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The Best Places for Young Families in Massachusetts

Everything changes when it is time to start a family, and one of the main tasks young families must tackle is where to put down roots. The ideal family home varies from a New England Cape Cod behind a white picket fence to a penthouse loft within a short walk to a park, but most families want the highest quality of life possible for their investment.

Your family will take many factors into consideration, such as job opportunities, the commute to the office, affordable pricing and the quality of local schools, before deciding where to settle.

It is just as important to understand the key components of buying a home, such as mortgage rates, which will determine your cost of borrowing, and the minimum requirements to secure a mortgage in 2019. In some of the most desirable communities, you are likely to face stiff competition to get the home that you want, so understanding the mortgage preapproval process is a must. LendingTree can help with all of that research.

LendingTree’s researchers wanted to know which U.S. cities offer the best prospects for young families, and they scored these cities on a scale of 0 to 100.

Key takeaways for Massachusetts

  • Hingham, a harborside town 16 miles south of Boston, takes the top spot as the best place to raise a family in Massachusetts, posting a final score of 72.5.
  • Winchester and Needham came in second and third, posting final scores of 71.0 and 69.5, respectively.
  • The other end of our ranking for Massachusetts saw Webster come in last place, making it the most challenging place to live with a young family, by our measures of healthy prospects. It managed a final score of 31.9.
  • Salisbury and Chelsea were the second- and third-last ranked towns by these criteria, finishing out the bottom three towns on our list. Their final scores were 37.3 and 40.2, respectively.

The top 10 cities to live in Massachusetts

#1 Hingham

Hingham is as much a destination for colonial history buffs as it is for families. It placed first for families in Massachusetts with a score of 72.5, according to our ranking, with an astounding 93.3% of families with children owning homes. Overall, 41.4% of households have children. The median household income of families with children is $229,667. Statistically, Hingham has a high school dropout rate of nil: 0.0% of 16- to 19-year-olds are not enrolled in or graduated from high school. That focus on education pays off in adulthood, apparently, as the unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds was merely 1.5%, and workers enjoy an average travel time to work of 33.2 minutes. With all of those attributes, monthly median housing costs come in at $2,476.

#2 Winchester

Known as a bedroom community, Winchester is largely occupied by professionals who work in Boston, which is just 8.2 miles south of the town. It garnered a final score of 71.0. Perhaps that is why its unemployment rate among 25- to 44-year-olds is a mere 1.5%. Winchester is also consistently ranked as among the wealthiest municipalities in Massachusetts. Our study found that it has a median household income of $211,622 among families with children, and the median housing costs come in at $2,513. Among families with children, 89.2% own homes and 42.5% of all households have children. This is another town where virtually all of 16- to 19-year-olds are in high school. Winchester residents enjoy a 33-minute commute to work, shorter than those in Hingham.

#3 Needham

With a final score of 69.5, Needham is third on the list. The median household income of families with children comes in at $196,694, and the city has a 91.8% homeownership rate among families with children. Another suburb of Boston, Needham is located about 20 miles outside of it. Monthly median household costs run at around $2,340, and 41.7% of households have children. Almost all of Needham’s 16- to 19-year-olds are enrolled in high school — only 0.6% of that age group are not. Needham has a low unemployment rate, 3.4%, and professionals in the city have a relatively short commute to work: slightly over 30 minutes.

#4 Milton

Milton comes fourth in the ranking with a score of 68.9. Located just nine miles south of Boston, the median household income of Milton residents with children is $178,939. The town has a 90% homeownership rate among families with children, and monthly median household costs run at around $2,251. 41.1% of Needham’s households have children, where just 0.1% of 16- to 19-year-olds are not enrolled in high school. Needham’s unemployment rate is 2.4%, and it takes workers in that town about 32.9 minutes to get to work.

