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The Best Places to Live For Young Families in New Jersey

When you become a parent, there are many lifestyle changes that result, and one of them may be moving to a more family-friendly community. Along with a move, you may be considering putting down more-permanent roots and looking into homeownership. New Jersey has a lot to offer young families, including some affordable housing options and a strong school system in many areas. Researchers at LendingTree used several factors — including housing costs, school systems and commute times — to compile a list of the 10 best places for young families to live in New Jersey. Here’s what they found.

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Key takeaways

  • Woodcliff Lake is the best place to raise a family in New Jersey, with a final score of 70.6.
  • Madison and North Caldwell take the second and third spots with final scores of 70.4 and 70.1, respectively.
  • On the other end of the list, we found Wildwood to be the most challenging place for young families in New Jersey, with a final score of 38.3.
  • Phillipsburg and Newark finished out the bottom three towns on our list, with final scores of 38.6 and 39.8, respectively.

The top 10 cities to live in New Jersey

#1 Woodcliff Lake

If you live in Woodcliff Lake, you likely have a healthy career and a higher quality of life. Nestled in Bergen County, one of the most expensive areas to live in in New Jersey, Woodcliff Lake has an unemployment rate of 0% for 25- to 44-year-olds, and nearly 98% of families with children own their homes. These families make a median household income of $216,250 and pay $2,879 monthly in housing costs. The school system is also strong, and 100% of 16- to 19-year-olds in Woodcliff Lake are enrolled in or have graduated from high school. This is, in fact, the case for every area on our top 10 list for New Jersey, which is quite impressive.

Despite an average commute that tops 30 minutes, the pros outweigh the cons here, making the city a great one for young families.

#2 Madison

Football fans may know Madison as a short drive from MetLife Stadium, home to the New York Jets and the Giants, but the town also has many attributes that make it a great place for New Jersey residents to call home. Nearly 40% of households here have children, so organizing playdates should not be a challenge. Families earn a median household income of $204,643, with median monthly housing costs of $2,200. The majority of families here — nearly 84% — own their homes, too.

One downside to consider is Madison is in a three-way tie with two other cities on our top 10 list for the highest unemployment rate of 25- to 44-year-old residents, at 3.2%. This may point to a slightly more challenging employment situation in Madison, but that is still a relatively low rate overall.

#3 North Caldwell

In Essex County, there lies a city called North Caldwell where every family with children owns their homes. Residents living here spend about $3,329 monthly on housing costs, and the median family income is $219,185. Most of the residents here have jobs — the unemployment rate is 1.5% for 25- to 44-year-olds. Almost half (42.9%) of households in the area have children.

#4 Haddonfield

When it comes to charm, no small town in New Jersey has Haddonfield beat, at least according to Reader’s Digest, which ranked it the “most charming small town” in the state in 2018. Most families in Haddonfield own their homes (nearly 92%), and the median household income is $176,607. Median monthly household costs add up to $2,350, which is a bit on the pricey side considering that’s more than some other cities on our list with higher median incomes. The unemployment rate is low for residents, although not the lowest, at 2.9%. Those who work experience an average commute time of 28 minutes.

#5 Northfield

With the shortest commute time — 20 minutes — compared to residents from other cities on this list, people in Northfield have a little more time to spend with their loved ones. What else makes Northfield a great place for young families? A low unemployment rate of 1.5% and relatively low housing expenses, at $1,685 a month. Although Northfield’s households with children also make the lowest income on this list — $72,708 — housing is relatively affordable, and 80.7% of families own their homes.

#6 Chatham

Nearly half of the households in Chatham have children. These families make $244,688 in median household income (the highest on our top 10 list), and 85.2% of them own their homes. The city also boasts a “strollable downtown,” according to the New York Times.

A couple of downsides: The city is one of three on our list that share the highest unemployment rate of 3.2% for 25- to 44-year-olds. And Chatham has the second-highest average commute time, at nearly 40 minutes.

#7 Carlstadt

Carlstadt offers young families a good community with job opportunities. Only 1.7% of 25- to 44- -year-olds living in this Bergen County city are unemployed, and the median household income for families is $130,543. Thirty-five percent of households have children, and 70.3% of them own their homes. Residents in Carlstadt pay $1,635 — among the lowest compared to residents from other cities on this list — in housing costs monthly.

#8 Glen Rock

People living in Glen Rock sit in traffic longer than residents from other cities on this list — about 40 minutes every day, on average. However, the long commute comes with some payoffs, such as a high median income of $231,905 for families and a low unemployment rate of 1.4% for 25- to 44-year-olds. About 96% of families with children in this Bergen County city own their homes, and they pay $2,949 monthly in household costs. Young people thinking of Glen Rock as a place to call home can be confident their children will have friends to play with: 43.8% of households here have kids.

#9 Ramtown

The odds are good that you’ll own a home if you live in Ramtown; nearly 99% of households with children own their homes, and they pay $2,243 in monthly costs. These households make a median income of $135,066. About 44% of households in Ramtown have children, too. Only 1.8% of residents aged 25 to 44 are unemployed, and those going to work sit in traffic for about 34 minutes daily.

#10 Ashland

What makes Ashland one of the best places to live in New Jersey? For young families looking to buy a home, housing costs are practical, and 90.4% of households with children are homeowners. These families make a median income of $123,804 and pay $1,633 monthly in household costs. One-third of households in Ashland have children.

On the less-positive side, Ashland is the third area on our list to feature a 3.2% unemployment rate for residents aged 25 to 44. Those with jobs commute about 28 minutes on average daily.

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 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: A high rate indicates homeownership is more common and, perhaps more importantly for a family looking to buy, more practical.

Unemployment rate of 25-44 year olds: A low rate indicates the job market is healthy and suggests a higher quality of life, locally. We focused on 25-44 year olds in particular to capture the most common ages for parents of young families.

Percentage of 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 it 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 other families have already decided it’s attractive. It also usually means more educational and recreational activities suitable for children and their parents and residents who 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 5,000.

 

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