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The Best Places for Young Families in Minnesota

Life in the Land of 10,000 Lakes is good, especially for couples looking to raise hearty Midwestern children. Even though much of the state is agriculture-focused, the quickly growing Twin Cities of Minneapolis–St. Paul offer lots of other options for high-paying employment in diverse industries like technology and healthcare. It’s jobs like these that make family life easier, such as by being able to afford a mortgage more easily.

Research carefully how you can afford for your new family home. LendingTree offers a wealth of information and useful tips on everything that you need to educate and prepare yourself for the homebuying process. You might also read up on how to get preapproved for a home loan.

Our researchers here at LendingTree compared cities and towns across Minnesota and ranked them for their family-friendliness. Here are the results.

Key takeaways

  • Byron is the best place to raise a family in Minnesota, with a final score of 74.0.
  • Otsego and Albertville take the second and third spots with final scores of 73.0 and 71.2, respectively.
  • On the other end of the list, we found Hopkins to be the most challenging place for young families in Minnesota, with a final score of 40.4.
  • Spring Lake Park and Bemidji finished out the bottom three towns on our list, with final scores of 41.6 and 46.8, respectively.

The top 10 cities to live in Minnesota

#1 Byron

Byron was founded in the 1800s as a railroad outpost along the way to nearby Rochester. This community didn’t shine for any particular factor we measured. Rather, it ranks well all-around on each of the factors. There is a relatively high proportion of families with children here, at 50.7%. Families with children living here can expect to earn a median household income of $99,861 per year — a bit on the low end compared with the rest of the cities on the list — but to compensate, housing costs are also relatively low. Most families are paying around the median amount of $1,197 per month. In addition, a large majority of families — 89% — own their own homes. Even better is the 18-minute average commute time to work. The rate of unemployment for 25- to 44-year-olds is only 1.5%, but Byron has the highest rate in our Top 10 of 16- to 19-year-olds not enrolled in or graduated from high school: 5.1%.

#2 Otsego

Otsego is the first of many western Minneapolis suburbs on our list. This community is bordered on the north by the mighty Mississippi River, and to the south by the #3 pick on our list, Albertville. Children also abound in this community, as 50% of households here are also raising little ones. According to the data, every older teenager in this community is either enrolled in high school or has graduated, which points to an excellent school system. Many families here can afford homes as well, given that the homeownership rate among families with children is 91%.

The median household income is quite high, at $115,363, and the median monthly income is $1,293. Slightly less than 2% of 25- to 44-year-olds are unemployed, and those with jobs face an average commute time of 26.9 minutes.

#3 Albertville

The town of Albertville sits just below Otsego like a puzzle piece on a map. There are lots of fun things to attract families here, like the Cedar Creek Golf Course for grownups and plenty of parks for the kids. Housing costs tick up a bit here compared with Otsego to the north, but incomes are slightly lower, resulting in this community ranking a little further down the list. The median income for families in Albertville is $109,267 (vs. $115,363 in Otsego), and the median housing cost is $1,488 per month (vs. $1,293 in Otsego).

Fifty-three percent of households have children, and of those families, 91.1% own their homes. Unemployment is fairly low, at 1.8%, and the average travel time to work is a little higher than for those living in Otsego: 29.5 minutes. All teenagers are enrolled in or have graduated from high school.

#4 Victoria

You might want to stock up on mosquito repellent if you live in this Minneapolis suburb — it’s surrounded by the state’s famous watery landscape. But tucked among the many ponds and lakes are plenty of other attractions for nature lovers: the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, the Carver Park Reserve, and the Deer Run Golf Club. Not surprisingly, families who live in Victoria tend to be a bit more affluent. The median household income for families with kids is a whopping $166,250. But consider that the median housing cost is equally high: $2,111 per month. Still, it’s affordable enough that most of the families with children here are homeowners rather than renters (51.1% of households have children, and of those households, 93.4% own their homes).

Almost all teenagers (99.98%) are enrolled in or have graduated from high school, and only 1.5% of 25- to 44-year-olds are unemployed.

