The Best Places to Live for Young Families in Georgia
Putting down roots with a young family in tow usually means looking for some combination of job opportunities, affordable housing, good schools and an appealing mix of recreational and cultural outlets. There’s plenty to like in Georgia, where prices for housing, groceries and health care tend to be lower than the national average, and top employers include Delta Airlines, Emory University and several military bases, including Fort Benning. It’s also a good idea to look for communities that offer quick commute times to your employer if you hope to steer clear of Atlanta’s traffic. That’s why researchers here at LendingTree have rated each community in Georgia for its family-friendliness to help you determine the best place to raise your family.
- Byron is the best place to raise a family in Georgia, with a final score of 71.3.
- Whitemarsh Island and Bremen take the second and third spots with final scores of 70.3 and 69.5, respectively.
- On the other end of the list, we found Candler-McAfee to be the most challenging place for young families in Georgia, with a final score of 37.9.
- Panthersville and College Park finished out the bottom three towns on our list, with final scores of 39.8 and 42.3, respectively.
The top 10 cities to live in Georgia
Located in central Georgia, south of Macon, Byron ranks at the top of our list. Families here earn a respectable amount — $84,219 is the median household income for families with children. They also have affordable housing expenses: The median monthly housing cost is just $917 per month. Byron also scored well on other factors, including the number of older teens who are in school or who have already graduated (all of them), a decent commute time (about 19 minutes), and a high percentage of households with children (nearly 38%).
#2 Whitemarsh Island
Whitemarsh Island (pronounced WIT-marsh) captures the charm and coastal beauty of nearby Savannah without the city bustle. It’s surrounded by rivers and is close to wildlife refuges and state parks — all great places for young ones to explore. Residents have only a 20-minute average commute — the second shortest time on our top 10 list. Families living here have a median income of $90,477 a year. Two major employers in the Savannah area: Memorial University Medical Center and local school systems. Nearly 80% of families own their homes, and the median housing cost is $1,303 per month.
Located just a few miles from the Alabama border, Bremen is nearly an hour’s drive from Atlanta, so most people living here work nearby and have a relatively brief 22-minute commute to work. The median income here is low compared to other cities on our list ($61,389 per year for households with children), but median housing costs are also low, $783 a month. Close to 68% of families here own their homes, and about 43% have children. Recreational opportunities include parks and the Mill Town Music Hall, which is billed as the largest entertainment venue in West Georgia.
#4 Druid Hills
About a 15-minute drive from the center of the massive Atlanta metropolitan area, Druid Hills is home to both prestigious Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The median household income for families here is $208,824 per year; yet, housing costs are relatively inexpensive for an affluent community: The median cost is just $1,614 per month. As a college town, it’s not surprising that less than 19% of households in the area have children. This Atlanta suburb has the lowest unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds on our list, just 0.5%.
Evans is a small suburb outside Augusta, near the South Carolina border. The annual median household income for families here is $107,960, and housing costs are relatively affordable, at $1,433 per month. Homeownership is high: about 79% for families with children. Evans is home to the outdoor Columbia County Amphitheater, and the famous Masters Tournament is held annually just down the road at the Augusta National Golf Club.
For parents with jobs in Atlanta, Decatur might make sense. This small college town is only a short, 25-minute drive to the downtown area and is also close to Emory University. The average work commute time for families here is about 27 minutes. Decatur is close to Druid Hills to the west and has a similar median monthly housing cost ($1,564 versus $1,614 per month in Druid Hills) but also a much lower household income ($142,716 per year, or $66,108 per year less than Druid Hills). Still, 39.1% of Decatur households have children, more than twice as many as in Druid Hills.
Centerville is close to Byron, the top Georgia city on our list. Families here generally earn a lower income ($67,266 per year in Centerville versus $84,219 per year in Byron) and also have higher housing costs ($1,055 per month in Centerville versus $917 per month in Byron), which makes this town fall slightly lower on the list. It’s still a 25-minute drive to nearby Macon from this community; but, on average, Centerville residents have only about a 22-minute commute to work.
Residents of Braselton have an average 34-minute commute time, the longest of any city on our top 10 list. Still, when it comes time to play, there are plenty of opportunities. The town is dominated by the Château Élan Winery and Resort, which is home to a sprawling golf course, and it is a short drive away from popular Lake Lanier, the largest lake in the state. The median household income for families with kids is $117,663, and the median housing cost is a relatively low $1,476 per month.
Kingsland lies in a far corner of southeastern Georgia, and the nearest major city is actually Jacksonville, Fla., a 34-minute drive away. Families who love nature will want to know this community is nestled between Cumberland Island National Seashore to the east and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge to the west. Residents here earn the smallest median household incomes of any city on our list ($50,439 per year). However, housing here is relatively cheap, with a median cost of $966 per month.
Milton is a sprawling suburb located just north of Alpharetta. The median household income is relatively high, $144,176 per year. But on the flipside, housing costs are much higher than any city on our top 10 list, a median cost of $1,834 per month. Families here have access to a range of parks and recreation facilities, such as a lake, trails and rock-climbing at newly reopened Providence Park. Still, Kingsland has a relatively high percentage of older teens — 5.2% — not enrolled or graduated from high school. That number is the highest for the top 10 cities on our list.
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 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: A high rate indicates homeownership is more common and, perhaps more importantly for a family looking to buy, more practical.
- Unemployment rate of 25-44 year olds: A low rate indicates the job market is healthy and suggests a higher quality of life, locally. We focused on 25-44 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 it 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 other families have already decided it’s attractive. It also usually means more educational and recreational activities suitable for children and their parents and residents who 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 5,000.