The Best Places for Young Families in Kentucky
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When starting a family, parents learn to adjust to new demands on their time, finances and priorities. Those priorities typically shift as parents start putting their children’s needs ahead of their own and begin looking for communities with good job opportunities, affordable housing options and, of course, good schools.
It’s not easy finding the perfect trifecta for these three factors, but finding a place that ranks well in each category is certainly possible. Luckily, Kentucky offers a variety of smaller communities where housing is relatively affordable, employment prospects are good and high school enrollment and graduation rates are strong. Many of these communities also offer easy access to the amenities and conveniences of cities such as Louisville and Cincinnati in Ohio. If you’re looking for a home for your family in Kentucky, LendingTree researchers have studied the data and provided a list to help you make the best choice.
- Hendron took the top spot as the best place to raise a family in Kentucky, with a final score of 67.0.
- Reidland and Massac landed in the second and third spots with final scores of 65.4 and 65.0, respectively.
- On the other end of the list, we found Stanford to be the most challenging place for young families in Kentucky, with a final score of 33.0.
- Lancaster and Newport finished out the bottom three towns on our list, with final scores of 40.1 and 40, respectively.
The top 10 cities to live in Kentucky
No. 1: Hendron
Located in western Kentucky near the Illinois state line, Hendron is a small town that offers easy access to the amenities and cultural offerings of nearby Paducah. Hendron took the top spot on our survey thanks to a combination of factors, including a relatively high median household income of $94,104 for families with children, coupled with a median housing cost of $778 per month. The rate of homeownership for families with children is relatively high, about 70%. One factor to consider before moving here: While virtually all older teens in Hendron were either enrolled in high school or had graduated at the time of our survey, less than 30% of households have children.
No. 2: Reidland
Reidland is near Hendron and also close to Paducah. In this small town, the median household income for families with children is $60,787, and the median housing cost is $841 per month. It’s worth noting that 87% of families with children own homes here, a strong indicator that Reidland is both affordable and an attractive place to raise kids.
No. 3: Massac
West of Hendron, Massac is another small community that offers a good blend of educational and recreational opportunities for families. Here, the rate of homeownership for families with children is lower than for both Hendron and Reidland, but 37.8% of households have children. For these families, the median household income is $60,912. Meanwhile, the median housing cost is $739 per month, which means Massac is the second-most-affordable community on our top 10 list.
No. 4: Edgewood
In northern Kentucky, Edgewood is home to some 8,600 residents and is about 15 miles southwest of Cincinnati. It has the highest median household income of any place on our top 10 list, $131,940 a year for families with children. It also has the highest rate of homeownership: 93.3% of families with children own homes, and the community has a median housing cost of $1,168 per month. Housing costs in Edgewood are comparable to some top 10 cities on our list that have lower median household incomes, making it relatively more affordable for families here.
No. 5: Hebron
This small community of about 6,000 residents sits northwest of Edgewood. More than half of households here have children, the second-highest number on our top 10 list. For families with children, the median household income is $72,059, and the median housing cost is $1,097 per month. While that number isn’t as favorable as some Kentucky communities that have higher household incomes, the homeownership rate for families in Hebron is still more than 67%.
No. 6: Cold Spring
Cold Spring is about 15 minutes from Cincinnati and, like Hebron, has a population of about 6,000. A quarter of households here have children — the lowest number on our top 10 list — but almost 93% own homes, which puts the community in line with fourth-ranked Edgewood, where the median household income is considerably higher. In Cold Spring, the median household income for families is $109,524 per year, housing costs are $1,057 per month and unemployment is low. Like most of the top communities we surveyed, virtually all older teens in Cold Spring were either enrolled in high school or had graduated, a good sign of a strong school system.
No. 7: Crestwood
This affluent community with about 4,800 residents is northeast of Louisville. The median household income for families with children here is $124,420, but the median housing cost is on the high end, at $1,247 per month. Still, more than half of households have children, and some 80% own homes. The average commute is 24.5 minutes, the second-highest for a top 10 city on our list.
No. 8: Williamsburg
Williamsburg is near Kentucky’s southern border with Tennessee and has about 5,000 residents. The median household income of families with children here is $51,288, but Williamsburg also has the lowest median housing cost of any top 10 city on our list, $600 per month. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds is a relatively healthy 0.9%. Williamsburg is home to the University of the Cumberlands, a large water park, Cumberland Falls and the Daniel Boone National Forest. It also has the shortest commute time of any top 10 city: 14.2 minutes.
No. 9: Fort Mitchell
Located in northern Kentucky near Cincinnati, Fort Mitchell is home to some 8,200 residents. It has a low unemployment rate of 0.6% for 25- to 44-year-olds and a median age of 36.5 years old, so the opportunity for good jobs is high. More than 37% of households here have children. The median household income for families is $87,192, and the median housing cost is $883 per month. Meanwhile, some 60% of households with children own their homes.
No. 10: Buckner
Northeast of Louisville, Buckner is a small, affluent community where the median household income for families with children is $123,750, and the median housing cost is $1,457 per month. More than half of households have children, and 85.3% of those households own homes, a strong indicator that parents find Buckner a good place to raise children. One potential drawback: Residents here have an average commute time of 25.1 minutes, the longest of any top 10 city on our list.
Understanding the rankings
We chose seven indicators to rank cities and towns with above 3,636 people in Kentucky 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 3,636.