The Best Places for Young Families in Missouri
For young families looking to put down roots, Missouri is rich in natural attractions like the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, plains and foothills and the system of caves that lend the Show-Me State’s lesser-known second nickname. It is also known for city life in St. Louis and Kansas City.
Before you decide where your family will settle, however, you have to start thinking about finances, beginning with a mortgage. LendingTree can help you do critical research on minimum mortgage requirements so that you can meet them. Also, take a look at our tips on getting preapproved for a mortgage.
That information is likely to come in handy for a state that is well-off, by several measures. Missouri’s unemployment rate was 3.1% as of December 2018, according to the state’s Department of Labor & Industrial Relations. That is almost a full point below the national unemployment rate of 3.9%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Researchers at LendingTree dug deep to compile a list of best places for young families in Missouri based on several factors, like homeownership rates among families with children, the median household income for those families and average commute times to work.
- Carl Junction is the best place to raise a family in Missouri, based on our analysis, with a final score of 74.4.
- Des Peres and Glendale take the second and third spots with final scores of 73.6 and 73.1, respectively.
- On the other end of the list, we found Berkeley to be the most challenging place for young families in Missouri, with a final score of 37.4.
- Dellwood and Jennings finished out the bottom three towns on our list, with final scores of 42.0 and 42.4, respectively.
The top 10 cities to live in Missouri
#1 Carl Junction
Carl Junction, north of Joplin, proves that its families do not need to have the highest earnings to place first, and it does so with a score of 74.4. The median household income of families with children is $86,875, and the monthly median cost of housing is $968. Like most towns in the study, fewer than half of the households in the town, 48.6%, have children. Among families with children, however, 73.3% of them own their homes. The unemployment rate, 1.1% among 25- to 44-year-olds, dovetails well with an average commuting time of 20.6 minutes. Its teenagers are all accounted for, with 0% either not enrolled or already graduated from high school.
#2 Des Peres
About 16 miles west of the Mississippi River near St. Louis, Des Peres is a city of about 8,573 residents, and makes it high into the ranking with a score of 73.6. Practically an enclave, Des Peres packs an economic punch, as households with children have a median household income of $180,905. The monthly median cost of housing is $1,737. Overall, 38.2% of households there have children, and 95.4% of families with children own their own homes. In Des Peres, the unemployment rate of 25- to 44-year-olds is 0.4%, much lower than Missouri’s overall unemployment rate of 3.1%. Residents there enjoy an average commute time of 21.2 minutes. Not all of its teenagers are accounted for, as 1.7% of 16- to 19-year-olds are not enrolled in or graduated from high school.
With a golf club and a country club at its east and south borders, respectively, Glendale is off to an idyllic start as a great place for a young family, and it earns its spot with a score of 73.1. Among families with children, the median household income is $162,019, while the monthly median cost of housing is $1,726. A minority of households in Glendale, 40.5%, has children — similar to a lot of towns in the Missouri study. Of those, 97.7% own their homes. The rate of unemployment for 25- to 44-year-olds is 1.1%, and on average, Glendale residents travel 22.9 minutes to work.
In the southwest region of Missouri, Battlefield is a city of 6,138 people (as of July 2017, the latest Census data available), and it makes the ranking with a score of 71.0. Battlefield’s stats give it a more modest profile than other towns in the Top 10, beginning with a median household income of families with children of $77,672. In Battlefield, the monthly median cost of housing is $946. Just 39.1% of households in the town have children, but among them, a solid majority, 81.2%, own their homes. The industrious town has an unemployment rate among 25- to 44-year-old of 0%, and the average commute time to work is 21.9 minutes. Also, 0% of its 16- to 19-year-olds have either not graduated from high school or are not enrolled.
#5 Dardenne Prairie
A short drive east of the Missouri River, and 36 miles east of St. Louis, Dardenne Prairie is a city of 13,310 (as of July 2017), and makes the ranking with a 70.3 score. Households in the town with children have a median income of $134,917 and its monthly median cost of housing comes to $1,648. About 46.7% of households there have children, and the homeownership rate among families with children is extremely high, at 95.4%. Like all of the communities in the Top 10, unemployment among 25- to 44-year-olds is very low, at 1.3%, and residents have an average commute time of 26.7 minutes. The town’s teenagers are not idle, either. Just 2.5% of 16- to 19-year-olds are not enrolled in or graduated from high school.
Ladue, an affluent enclave 12 miles west of St. Louis, makes the ranking with a score of 70.0. About one-third of the households in this city of 8,612 residents (as of July 2017) has children, 33%, but almost all of those families, 97.5%, own their homes. The unemployment rate is just 2.4%, and the average commute time to work is just 17.5 minutes. But let’s not forget the major details! In Ladue, the median household income of families with children is $228,958, and the monthly median cost of housing is $2,633.
You will make several tantalizing discoveries about this town southwest of St. Louis as you weigh options for your family. It makes it into the rankings with a score of 69.6. For one, it has a pretty healthy representation of families, as 48% of households have children. Out of that group, 81.5% own their homes. Among families with children, the median household income is $123,713 and the monthly median cost of housing is $1,509. Unemployment is very low in Eureka, with just a 1% rate for 25- to 44-year-olds, and the average travel time to work is 28.8 minutes.
Parkville sits about 11 miles north of Kansas City, on the other side of the Missouri River, right where it bends. But that stunner of a location is not the only reason why it made the ranking with a score of 69.5. Parkville has a median household income of $166,616 among families with children. The monthly median housing cost in this town of 6,772 residents is $1,544. A little over one-third of households in Parkville, 34.6%, have children in them, and among those, 87.6% own their homes. Unemployment is statistically nil, and only 2.9% of 16- to 19-year-olds are not in high schools. The average commute time is 23.3 minutes.
#9 Town and Country
You might know Town and Country as a glossy lifestyle magazine for the very-old-money crowd, but in this case Town and Country is a suburb of St. Louis that sits between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. It earns a 69.5 score, and it works out to be the most affluent community on the ranking. Among families with children, it has a median income of $231,424. The median monthly cost of housing is $2,444. If Town and Country sounds quiet, perhaps it is because just 27% of households have children, and almost all of those households, 97.1%, own their homes. The unemployment rate is nil, as is the rate of 16- to 19-year-olds not enrolled in or graduated from high school, and the average commute time is 19.9 minutes.
This suburb of St. Louis, with a population of 7,832, rounds out our Top 10. Like many towns in this ranking, households with children are in the minority, and Olivette is no exception: 38.8% of households have children, and among them 75.8% own their homes. The families are well-heeled, too. The median household income for families with children is $111,429, and the monthly median cost of housing is $1,188. Unemployment among those 25- to 44-years-old is a little higher than the state average at 3.3%, and statistically, no teenagers 16 to 19 years old are not enrolled in or graduated from high school. Commute times average 18.9 minutes from Olivette.
Understanding the rankings
We chose seven indicators to rank cities and towns with more than 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 where 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 25-44 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.
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.