have also decided to invest in a particular community.

For young families looking for affordability, good job prospects and maybe also a lifestyle change, fast-growing Idaho is worth considering. With an increasingly diverse economy, it’s generating a growing number of jobs in health care, technology and manufacturing, in addition to those in forest products and agriculture. If you’re thinking of moving to Idaho, consider the following list put together by researchers at LendingTree; it rates the best places in the state for young families.

Key takeaways

  • Aberdeen is the best place to raise a family in Idaho, with a final score of 75.6.
  • Hidden Springs and Kimberly take the second and third spots, with final scores of 73.8 and 71.6, respectively.
  • On the other end of the list, we found Emmett to be the most challenging place for young families in Idaho, with a final score of 38.6.
  • Payette and Gooding finished out the bottom three towns on our list, with final scores of 45.9 and 47.9, respectively.

The top 10 cities to live in Idaho

No. 1: Aberdeen

Perhaps surprisingly, the small city of Aberdeen, some 40 miles west of Pocatello, tops our list. Household income is a median of just $43,962 per year — the second-lowest for a top 10 place in Idaho. Still, Aberdeen appears to offer families one of the best combinations of affordability and family-friendly features. The homeownership rate for families with children is on the low side, 61.3%, but 55% of households in Aberdeen have children. That’s not the highest rate we found in the state, but it pushed Aberdeen into the No. 1 slot when it was combined with a notably low cost of housing (a median of $573 per month), almost negligible unemployment, a stellar high school graduation record and a short average commute. The University of Idaho has helped workforce development in this part of the state, and it has an agricultural research center in Aberdeen.

No. 2: Hidden Springs

Unlike Aberdeen, Hidden Springs has the highest median household income for families with children ($151,705) of any place in our survey. This planned community some 10 miles from downtown Boise also has the highest housing costs; residents pay a median of $1,615 per month. Still, families like it here, with 92.3% of families with children owning homes, another list topper. Prospects for both jobs and good schools appear superb in Hidden Springs, but families can also expect an average commute time of 22.8 minutes, the longest for a top-ranked city. As in many planned communities, Hidden Springs offers access to on-site pools, a community clubhouse and some 800 acres of permanent open space. It also offers its own elementary school.

No. 3: Kimberly

Young families have already discovered Kimberly, a small city in the fast-growing Twin Falls metro area. Like top-ranked Aberdeen, household income here is modest, but 46.8% of households have children, local employment and schools are strong, and almost 78% of families own homes. Twin Falls is home to large food companies, such as ConAgra Foods and Chobani, many of which have expanded lately. Families moving to this area can expect moderate housing costs, a median of $885 per month, and off-hour options that include skiing at the nearby Magic Mountain Ski Resort or visiting Shoshone Falls, often referred to as “The Niagara of the West.”

No. 4: Heyburn

Heyburn is about 40 minutes from Twin Falls, and families who move here can expect lower housing costs than in Kimberly. Household income, meanwhile, is about the same, a median of $59,192 per year for families with children. Heyburn is located where two major roads intersect, Interstate 84 and U.S. Highway 30, and it has the second-lowest average commute time on our top 10 list, 13.1 minutes. For recreation, residents can head to Heyburn State Park, where 8,000 acres offer a chance to hike, mountain bike, boat and swim.

No. 5: Chubbuck

In Bannock County, Idaho State University and its research programs are helping drive the economy, and Chubbuck is benefitting; it sits directly north of the school’s home in Pocatello. As in fourth-ranked Kimberly and seventh-ranked Ammon, a high 77.9% of families with children own homes in this small city, most likely because housing costs are also moderate relative to household income, a median of $899 per month. The average commute time is only about 16 minutes.