#5 Medina

Sitting almost on a straight line between Victoria and Albertville outside of Minneapolis, Medina is definitely the most affluent community on the list. The median household income among families with kids here is $220,121 per year. Unsurprisingly, housing costs are high as well: $2,410 is the median monthly amount. This is one of the only communities on our list that has a 0% unemployment rate among adults aged 25 to 44. That means if you are able to afford living here, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find employment as well, assuming you have the skills that employers here are looking for.

On the flipside, a rather high percentage of older teens aren’t in school or haven’t graduated yet, at least compared with the other cities on our list. Although this indicator isn’t an official measurement of the area’s high school dropout rate, the two metrics do track in tandem. Forty-six percent of households have children, and of those families, 88.8% own their homes.

#6 Sartell

Sartell is the only suburb of St. Cloud on our list. It lies just to the north of the city, also along the Mississippi River. Sartell is a great place for active kids, with 48 miles of trails and 28 parks to choose from. Parents can look forward to spending a lot of time with their kids in these parks, given that the average commute time to work is a mere 20 minutes. Only 42.5% of households have childrens, and of those families, Sartell has one of the lowest proportions of homeowners in any of the communities on our list: 78%. That’s still on the high side compared with many of the other Minnesota towns that didn’t end up in our Top 10.

The median household income here is $101,344, and median monthly housing costs are $1,122. Only 1% of 16- 19-year-olds are not enrolled in or graduated from high school, and only slightly higher than that, 1.6% of 25- to 44-year-olds are unemployed.

#7 Kasson

The town of Kasson is nestled in among agricultural fields to the west outside of Rochester. Residents with kids here earn a modest median income (at least compared with some of the other towns on our list) of $88,684 per year. Housing prices are low too — just $1,061 per month. Because parents generally only have a short 23.8-minute commute to work (and only 1.3% of 25- to 44-year-olds are unemployed), there’s plenty of time left over to spend it with the family. The town even offers fun amenities, like a small waterpark and aquatic center for the hot Minnesota summers.

Forty percent of households have children, and of those, 87.1% own their homes.

#8 Rogers

Another northwestern Minneapolis favorite, Rogers is tucked in right next to Albertville and Otsego. This community offers plenty of things to keep families entertained, including farmers markets, parks, community gardens, an ice arena and regularly scheduled community events. Although housing costs are a bit on the high side at a median amount of $1,810 per month, 88.5% of families with children own their homes, and most families earn a decent income, too. The median household income for the 43.9% of families with kids, in fact, is a very comfortable $153,668 per year.

This is another rare Minnesota community that features a 0% unemployment rate among 25- to 44-year-olds, so you’ll have plenty of economic security here, too. Average travel time to work is 27.4 minutes, and 2.8% of 16- to -19-year-olds are not enrolled in or graduated from school.

#9 Waconia

Waconia lies just to the west of Victoria, outside of Minneapolis. The town sits along the southern border of the eponymous Lake Waconia, so this is another place to remember your mosquito repellent. Of the 44.6% of households with children, 90.4% own their homes, which is undoubtedly helped along by the high incomes ($110,750 is the median amount for families) and low-ish housing costs ($1,535 is the median monthly cost).

The school system in Waconia is quite good, judging from the fact that all older teens in the town have either graduated from school or are still enrolled. The unemployment rate is a mere 1.4%, and the average commute time is just over 26 minutes.

#10 New Ulm

Founded by a band of German immigrants from Ulm, Germany, New Ulm is a top destination for Minnesota families — and festival lovers — these days. Residents here have miniscule commute times: just 12.5 minutes on average. That’s probably because New Ulm itself is located relatively far away from any major cities, so people likely are finding local employment (only 1.1% of 25- to 44-year-olds are unemployed).

Conversely, a relatively smaller proportion of families here have children (just 27.8%), and of those families, 76.3% own their homes. Incomes are lower here than in some of the other cities on our list — the median household income for families here is just $73,636, although housing costs are pretty cheap at just $700 per month. Only 1.4% of 16- to 19-year-olds are not enrolled in or graduated from school.

Understanding the rankings

We chose seven indicators to rank cities and towns with above 5,000 people in the 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 seven 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 where homeownership is both more common and perhaps important for a family looking to buy, more practical.
  • Unemployment rate of 25- 44 year olds: This indicates where the job market is healthy and suggests 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.
  • Percentage of 16-19 year olds not enrolled in 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 were given a value according to their 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 5,000.

 

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