The Best Places for Young Families in Oklahoma
The decision to start a family is often the catalyst that helps renters take that big first step toward homeownership. It’s an understandable choice; this is the time when renters typically start looking for greater economic security, more space to spread out and a home that feels totally theirs. With mortgage rates still at historically low levels, now is also a good time for young families to enter the housing market.
If you are looking for a place to park your family, keep in mind that you’ll need to weigh a variety of home-shopping criteria, such as the amount of affordable housing in the area where you’re looking, the quality of local schools, employment prospects and how much you can expect to pay in housing costs relative to income.
Oklahoma offers a range of locations — from small towns to booming suburbs — that could fit a young family’s desires for both an easy and affordable quality of life. If you’re thinking of moving to the state, consider the following list compiled by researchers at LendingTree; it was set up to home in on the state’s best places for young families.
- Madill is the best place to raise a family in Oklahoma, with a final score of 72.6.
- Jenks and Bixby take the second and third spots, with final scores of 70.4 and 69.2, respectively.
- On the other end of the list, we found Nowata to be the most challenging place for young families in Oklahoma, with a final score of 40.1.
- Wagoner and Henryetta finished out the bottom three towns on our list, both with final scores of 42.4.
No. 1: Madill
Madill has the lowest median household income for any city on our top 10 list for Oklahoma, so it makes sense that housing here is especially affordable, $599 per month. Families looking to put down roots in this town near the Texas border should find plenty of support — nearly half of Madill households have children, and the homeownership rate among families with children is 63.5%. Those two factors, combined with the relatively low cost of housing, helped propel Madill to the top slot in our study.
No. 2: Jenks
Families with children can take comfort knowing that 78% of their peers in Jenks own homes, and some 45% of homeowners have children. This fast-growing Tulsa suburb in the northeastern part of the state came in second for both job opportunities and overall quality of life. Housing costs are more than twice as high as Madill, but so are household incomes. With an unemployment rate of 2%, finding a job in Jenks doesn’t appear to be an issue, but 3.2% of older teens are either not enrolled or haven’t graduated from high school. That’s the second-highest percentage for a top 10 city in Oklahoma.
No. 3: Bixby
Like Jenks, this Tulsa suburb offers both a high rate of homeownership, 80.7%, and a high number of households with children, 43.4%. Housing costs, however, are a bit lower, but so are household incomes. In Bixby, more older teens are either enrolled in high school or have already graduated compared to Jenks. Commuters, however, aren’t as lucky; it takes an average of almost 24 minutes to get to work, a couple minutes than in Jenks.
No. 4: Nichols Hills
By our count, this affluent Oklahoma City suburb has both the highest median household income in Oklahoma, $141,250 per year, and the highest median housing cost, $1,905 per month. That means it may be out of reach for many young families, but Nichols Hills clearly scores on many of the qualities growing families prize. Even though only about 27% of households have children, unemployment is 0%, and virtually all older teens are either enrolled in high school or have graduated. Adding to this community’s appeal: an average commute time of 14.6 minutes, the second-shortest on this list.
No. 5: Verdigris
This growing town in the Tulsa metropolitan area maintains a rural feel while offering the amenities of a bigger city. Located near historic Route 66, Verdigris boasts an 86.2% homeownership rate among families with children. Incomes for those families are lower than in the Tulsa suburbs of Jenks and Bixby, but so are housing costs. Still, Verdigris has a slightly higher unemployment rate, 4.4%, for 25- to 44-year-olds.
No. 6: Piedmont
In Piedmont, which is part of the Oklahoma City metro area, 43.3% of households have children, and 93.3% of those households own homes, the highest homeownership rate of any Oklahoma community we studied. Housing costs in this small city are high compared to other Oklahoma cities; they are comparable to Jenks and Bixby where household income is considerably higher. Still, Piedmont appears to have virtually no unemployment, and more older teens are either in high school or have graduated.
No. 7: Alva
Home to Northwestern Oklahoma State University — and just south of the Kansas border — Alva offers an affordable, small-town vibe with access to a regional college. Here, the median household income among families with children is $68,194, and the median monthly housing cost is only $583. The average commute to work is 11.6 minutes, and unemployment is low. One point to consider: While the homeownership rate among families with children in town is 55.5%, only about a quarter of households have children.
No. 8: Tuttle
Once a farming and ranching community, Tuttle has turned into a fast-growing suburb of Oklahoma City. Household income here is high, a median of $97,857 per year; yet, the median monthly housing cost of $980 is less than Oklahoma communities Verdigris and Mustang, which have lower incomes. A high 80% of families own homes, and almost 40% of households have children. Living in Tuttle means easy access to the services and amenities of a large city — as long as residents can also live with an average 27-minute commute, the second-longest on our top 10 list.
No. 9: Perry
Perry is about a half-hour from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and offers both a small-town feel and jobs in construction equipment manufacturing, transportation and health care. Sixty percent of Perry families with children own homes, and the median household income of families with children is $63,162. Housing costs are reasonable, with a median monthly bill of $728, and unemployment is low. However, just 33.8% of Perry households have children.
No. 10: Mustang
A fast-growing, pioneer town-turned-suburb, Mustang is also in the Oklahoma City metro area. While fewer households have children than in most cities on our top 10 list, some 81% of those households own homes and their incomes are high, $87,188 per year. The median monthly housing cost is $1,033, which means homes in Mustang cost less than the Oklahoma suburb of Piedmont, but more than Tuttle. Both those communities have similar income levels. Still, Mustang residents have a shorter average commute time, 24.5 minutes.
Understanding the rankings
We chose seven indicators to rank cities and towns with above 3,180 people in Oklahoma 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 3,180.