No. 6: Dalton Gardens

Located in Idaho’s northern panhandle, Dalton Gardens is close enough to fast-growing Coeur d’Alene to be considered a suburb but offers an expansive, rural feel. For some families, it might also offer a good deal. That’s because while the median household income for families with children is high by Idaho standards, housing costs (a median of $1,1,06 per month) are relatively affordable compared to other top 10 places where income is far less. The result: Dalton Gardens has an exceptionally high homeownership rate of families with children; at 91.3%, it’s the second-highest on our list. For families looking for recreation, this part of Idaho is blanketed with national forests and lakes.

No. 7: Ammon

Ammon may be a suburb of Idaho Falls, but this fast-growing city is surrounded by foothills and mountains and is also near landmarks such as Yellowstone National Park. Residents here have the third-highest incomes, and housing costs come in fourth, at $960 per month. Meanwhile, the homeownership rate for families with children is a still-high 77.9%, unemployment is less than 1%, and high schools score high. The disadvantage to living here is the commute; with an average time of 22.2 minutes, it’s second only to Hidden Springs.

No. 8: Iona

Compared to household income, housing costs appear high in Iona, a small, agricultural town in eastern Idaho about 60 miles northeast of Pocatello. Families with children pay a median of $1,153, even though the median family household income is an annual $77,143. Still, almost 50% of Iona households have children, and a very high 90.3% of those that do also own a home. Unemployment is low in this community, but 5.7% of 16- to 19-year-olds are not enrolled or graduated from high school, the second-highest percentage for a top 10.

No. 9: Burley

Like top-ranked Aberdeen, Burley offers families the promise of a highly affordable community where unemployment is low and having children is a popular choice. It has one of the lowest median household incomes we found in Idaho, but the median housing cost is also just $695 per month. Burley is on the Snake River in southern Idaho, so water sports are popular here. Meanwhile, major employers in this small city include McCain Foods and Kodiak America, which makes snow removal equipment. For some families, Burley’s biggest drawback might be the substantial percentage of older teens not enrolled or graduated from high school; at 8.9%, it’s the highest for a top 10 place in Idaho.

No. 10: St. Anthony

St. Anthony is on the Henry’s Fork section of the Snake River, so it provides great access to fly fishing and wildlife in places such as St. Anthony Sand Dunes, a large, off-roading destination where nearby grassland is home to elk and moose. St. Anthony is also only about 70 miles from Yellowstone. Like Burley on the Snake River, it has appealingly low housing costs, a median of $715 per month. Household income, meanwhile, is higher, and more families have children as well as own homes (63.3%). Unemployment is still low for 25- to 44-year-olds; but at 2.2%, it’s the highest percentage for a top 10.

Understanding the rankings

We chose seven indicators to rank cities and towns with above 2,174 people in Idaho for how good they are for young families. These indicators were then scored to create an overall ranking of the best places for young families. The seven indicators we used were:

  • Median family income: Money isn’t everything, but a place with high family incomes suggests a place with good job opportunities and a community with more resources.
  • Median monthly housing costs for all households: For families already dealing with new child care expenses, reasonably affordable housing is important.
  • Homeownership rate of families with children: This indicates where homeownership is both more common and—perhaps important for a family looking to buy—more practical.
  • Unemployment rate of 25- to 44-year-olds: This indicates where the job market is healthy and suggests a higher quality of life locally. We focused on 25- to 44-year-olds in particular to capture the most common ages for parents of young families.
  • Percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds not enrolled or graduated from high school: To estimate high school graduation rates and, therefore, school quality, we calculated the percentage of older teenagers who were not in high school yet had no high school degree. This number is not the actual high school dropout rate, but is well-correlated.
  • Average commute time: Shorter commutes mean less stressed workers who have more time to spend with their families.
  • Percentage of households that have children: A community with more children means that other families have already decided it’s attractive. It also usually means more educational and recreational activities suitable for children and their parents and that residents are concerned about policies that benefit families with kids.

Methodology

Analysts used data from the 2017 5-Year American Community Survey by the U.S. Census.  Each of the seven metrics was given a value according to its relative location between the highest and lowest values. The values were then summed and divided by seven for an equal weighting. The analysis was limited to Census-designated places with populations of at least 2,174.

 

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