The Best Places for Young Families in Kansas
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Starting a family can be a wonderful chapter in your book of life, but picking the best possible place to raise your kids can feel like a daunting, almost endless research project. Most likely, you’ll be searching for a community with good schools, low unemployment and enough affordability to help you feel comfortable juggling the many other financial challenges that come with raising a family.
There’s a good chance no single place will perfectly meet every criteria spelled out above. Still, many communities in Kansas offer a solid combination of family-friendly features and housing affordability, often with still-easy access to the services and amenities of cities such as Topeka and Wichita. Keep reading to see how researchers at LendingTree ranked the best place in Kansas to raise a young family.
- Mission Hills is the best place to raise a family in Kansas, with a final score of 71.5.
- Colby and St. Marys take the second and third spots with final scores of 70.6 and 70.0, respectively.
- On the other end of the list, we found Goodland to be the most challenging place for young families in Kansas, with a final score of 48.1.
- Bonner Springs and Osawatomie finished out the bottom three towns on our list, tying with a final score of 48.8 each.
The top 10 cities to live in Kansas
No. 1: Mission Hills
Mission Hills is an affluent community in the Kansas City area with a median household income for families with children of about $250,000 per year. With that kind of income, it’s no surprise that 100% of families that have children here (close to 42% of households) own their homes. Schools here appear to deliver, too: Like nine other top 10 cities on this list, Mission Hills has practically no older teens who haven’t graduated from high school or aren’t currently enrolled. Still, housing options are much more expensive here than elsewhere in Kansas, with families paying a median of $3,397 per month.
No. 2: Colby
With a population of only about 5,400 residents, Colby offers a different kind of pace for young families. This northwestern Kansas community is about three hours from Denver. With a median cost of just $636 per month, housing in Colby is significantly cheaper than it is in Mission Hills. But the median household income is also significantly lower, about $66,500 per year. Still, almost three-quarters of families own their homes here, a good indicator of affordability. Like Mission Hills, Colby has exemplary numbers for both high school graduation rates and employment for 25- to 44-year-olds.
No. 3: St. Marys
St Marys is a small town located between Manhattan and Topeka, a 30-minute drive from both cities, which are rich in family attractions, such as dining, museums for young people and zoos. Almost 40% of households in St. Marys have children, and the median housing cost, while higher than in Colby, is still relatively low, $829 per month. Seventy-seven percent of families with children own their homes here.
No. 4: Leawood
Leawood is a suburb of Kansas City, which means living here provides access to that city’s vibrant arts, dining and sports scenes. The median household income in Leawood is high, $197,284 per year, as is the monthly median housing cost of $1,919. Still, more than 93% of families with children own their homes. Living here might mean an average commute time of 21.7 minutes, the longest time for a top 10 city on our list.
No. 5: Sabetha
Sabetha is close to the Nebraska border and offers relatively easy access to both Topeka and Omaha. In our rankings, this small city came in first for having the lowest median housing costs of any top 10 city, just $591 per month. At the same time, Sabetha logged in a higher median household income than either No. 2-ranked Colby or No. 3-ranked St. Marys. Still, homeownership for families is lower here (62.3%) than it is for those cities, as is the percentage of households that have children (28.7%). The high school graduation rate in Sabetha appears to be 100%, and practically all 25- to 44-year-olds in the city are employed.
No. 6: Mulvane
Just 15 miles outside of Wichita, the small city of Mulvane offers a different kind of pace and more affordability, too. Almost 98% of families with children own their homes here, and the city has a median monthly housing cost of $860. That’s higher than five of the cities on our top 10 list and probably reflects Mulvane’s proximity to a large city. Still, the median household income in Mulvane is relatively high, $82,756 per year.
No. 7: Beloit
Kansas isn’t known for having a large number of lakes; so if you’re a water lover, you should know Beloit is just 17 miles from Waconda Lake, one of the largest in the state. Housing costs here are reasonable, a median of just $694, and the average commute time is just 7.4 minutes, the lowest travel time for any top 10 city in Kansas. One thing to consider: Only about 26% of households in this area currently have children.
No. 8: Hesston
Living in Hesston, a small city about 36 miles north of Wichita, might be an especially affordable choice for some families. The reason: Families here have a median household income of $85,170 per year, but a median monthly housing cost of just $649. That’s a better ratio than for many communities on this list. About three-quarters of families own their homes, and employment appears strong. Still, Hesston has a high number of teenagers who have either never graduated from high school or are currently not enrolled. That number is 8.5%, by far the highest for any top 10 city on our list.
No. 9: Fort Riley
Fort Riley is a U.S. Army base about 20 miles from Manhattan, Kansas. As such, it might not be a living option for most families, but it turns up on this list because almost 70% of families here have children.
No. 10: Bel Aire
This northeastern suburb of Wichita has higher housing costs than most of the cities on our top 10 list for Kansas, but it also has one of the highest homeownership rates for families with children, 81%. That may be because Bel Aire families who have children have an annual median household income of $88,553, one of the highest on our list.
Understanding the rankings
We chose seven indicators to rank cities and towns with above 2,369 people in Kansas 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 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 child care 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- to 44-year-olds: This indicates where the job market is healthy and suggests a higher quality of life locally. We focused 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 2,369.