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The Best Places for Young Families in Colorado

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Background

Colorado is well-known as a top nationwide destination for folks with active lifestyles. Whether it’s skiing, hiking, hunting or camping, there are plenty of options. That’s probably why Coloradans consistently rank among some of the most healthy residents of the U.S.

Because of these factors, Colorado is also an especially great place to raise a family — but some communities are better than others. You might not want a long commute time, for example, if you have to worry about picking Junior up from day care. You also might want to find a place where it’s easy to afford a mortgage, given your income level. It’s recommended that you obtain preapproval for a mortgage before you start looking for a new home, as well. LendingTree’s researchers have combed through important statistics like these for each community in Colorado to find the best ones in which to raise a family.

Key takeaways

  • Cherry Hills Village is the best place to raise a family in Colorado, based on our analysis. with a final score of 72.5.
  • Wellington and Castle Pines take the second and third spots, with final scores of 70.5 and 69.0, respectively.
  • On the other end of the list, we found Sheridan to be the most challenging place for young families in Colorado, with a final score of 42.7.
  • Welby and Clifton finished out the bottom three towns on our list, with final scores of 44.1 and 46.8, respectively.

The top 10 cities to live in Colorado

#1 Cherry Hills Village

It’s no surprise that suburbs of Denver appear on our list multiple times. It’s the single largest city in the entire state, after all. Cherry Hills Village, our highest-rated pick, lies just in the southern part of the city. It’s also without a doubt the most affluent community on our list, given that the median household income for families with kids is $250,001. Although just 47% of residents have children, 96% of those families here own their own homes, too, and the median housing cost is a pricey $3,319 per month. Unemployment among adults 25 to 44 years old is nil, and a very tiny proportion, 1.7%, of 16- 19-year-olds are not in high school or have not graduated. Commute times for Cherry Hills Village residents average about 21 minutes.

#2 Wellington

Situated among the lonely agricultural fields along I-25 in the northern half of the state, Wellington pops out of the landscape as a great place to raise children. Although residents here have a rather long commute compared with some of the other cities on our list — 26 minutes is the average in Wellington, likely to nearby Fort Collins — they do have goods odds of finding a job. According to our data, there is a 0% unemployment rate among adults aged 25 to 44. That bodes well for parents who want to work outside the home. Median income for families with kids is $89,829 and the median monthly housing cost is $1,334. Homeownership rates are fairly high as well, with 85% of families with children owning their own home.

#3 Castle Pines

You can find Castle Pines a little further down the I-25 corridor as you leave Denver on your way to Castle Rock. Castle Pines is also a very well-to-do community. The median household income here for families with kids is $187,303. Most families here (85%) own their own homes, too, and have a median housing payment of $2,494 per month. Castle Pines has a slight advantage over Cherry Hills Village because a few more families here have children — 53% — although 3.8% of 16- to 19-year-olds are not enrolled in or graduated from high school. Unemployment here is statistically nonexistent, and those with jobs face an average commute time of 27 minutes.

#4 Cherry Creek

Of all the Denver communities on our list, Cherry Creek is the one that lies closest to the heart of the city. In fact, if you live here, your address will simply say “Denver.” Because it lies so close to all the city’s major action, breadwinners here can expect a 22-minute average commute time to work, where they’ll earn a median household income of $131,250 per year and face median monthly housing payments of $1,652. Nearly 47% of households in Cherry Creek have children and 0% of 16- to 19-year-olds are not enrolled in or graduated from high school. Unemployment there stands at 1.4% for adults aged 25 to 44.

#5 Woodmoor

Woodmoor is another Front Range community located just north of Colorado Springs. This area also has a very high homeownership rate among families — only 5% of families do not own their own homes and live in alternative situations, such as renting. Woodmoor residents have the longest commute times of any of the top cities on our list — 30 minutes on average. Housing costs are also relatively high, at $1,941 per month, although residents with children here, about 40% of the population, do earn a respectable household income of $142,891 per year. Virtually no 16- to 19-year-olds in Woodmoor are not enrolled or graduated from high school.