#5 Longmeadow

With a final score of 67.8, Longmeadow rounds out the Top Five in LendingTree’s list of best places for young families in Massachusetts. The median household income of families with children is $142,439 and the median monthly housing cost is $1,803. Thirty-seven percent of households have children, and 90.5% of families with children in Longmeadow own a home. Longmeadow enjoys a very low rate of unemployment, 3.8%, and percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds who are not enrolled in high school, at 3.2%. For Longmeadow residents, the average commute time is 22.9 minutes.

#6 Wellesley

Wellesley is famous for its private women’s college on Central Street, and it makes the Top 10 with a score of 67.7. In Wellesley, the median household income is $250,001, higher than top-ranked Hingham. The median housing cost also tops Hingham, at $2,828. The homeownership rate among families with children is noticeably lower than the leader at 88.6%, and children are present in 42.7% of the town’s households. Wellesley stands out from the other towns in the ranking’s Top 10 for its higher rate of unemployment, 5.3%. The percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds not enrolled in high school is statistically nil, at 0.3%, and Wellesley’s residents travel an average of 29.2 minutes to get to work.

#7 Cochituate

Technically, Cochituate is a census-designated place within the town of Wayland, just 18 miles west of Boston. It makes our ranking, though, as a top-ranked place for families with children. Among families with children. the median household income is $184,706, and the median cost of housing comes in at $2,395. Almost all families with children in Cochituate, 98.3%, own homes, and overall, 39.7% of households have children. Unemployment in Cochituate is just 1.9%, and residents of the hamlet commute 33 minutes to work, on average. Here is the stat that sets Cochituate apart from other communities in the Top 10: 2.1% of 16- to 19-year-olds are not enrolled in or graduated from high school.

#8 Pinehurst

Another hamlet in the top haul, Pinehurst is within the town of Billerica. In Pinehurst, the median household income of families with children is $105,156, and the monthly median cost of housing is $1,869. In that community, where 39.2% of households have children, the homeownership rate among families with children is 90.7%. The unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds is 2.6%, and virtually all 16- to 19-year-olds are enrolled in or have graduated from high school. The average travel time to work is just 30 minutes.

#9 Lexington

Lexington is another pricey community, where the median household income of families with children is $216,845 and the median monthly cost of housing is $2,639. In a town where 42.7% of households have children, 85.7% of those families with children own a home. The rate of unemployment among 25- to 44-year-olds is 4.1%, and workers travel an average of 31.6 minutes to get to work. The level of 16- to 19-year-olds who are not enrolled in or have graduated from high school is just 0.6%.

#10 Nantucket

It’s an island, county and town celebrated for its beaches, lighthouses and a popular brand of nectar beverages. If you want to move your family to Nantucket and live in one of those unpainted cedar-shingled homes, though, know that the median household income of families with children is $104,881. The median monthly housing cost is $1,923 — a reasonable bargain compared with other communities in the Top 10. A relatively small ratio of households have children, just 27.5%, and the homeownership rate among households with kids is 69.5%. The unemployment rate of 25- to 44-year-olds is just 2.2%, and the commute is a blissful 12.4 minutes. Almost all youth are accounted for every day, as 0.0% of 16- to 19-year-olds are not enrolled in or graduated from high school.

One interesting finding about Massachusetts overall: Children were present in fewer than half of the households in all 118 communities in the ranking. Households that do have children, however, largely view homeownership as the best setting for themselves.

Understanding the rankings

We chose six indicators to rank cities and towns with above 5,000 people in each state 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 six indicators we used are:

  • 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 childcare expenses, reasonably affordable housing is important.
  • Homeownership rate of families with children: This indicates were homeownership is both more common and perhaps importantly for a family looking to buy, more practical.
  • Unemployment rate of 25-44 year olds: This indicates where the job market is healthy and suggest a higher quality of life, locally. We focus on 25- to 44-year-olds in particular to capture the most common ages for parents of young families.
  • 16-19 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

Methodology

Analysts used data from the 2017 5-Year American Community Survey by the U.S. Census.  Each of the six metrics was given a value according to its relative location between the highest and lowest values. The values were then summed and divided by six for an equal weighting. The analysis was limited to U.S. Census-designated places with populations of at least 5,000.

 

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