The Best Places to Live for Young Families in Pennsylvania
Raising a family comes with its share of challenges, but it may be a lot easier if you live in a family-friendly community. Factors including an abundance of high-paying jobs and affordable housing prices can give residents a better chance to meet the requirements for a mortgage. Overall, living in an area where there are many other couples with children, quick commute times to work and a strong school system can contribute to a better quality of life for families. LendingTree researchers have taken each of these factors — and more — into account to help find the best communities in which to raise a young family in Pennsylvania.
- Franklin Park is the best place to raise a family in Pennsylvania, with a final score of 78.8.
- Fox Chapel and Ancient Oaks take the second and third spots, with final scores of 77.3 and 77.2, respectively.
- On the other end of the list, we found Taylor and Berwick to be tied for the title of most challenging place for young families in Pennsylvania, with a final score of 44.3.
- Just above these was Wilkinsburg, with a score of 45.3.
The top 10 cities to live in Pennsylvania
#1 Franklin Park
Franklin Park earns the top spot on our list. This area combines the best of both worlds: easy access to high-paying jobs in Pittsburgh and the benefits of living in a setting with a rural feel. Families with children in Franklin Park earn a median household income of $175,263 — the second-highest income of the 10 cities on our list. A hefty 98% of families with children own their own homes in Franklin Park, and the school system is strong. Every 16- to 19-year-old in the town has either graduated from high school or is still enrolled, according to our data.
#2 Fox Chapel
Fox Chapel, another Pittsburgh suburb, is the priciest pick on our list. After all, a good chunk of the town is made up of exclusive golf clubs and extensive parks. This undoubtedly makes for great views, which probably help push the median housing cost up to $2,397 per month. Still, nearly 90% of families here own their homes. This requires a high income to match — and the median household income in Fox Chapel is $210,156 per year. The unemployment rate among 25- to 44-year-olds in Fox Chapel is 0%. The environment is also family-friendly, as nearly 43% of all households in the area have children.
#3 Ancient Oaks
Ancient Oaks is a bedroom community of the nearby city of Allentown. What makes Ancient Oaks particularly attractive for families with children is housing costs are among the lowest of all the cities on our top 10 list. The median monthly housing cost in Ancient Oaks is $1,420 per month. To pay for those housing costs, you can look forward to an average work commute time of just 26 minutes. All residents between the ages of 16 and 19 are either still in high school or have graduated.
Another suburb of Allentown, Breinigsville has plenty of employers of its own to offer in the centrally located TEK Park, a campus designed to attract up-and-coming tech firms. The median household income of Breinigsville families with children is $132,991, which can support a comfortable lifestyle. Ninety-two percent of families with kids in this area own their home, and they pay a median amount of $1,599 per month for it. The school system in the town is also quite good, and, according to survey data, all the older teenagers have either graduated or are still in high school. Of all the towns on our top 10 list, Breinigsville has the highest percentage of households with children, at 44.1%. This means plenty of potential playmates for your own kids.
Trooper lies far on the outskirts of Philadelphia. It’s about an hour’s drive to get to the city center, but most families in Trooper have a commute time of just 25 minutes, which implies that people are finding work in Trooper itself or nearby towns, including Collegeville and Plymouth Valley. There’s plenty to like about living in Trooper, and families can enjoy nearby Valley Forge National Historical Park and Evansburg State Park. Monthly housing costs are in the middle of the range, at $1,608, and the vast majority — 93% — of families with children own their homes. The median income for families with children is $133,804.
#6 Mountain Top
Picturesque Mountain Top is another town offering the best of both worlds. It’s a quick 14-minute drive to the city of Wilkes-Barre, which offers plenty of employment opportunities, and the town is bordered on three sides by extensive tracts of state land. Not surprisingly, the average commute time for residents of Mountain Top is the shortest on our list: less than 23 minutes, on average. That leaves a lot of time for residents to enjoy their growing families and their country lifestyled. The median income for Mountain Top families with children is lower than others on our top 10 list, at $110,700. But the median housing cost is also lower, at $1,069 per month.
#7 Upper St. Clair
People living in Upper St. Clair, a suburb of Pittsburgh, have the longest commute time of all the other areas on our top 10 list. Still, it’s a relatively reasonable 33 minutes. The town also has the highest rate of teenagers who aren’t enrolled in high school and who haven’t graduated yet, at 2%. However, that’s still a far cry from cities such as Sugarcreek, which ranks 144th, where 32% of students aged 16 to 19 haven’t graduated or aren’t attending high school. The median income of families with children in Upper St. Clair is $148,472, and median monthly housing costs are $1,649. Forty-one percent of Upper St. Clair’s households have children.
Montgomeryville is situated about halfway between the mega-job-centers of Allentown and Philadelphia. Thus, the odds of finding decent work are relatively high, and less than 2% of 25- to 44-year-olds are unemployed. If you work in one of these two neighboring cities, however, it may take you a bit longer to get to work than most other areas on our list: The average commute time is 31 minutes. The median household income in Montgomeryville is $135,262. Given this income level, home prices appear to be affordable to families there, as 93% of households with children own their own homes. The median monthly housing cost is $1,683. Forty percent of Montgomeryville households have children.
Home to the highly rated Swarthmore College, the town of Swarthmore is also an excellent place to raise a family. Perhaps your children will be lucky enough to attend the college someday, given that every single teenager who reaches the age of 19 has either graduated or is still in high school, according to our data. This is a college town, however, so the rate of households with kids is slightly lower than other areas on our list; less than 37% of households have children. However, among families that do have children, the average housing cost is $1,563 per month, and the average household income is a comfortable $155,083.
Paxtonia is situated right outside the capital city, Harrisburg, which itself generally doesn’t receive the highest marks for its family-friendly amenities. Families with breadwinners living in Paxtonia can look forward to some of the shortest commute times of any area on our list (just shy of 23 minutes). The median income of households with children in Paxtonia is $103,821, the lowest of the top 10 cities featured here. However, housing costs are the second-most affordable, with the median price being just $1,098 per month. If you have kids, you may find yourself in the minority, as only 24% of Paxtonia households have children.
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.