#6 Stonegate

Stonegate is yet another southern Denver community that ranks as a great place to raise children. It’s actually located northeast of Castle Pines, near Parker. Residents of this community have high homeownership rates as well, with 85% of families with children owning their home. Housing costs still aren’t cheap, with the median housing cost registering at $1,885 per month. Many families here are still six-figure earners, however, given that the median household income for child rearing families is $123,144. One note about schools: this community has one of the higher rates of older teenagers not enrolled in high school or graduated, at 4.1%. The unemployment rate is fairly low for 25- to 44-year-olds, at 1.1%, and those with jobs face an average commute time of 26.3 minutes.

#7 Louisville

Residents of Louisville have the best of both worlds: easy access to both quirky Boulder and the Denver metropolis, due to their central location between the two cities. Louisville itself is also surrounded by plenty of public lands such as wildlife refuges, preserves and open spaces — perfect for adventurous young kids. Given the easy access to good jobs, the median family household income in the area clocks in at $137,547 per year, yet unemployment for adults aged 25 to 44 is 2.1%, although that’s lower than the state’s rate of 3.5% as of December 2018. Average monthly median housing cost is $1,563. The proportion of households with children drops a bit in this community compared with some of the others on our list, with 34% of households reported as living with children within Louisville. Nearly 72% of these families own their own homes.

#8 Fort Carson

You might be surprised to find Fort Carson on this list, given that it’s an Army base and not open to civilian families living on it. The median household income for this Army base is just $46,790 per year — well below the other cities on our list. Furthermore, the median housing cost here is $1,458 per month. But it’s unclear in the data if this is an entirely accurate picture. Military families are paid a separate BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) specifically for rent — only 0.5% of families own their own home — and BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence for food) for each dependent they support, so you may not even have to tap into your base pay to pay for housing here. If you count these payments in, rent for base housing is essentially free, which definitely does make for a family-friendly community. Furthermore, 81% of other families on Fort Carson have children, only 2.1% of 25- to 44-year-olds are unemployed, and 0% of 16- to 19-year-olds are not enrolled in or graduated from high school.

#9 Windsor

Windsor is the last Front Range community on our list. It lies smack dab between Loveland and Fort Collins, but on the opposite side of I-25. It’s also within easy commuting distance of the nearby meat-packing center, Greeley. That’s why the unemployment rate here is a mere 1.7% among 25- to 44-year-olds. Still, because it’s not a small distance between other employment-rich cities, residents here can expect an average commute time of 24.8 minutes. On the bright side, housing is relatively affordable at a median cost of $1,528 per month, with average median income for families of $108,116. In fact, 84.2% of families with children here do indeed own their homes. The percentage of older teenagers not in high school or who haven’t graduated is relatively high, at 4.6%.

#10 Salida

The only mountain town on our list, Salida lies nestled in among some of the most beautiful and remote mountains in the country. It’s a pretty vista — in fact, the small town of Buena Vista is right up the road — but what makes it stick out even more as a great place to raise a family is its financial picture. Normally, families have to choose between living remotely and earning a good income, but Salida residents can expect to bring home a median household amount of $69,526 per year. Housing prices are equally cheap, at $751 per month. Commute time is below average at 11.5 minutes. Unfortunately, households with children are on the rarer side, 22%, and a shockingly high number of 16- to 19-year-olds — 17% — either aren’t enrolled in school or haven’t graduated.

Understanding the rankings

We chose seven indicators to rank cities and towns with above 5,000 people in the state 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 are:

  • 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 were homeownership is both more common and perhaps important for a family looking to buy, more practical.
  • Unemployment rate of 25-44 year olds: This indicates where the job market is healthy and suggest 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 16-19 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.

Methodology

Analysts used data from the 2017 5-Year American Community Survey by the U.S. Census. Each of the seven metrics were given a value according to their 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 5,000 in Colorado.

 

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