The Best Places for Young Families in Delaware
If you’re shopping for a home, and your wishlist seems like it’s changed overnight, it may be because you’re starting a family. In Delaware, you’re likely to find communities with attributes that most young families prioritize when buying a home, such as affordable home prices, excellent schools, strong job prospects and neighborhoods with plenty of kids. You’ll also find an assortment of options, from family-friendly communities that surround well-known urban centers, such as Wilmington and Dover, to college towns and coastal places that some families might easily bypass.
Of course, finding a neighborhood that checks off all the boxes on your list may not be realistic, but it’s possible one community will score superbly on many, if not all, fronts. To help you evaluate your options, researchers at LendingTree compiled a list of the best places for young families in Delaware.
- North Star is the best place to raise a family in Delaware, with a final score of 70.9.
- Hockessin and Pike Creek take the second and third spots, with final scores of 70.5 and 64.6, respectively.
- On the other end of the list, we found Seaford to be the most challenging place for young families in Delaware, with a final score of 35.8.
- Wilmington and Glasgow finished out the bottom three towns on our list, with final scores of 39.2 and 41.5, respectively.
The top 10 cities to live in Delaware
No. 1: North Star
To be sure, both household income and housing costs are very high for families in top-ranked North Star, a small community with about 7,400 residents next to the Pennsylvania state line. The median housing cost, for example, is $1,776 per month, the second highest for a top 10 in the state. Still, 97.3% of families with children own a home here, the highest number on our list. North Star also offers strong job prospects, an excellent high school graduation rate and proximity to two regional employment hubs, Philadelphia and Wilmington, which is Delaware’s largest city and home to many Fortune 500 companies.
No. 2: Hockessin
Northeast of North Star and closer to Philadelphia, Hockessin has more households with children but a slightly lower — if still very high — homeownership rate for families with children, 92.7%. With a high median housing cost of $1,803 per month, this community is the most expensive out of all those surveyed in Delaware. Still, household income is high, too, if slightly lower than top-ranked North Star. Unemployment, meanwhile, is just 1.6% for 25- to 44-year-olds, which means Hockessin most likely benefits from access to both Wilmington and Philadelphia. It offers families a 27-minute average commute time and, like North Star, excellent high school graduation rates.
No. 3: Pike Creek
Pike Creek is also close to Wilmington, but housing costs are lower here than the first two communities on our list ($1,583 monthly). Household income is sizably lower, too, an annual median of $142,622, which may help explain why Pike Creek also has a lower homeownership rate, 84.8%; homes here may be a little less affordable. Pike Creek has the second-longest average commute time for a top 10 place in Delaware, 27.8 minutes, but schools here appear to be excellent.
No. 4: Highland Acres
In central Delaware, Highland Acres has an estimated population of 3,775 and is part of the Dover metro area. It earned a high spot on this list due to more affordable housing costs, a median of $1,186 per month, as well as a shorter average commute of just 20 minutes, which suggests the availability of jobs nearby. Households incomes are considerably lower in Highland Acres, but a solid 60.8% of families with children own homes. However, only about a quarter of households have children, which is the second-lowest percentage for a top-ranked community.
No. 5: Milford
Some 20 miles south of Dover, the small, former shipbuilding city of Milford has a historic downtown, local riverwalk and growing arts community, so it offers residents a mix of culture and nature. It also offers the lowest housing prices we found for a top 10 place, with a median cost of $989 per month. Despite inexpensive housing, just 54% of families with children own a home in Milford, perhaps because household income is low, $50,227 per year. Commute times are short, however, 23 minutes on average, and 36.5% of households have children, the second-highest percentage for a top 10. According to U.S. Census figures, Milford was one of the fastest-growing cities in Delaware from 2010 to 2018.
No. 6: Wilmington Manor
Just outside of Wilmington, this small community offers fast access to the city, about six miles away, and is also next to New Castle Airport, the largest airport in Delaware. Housing costs are far lower than in communities, such as Pike Creek, that are also close to Wilmington; families with children pay a median of $1,050 monthly. Despite lower household incomes — and slightly more unemployment — Wilmington Manor still has a high homeownership rate of 75.6%, so housing is affordable. Residents here have an average commute time of about 23 minutes — not bad for a community so close to a sizable urban area.
No. 7: Smyrna
With an estimated population of 11,580, Smyrna is Delaware’s fifth-most-populated and one of its fastest-growing communities. Growth in Smyrna has been encouraged by proactive town leaders who have supported the development of new businesses and community services in recent years. Residents have an average 30-minute commute time, the longest for a top 10 city, but unemployment is just 2.7%. That may be because Smyrna is between two of Delaware’s largest cities, Dover and Newark. Smyrna’s small-town feel with urban access makes it an appealing choice for families also looking for strong schools and lower housing costs. More than 40% of households have children, and about 60% of those families own homes.
No. 8: Newark
Newark may be the third-largest city in Delaware, but it’s one of the more affordable places in our top 10. Here, the median housing cost of $1,176 per month is low compared to similarly priced communities, such as Smyrna, where household income is lower. Home to the University of Delaware, a large employer, Newark offers the cultural opportunities of a college town combined with family-friendly activities, such as biking and hiking at nearby White Clay Creek State Park. Close to 75% of households with children own homes in Newark, and residents have a commute time that averages just 22.5 minutes. As in many college towns, fewer households have children, but high schools appear to be excellent.
No. 9: Brookside
Located in Newark, just outside of the University of Delaware campus, Brookside offers the advantages of living in a community where some 30% of households have children. Meanwhile, the median housing cost in Brookside is a relatively affordable $1,152 per month. Household income in Brookside is less than in Newark, but 60% of families with children can still afford to own a home. The unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds in Brookside, 4.6%, is slightly higher than in Newark, but high schools are also excellent.
No. 10: Millsboro
Millsboro is the only southern Delaware community on our top 10 list. This small town sits close to the coast — and popular beach towns, such as Rehoboth Beach — so it’s a natural draw for young families. In fact, close to 35% of the households in Millsboro have children. Housing costs are the second lowest for a top-ranked community, $1.019, but Millsboro also has the lowest household income. Still, 64% of families with children own homes. For some families, the biggest disadvantage to moving here might be the relatively high unemployment rate of 6% for 25- to 44-year-olds.
Understanding the rankings
We chose seven indicators to rank cities and towns with above 2,728 people in Delaware for how good they are for young families. These indicators were then scored to create an overall ranking of the best places for young families. The seven indicators we used were:
- 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 just as important for a family looking to buy — more practical.
- Unemployment rate of 25- to 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- to 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.
- 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.
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 2,728.