The Best Places to Live for Young Families in North Carolina
Starting a family can come with a host of new challenges, and one of those may be finding a new place to live. You may even want to put down more-permanent roots and secure a mortgage. There are several factors that should be considered when hunting for a family-friendly community to call home — the salaries of other families in the area, housing costs and the number of other kids in the neighborhood, to name a few.
It may be tough to find a community that checks all the right boxes, LendingTree researchers compiled a list of the best places to live for families in New York. Here’s what they found.
but it is possible to find many North Carolina cities and towns that rank well on a combination of these factors. If you’re looking for a home in the Tar Heel State, LendingTree researchers are here to help you on your quest. Our researchers considered several items — including housing costs, school systems and average commute times — when compiling this list of the best places for young families to live in North Carolina. Here’s what they found.
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- Oak Ridge is the best place to raise a family in North Carolina, with a final score of 73.9.
- Holly Springs and Davidson take the second and third spots with final scores of 73.3 and 73.2, respectively.
- On the other end of the list, we found Wadesboro to be the most challenging place for young families in North Carolina, with a final score of 41.2.
- Roxboro and a three-way tie between Dunn, Lexington and Oxford finished out the bottom spots on our list, with final scores of 44.7 and 47.7, respectively.
The top 10 cities to live in North Carolina
#1 Oak Ridge
Oak Ridge has the lowest unemployment rate of childrearing-aged residents of all the communities on our top 10 list. In fact, 0% of people ages 25 to 44 in Oak Ridge are unemployed, according to our data. This isn’t surprising, considering the town sits right between Greensboro and Winston-Salem, both of which offer plenty of employment opportunities. Oak Ridge residents also have a reasonably average commute time of 25 minutes, and the median family income is $139,821. Housing is relatively affordable, at a median cost of $1,659 per month, and nearly 92% of families own their homes. Forty percent of households in Oak Ridge have children.
#2 Holly Springs
Situated just outside the capital city of Raleigh, Holly Springs is our second-highest pick for a few reasons. A very high percentage — 57% — of the town’s households also have children, which means your kids will have plenty of friends with whom to explore the abundant woods. The median household income for families with children is an even $116,000, and the median housing cost is $1,557. Most families in the area — nearly 89% — own their homes. One downside: Holly Springs has a relatively high percentage of older teens who aren’t enrolled in school or haven’t yet graduated, at 1.6%. However, that’s still well below many other areas of the state.
Of the Charlotte suburbs on our list, Davidson is the one to pick if you are looking to pay more-reasonable housing costs. The median monthly housing cost here is $1,496, which isn’t cheap but may be quite manageable on a median family income of $164,135. That said, a relatively low 77% of Davidson families are homeowners. The town is situated right off the meandering Lake Norman, which offers plenty of fun for the kids in the summertime. Just more than 36% of households here have children.
Marvin lies on the other side of Charlotte, along the border with South Carolina. Families here can expect to earn a median amount of $190,250 per year, and nearly 66% of families in the area have kids — the highest percentage on our top 10 list. What’s helping to keep Marvin out of the higher spots, however, are its high housing costs: $2,668 per month is the median monthly price tag. Marvin also has a relatively high unemployment rate for residents aged 25 to 44, at 2.7%. Nevertheless, 92% of Marvin families manage to own their homes. Because this is a rather far-flung Charlotte suburb, breadwinning parents have an average work commute time of 31 minutes. This is tied with Weddington, another nearby Charlotte suburb, for the longest commute on our list.
If you can’t get into our top pick, Oak Ridge, try Summerfield instead. This community lies just to the northeast of Oak Ridge and offers a few more amenities to boot. It lies along the shores of the picturesque Lake Higgins and Lake Brandt, great places for a mid-summer picnic. It also offers cheaper housing: $1,500 per month is the median cost, as opposed to Oak Ridge’s $1,659 per month. What helped knock this city down a few pegs, however, is its slightly lower median income ($128,981 versus $139,821), higher unemployment rate for child-rearing-aged folks (1.8% versus 0%) and higher rate of older teens not in school or without a high school degree (1.6% versus 0%).
Located right next to Marvin on the outskirts of Charlotte, Weddington is another affluent community. In fact, families here can expect to bring home the highest salaries of any of the other areas on our list, at $192,045. Housing costs are lower than in Marvin, at a median cost of $2,048 per month, and a whopping 97% of families own their homes (the highest percentage on our top 10 list). The average commute time here is a relatively high 31 minutes.
Apex is a sprawling community located outside of Raleigh and just north of our No. 2 pick, Holly Springs. Apex got its start in the 1800s as a railroad town for goods passing through to Raleigh. These days, residents make that same commute to work in the city, and the average time is a relatively quick 25 minutes. Working-family households here take in an average median income of $122,791, and median monthly housing costs are $1,471. Almost half of households here (close to 48%) have children, and their homeownership rate is just shy of 77%.
If you want to live in a charming coastal city, Ogden may be a good choice for your family. The town is located northeast of Wilmington, right along the ocean shore. To the southwest of Ogden sits the University of North Carolina Wilmington, a potential source of well-paying jobs. Housing here costs a median amount of $1,571 per month for this premium seaside location. The median annual income for families is $123,086 per year, and the average commute time is the third-lowest of the communities on our list, at 23 minutes.
#9 Mills River
Mills River sits just outside of artsy tourist attraction Asheville. If communing with nature is more your style, you’ll love it here, as Mills River is bordered on one side by the massive Nantahala National Forest. Asheville’s economy is largely driven by the health care, education and tourism industries. Unemployment in Mills River is a bit on the high side, at 5.2% among 25- to 44-year-old adults. That’s higher than the statewide average of 3.6%. On the bright side, the median monthly housing cost is the lowest on our list, at $816 per month. The median annual family income, however, is also relatively low — the second-lowest on our top 10 list — at $90,169.
Murraysville sits right next to Ogden, on the inland side of the town. It’s not far from the Wilmington International Airport, a handy spot to be if you’re in the aviation industry or like to travel. The main difference between Ogden and Murraysville is Murraysville residents earn much less — just $77,852 per year, as opposed to $123,086. Still, that’s a household income far above North Carolina’s median of $50,320. To compensate, housing costs here are also relatively low, at $1,144 per month, although this is not nearly as low as the costs in Mills River, which has a higher median income. Still, 80% of families here manage to own their homes. Residents also have the lowest average commute time on our top 10 list, at just under 21 minutes.
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.
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.