The Best Places for Young Families in Mississippi
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If you’re starting a family, you’re likely experiencing a huge perspective shift. Perhaps you’re starting to become more financially careful as you look for ways to provide a stable foundation for your family’s future. Or maybe you’re looking for options beyond the flashing lights of big cities. Either way, your new housing checklist will likely home in on communities where jobs are stable, commutes aren’t stressful, other families abound, schools are strong and buying a home is affordable.
Practically speaking, no single community is likely to blow the scoring into space, but it’s still possible to find a place that ranks well for most of what you now prize. If you’re thinking of living in Mississippi, you should know the state continues to be one of the most affordable in the U.S., job growth is improving and some communities offer an especially attractive umbrella of family-friendly features. Read on to see what researchers at LendingTree found as they surveyed the best places in Mississippi for young families.
- Saltillo is the best place to raise a family in Mississippi, with a final score of 75.6.
- Madison and Florence take the second and third spots, with final scores of 71.8 and 71.5, respectively.
- On the other end of the list, we found Carthage to be the most challenging place for young families in Mississippi, with a final score of 44.1.
- Columbus and Louisville finished out the bottom three towns on our list, with final scores of 45.8 and 45.9, respectively.
The top 10 cities to live in Mississippi
No. 1: Saltillo
Located about 10 miles north of Tupelo – Elvis Presley’s birthplace — Saltillo offers a small town vibe with the employment opportunities of a larger city. Four measures pushed Saltillo into first place. First, housing costs here (a median of $768 per month) are low relative to household income. At the same time, Saltillo has the second-highest homeownership rate for families with children (88.5%) of any Mississippi community we surveyed. It also appears to have virtually no unemployment for 25- to 44-year-olds and a near-perfect record for both high school attendance and graduation rates. If there’s a downside to living here, it may be that only about one-third of households have children, the lowest percentage for a top 10 Mississippi community.
No. 2: Madison
Madison, a former farming community and now a suburb of Jackson, sits about 15 miles north of this capital city. Household income here is the highest on our list for Mississippi overall ($135,860 per year), as is the cost of housing, a median of $1,422 per month. With income levels as high as they are, it doesn’t come as a surprise that more than 90% of families with children own their homes. About 40% of households have children, more than in Saltillo.
No 3: Florence
Like Madison, Florence is another Jackson suburb, located about 12 miles south. Families with children make up almost half of this small city’s population and enjoy a median household income of $82,844. Housing costs here are higher relative to income than they are in top-ranked Saltillo, and only about three-quarters of families with children own homes. That rate is still high for Mississippi overall, but it probably reflects Florence’s proximity to Jackson, the state’s largest city. Florence commuters have an average commute time of 25.4 minutes, the longest for a top 10 city on this list.
No. 4: Pearl River
This community in central Mississippi has both the lowest median household income for any top 10 community ($34,320) but also the lowest housing costs, a median of $487 per month. About three-quarters of families with children own homes. Two caveats to moving here: a high unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds and a high number of older teens not enrolled or graduated from high school (12.1%). Pearl River is on Native American reservation land and is home to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, who also own and manage the Pearl River Resort, a local gaming and entertainment center.
No. 5: Hernando
Hernando considers itself part of the Memphis, Tenn., metropolitan area, and many residents work in that city, some 25 miles away. Housing costs are high here compared to the rest of Mississippi, but so is household income, a median of $98,096 per year. That helps explain Hernando’s high rate of homeownership for families with children, 86.1%, the third-highest on our top 10 list. Given the proximity to Memphis, the average commute time (23.6 minutes) in Hernando isn’t unreasonable. Meanwhile, for families looking for urban getaways, Memphis has plenty of lures, including Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum.
No. 6: Batesville
Located in the northeastern corner of Mississippi, Batesville offers both small town living and relatively easy access to Memphis, some 60 miles away. Household income appears solid here, and housing costs of $715 per month are low despite Batesville’s proximity to a large city. Still, the local homeownership rate for families with children is a decent 47.4%, unemployment is only 1.3% and the local high school graduation rate looks superb.
No. 7: Beechwood
Some six miles from the Mississippi River and the Louisiana border, Beechwood serves as a suburb of Vicksburg. Beechwood is a diverse community that offers a reasonable cost of housing compared to household income, even if that mix isn’t quite as appealing as it is in top-ranked Saltillo or sixth-ranked Batesville. Even so, some 57% of families with children in Beechwood can still afford to buy homes. Living near Vicksburg, families also have easy access to that city’s services and amenities, such as Civil War sites, an arts scene and the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum.
No. 8: Pontotoc
This northern Mississippi city of about 6,000 residents sits less than 20 miles west of Tupelo and offers easy access to historic Oxford and New Albany, home to the Tanglefoot Trail, the state’s largest rails-to-trails site. The cost of housing here — a median of $617 per month — is a bargain compared to Beechwood, which has almost the same household income. Like Beechwood, almost 57% of families with children own homes. Unemployment in Pontotoc appears to be negligible, but schools might pose a problem for some families; we found that 9.25% of older teens are not enrolled in or graduated from high school.
No. 9: Fulton
Located on the banks of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, the small city of Fulton serves as a jumping off point for watersports and local festivals. Meanwhile, the historic Natchez Trace trail, just 30 miles away, offers families a chance to see how local residents used to travel.
Fulton is 20 miles outside of Tupelo, and it offers the second-lowest cost of housing of any top 10 community, $532 per month. Roughly half of families with children can afford to own a home here.
No. 10: New Hope
Families with children living in this small town in central Mississippi typically earn more than $90,000, so it’s no surprise that three-quarters of them own their homes. That number is high compared to most of Mississippi. Still, New Hope has a sobering 8.2% unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds, and 11.1% of older teens are not enrolled in or graduated from high school. Young families considering a move here may want to take both numbers into account.
Understanding the rankings
We chose seven indicators to rank cities and towns with above 1,096 people in Mississippi 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 1,096.