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The Best Places for Young Families in Wyoming

Cody, Wyoming

If you are starting a family, you most likely already know how priorities seem to shift overnight. Suddenly, it’s all about looking for family-friendly neighborhoods, reasonable housing and commutes, and a place where the job picture has less churn and more chug.

No single place is likely to score perfectly on all fronts. But in Wyoming, the economy has rebounded after a downturn in 2015, and job gains have been both steady and spread out over different industries. If you are looking for a family home in Wyoming, this may be a good time to check the following list, as compiled by researchers at LendingTree.

Key takeaways

  • Cody is the best place to raise a family in Wyoming, with a final score of 62.8.
  • Wheatland and Sheridan take the second and third spots, with final scores of 62.2 and 59.4, respectively.
  • On the other end of the list, we found Powell to be the most challenging place for young families in Wyoming, with a final score of 44.5.
  • Mills and Torrington finished out the bottom three towns on our list, with final scores of 46.2 and 48.2, respectively.

The top 10 cities to live in Wyoming

No. 1: Cody

Cody is about 50 miles from the eastern gate of Yellowstone National Park, and it ranks first on our list because of its high homeownership rate (61.4%), low unemployment (1.6%) and high enrollment rate for high school students. In Cody, the median family household income of $66,997 is about average for a top 10 city in Wyoming, and the median housing cost ranks fourth, at $862 per month. Residents have short commutes on average, and 32% of households have children. Vivid scenery abounds in and around Cody, as do family attractions, such as The Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

No. 2: Wheatland

The small town of Wheatland is in southeastern Wyoming. Here, residents have a higher median household income and lower housing costs than they do in Cody, but the community also has a slightly higher unemployment rate (2%) for 25- to 44-year-olds, and only about one-quarter of households have children. The homeownership rate is also lower (53%).

No. 3: Sheridan

In northern Wyoming, Sheridan offers access to natural wonders, such as the Bighorn Mountains, and also has the second-highest median household income on our top 10 list. Both housing costs and the unemployment rate are higher here than in Wheatland. Still, almost 64% of families with children in Sheridan own homes, the second-highest rate of the top 10 cities after Rawlins, which is ranked No. 5 (see below).

No. 4: Laramie

Home to the University of Wyoming — and with some 32,000 residents — Laramie is large compared to other communities on this list. Housing costs are reasonable relative to household income and, like Sheridan, almost 64% of families with children own homes. Still, only a fifth of households have children, possibly because Laramie is a college town. Laramie also has a 3.3% unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds. One plus to living here: Despite its larger size, Laramie still has the second-lowest travel time on our top 10 list, with commuters taking an average of just 12 minutes to get to work.

No. 5: Rawlins

Located in southern Wyoming, this small town has housing costs that fall in about the middle of the range for our top 10 cities; yet, it has the highest homeownership rate for families with children, almost 69%. Also, one-third of households have children. The downside is that Rawlins has the second-lowest median household income on our list, and the unemployment rate is 2.8%.

No. 6: North Rock Springs

This small community, north of the larger town of Rock Springs, combines qualities that might appeal to many young families: It has a high median household income, almost half of households have children and more than half of young families own homes. Meanwhile,  unemployment is 0%, and virtually all 16- to 19-year-olds are either enrolled or have graduated from high school. Living here offers access to one of the world’s largest sand dunes and boating and fishing at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, which is about an hour’s drive south.  Still, housing costs are the second-highest on our top 10 list, and North Rock Springs has the longest average commute time, 21.3 minutes.

No. 7: Warren AFB

Located near the western edge of Cheyenne, Warren Air Force Base is mainly home to active and retired military members, as well as their families, but a small number of civilians live here, too. The base has a very high percentage of households with children (77.3%), unemployment  is low and the average time to work is only eight minutes. Still, as might be expected at a military base, families with children do not own their homes at Warren. Meanwhile, the median housing cost, $1,393 per month, is the highest on our top 10 list.

No. 8: Lander

Scenic vistas abound in the small town of Lander in central Wyoming, as does access to Wyoming’s gold rush history and ghost towns. The cost of housing here is low and a better value than for many of the top 10 cities on this list. That helps explain why about 60% of families with children own homes here. Still, Lander ties with Wheatland for having the second-lowest percentage of families with children, 25.3%. It also has the highest unemployment rate (4%) for any top 10 city in Wyoming.

No. 9: Worland

Like Lander, the small city of Worland in northwestern Wyoming has a high homeownership rate for families with children (62.3%). Located on the Bighorn River, with access to both mountains and canyons, Worland also has the lowest median housing cost for a top Wyoming city on our list, $687 per month. Two things to consider before moving here: The unemployment rate is 3.5%, and 8.5% of 16- to 19-year-olds are either not enrolled or didn’t finish high school.

No. 10: Riverton

Like Lander, Riverton is in central Wyoming and promises similarly low housing costs. It also has a similar rate of homeownership (58.8%) for families with children. Still, Riverton has the lowest median household income for a top 10 city on our Wyoming list, $56,195 per year, and 4.8% of 16- to 19-year-olds are either not enrolled or have not graduated from high schools.

Understanding the rankings

We chose seven indicators to rank cities and towns with above 2,027 people in Wyoming for how good they are for young families, which 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 2,027.

 

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