The Best Places for Young Families in South Carolina
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Having a child changes everything. It shifts financial priorities and puts homelife front and center.
South Carolina parents have to balance housing factors that might not always align. They might want a safe neighborhood, good schools, family-friendly community and solid career opportunities. But they’ll need to find that in an area where they can still afford home loan payments, even as mortgage rates are on the rise.
Simply put, parents want to provide their child with the best — and how easy it is to do so could be tied to where they choose to live. A new LendingTree study surveyed and compared such factors, and identified the best places for young families in South Carolina.
- Five Forks is the best place for families in South Carolina, with a final family-friendly score of 76.8 out of 100.
- Boiling Springs and James Island ranked second and third, with respective scores of 72.1 and 71.8.
- Not every South Carolina city provides an ideal setup for family life, however. We found Clearwater to be the least-favorable place for families, with a final score of 41.
- Marion and Lancaster were the other two South Carolina cities among the bottom three on our list, with final scores of 41.7 and 43, respectively.
The top 10 cities for young families in South Carolina
#1 Five Forks
A suburb of Greenville, Five Forks is the overall best South Carolina city for families, based on our analysis. In fact, more than half (53%) of all households in Five Forks have children at home. And more families with kids own their own homes here, at 86.4%. Teenagers aged 16 to 19 have a 0.7% rate of either not being enrolled in or graduated from high school.
Housing costs are a little higher than some South Carolina towns in Five Forks, at $1,459 per month. But with a median household income for families at $125,040, the third-highest in the state, parents are still likely to come out ahead. The unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds is 2.8%, and those with jobs face an average 23.7 minute commute to work.
#2 Boiling Springs
Another suburb in the state, Boiling Springs is located just outside of Spartanburg. While it’s not a standout in any particular area, it scores well across factors.
The median household income for families is $80,255, which is relatively high compared with median monthly housing costs of $949. Affordable housing near Spartanburg means most families with kids (33.3%) can buy homes (78.1%) without adding too much time to their drive to work, with an average commute of just 19 minutes. However, a 3.8% unemployment rate among adults 25 to 44 years old is the highest in the Top 10 South Carolina towns for families, and 1.5% of 16- to 19-year-olds aren’t enrolled in or graduated from high school.
#3 James Island
A coastal suburb of Charleston, James Island provides some ideal conditions for local families. Despite being so near to the ocean, housing costs are affordable here at $1,141 per month. Even better, most James Island families enjoy six-figure incomes with a median of $112,847. Career prospects are bolstered further with a low unemployment rate of just 0.5% among 25- to 44-year-olds, and all teenagers are enrolled in or have graduated from high school.
The combination of low costs and high incomes means many families can get approved for a mortgage and buy a home, as evidenced by the 85.1% homeownership rate among households with children. Average commute times are also fairly standard at 23.4 minutes.
Families in Northlake might benefit most from low housing costs in the area, which come in at just around $823 per month. That’s easily affordable for most families, with the median household income at $76,337. Of the 28.8% of households with children, 75.1% of those families are homeowners.
Where Northlake really shines, however, is in our measure of positive education. The town has a 0% high school dropout rate, meaning virtually all students complete their high school education. The unemployment rate among 25- to 44-year-olds, however, is a little higher than average at 2.9%, but those with jobs have an average 21.2-minute commute to work.
Rounding out our Top Five is a neighbor to Northlake, Centerville, which also stands out for low housing costs. At $768 per month, this city’s housing costs are the lowest of the 10 best places for South Carolina families. Sixty-nine percent of families with children own their homes here.
Employment opportunities are also decent here. The median household income for Centerville families is $75,488, well above average for the state. Plus, the city has a low unemployment rate of just 1.2%, and a 20-minute average commute. The rate of teenagers who aren’t enrolled in or don’t graduate from high school there is relatively high at 4.1%.
#6 Tega Cay
Sitting on both Lake Wylie and the North Carolina border, Tega Cay is another top place to live in South Carolina. It’s a standout across several categories, including having the highest family median income in the state, at $141,858.
Despite also having the highest median housing costs, $1,709 monthly, high incomes mean plenty of Tega Cay parents can meet the requirements for a mortgage. This city has the highest rate of homeownership among South Carolina families, at 89.4%.
Additionally, nearly half (48.3%) of Tega Cay households have children, and the high school dropout rate is nil. There is one notable drawback — many locals likely commute up to Charlotte, N.C., to work, creating a somewhat longer commute time of 31.3 minutes. The city has an unemployment rate of 2.2% among 25- to 44-year-olds.
Clemson is home to famed Clemson University, with one of the top college football programs in the nation. Being a college town that hosts thousands of students, it’s unsurprising that fewer Clemson households have children (19.8%) than others in the Top 10.
But the city does stand out for short commute times (19.1 minutes on average) and a low unemployment rate, 0.6%. The relatively high incomes and low housing costs also make Clemson a place where families can live well. The median income among families is $81,128, and the median housing costs are just $860 per month. A mere 1.3% of teenagers aren’t enrolled in or graduated from high school.
#8 Mount Pleasant
Head from James Island across Charleston Harbor, and you’ll find another top South Carolina city for families: Mount Pleasant. Here, families enjoy the second-highest incomes in the state, with a median of $125,544 per year.
A big benefit of these higher incomes is the ability to buy a home — 81.7% of Mount Pleasant families with kids own their homes. That’s true despite Mount Pleasant having the second-highest local housing costs in South Carolina, at $1,628 per month. The unemployment rate among 25- to 44-year-olds is 2.1%, and the average commute time to work is 22 minutes.
#9 Forest Acres
Forest Acres is a suburb of Columbia, offering the shortest commute among these top cities at just 17.6 minutes on average. Proximity to Columbia also means access to plenty of high-paying positions; the median income for Forest Acres families is $90,815. Plus, housing costs are relatively low compared with average income, at $993 per month.
Only 24.2% of households have children, and of those families, 69.4% own their homes. The number of teenagers not enrolled in or graduated from high school is higher in Forest Acres than in most of the Top 10 cities, at 6.4%, and the unemployment rate is 2.6%.
Rounding out the best places to live in South Carolina is Powdersville, a suburb of Greenville. Here, 39.1% of households have kids at home. These families benefit from affordable housing in Powdersville, which has the second-lowest monthly costs of the Top 10 cities at $798. Possibly as a result, homeownership in the town is high, at almost 70% for families with children.
Higher incomes relative to these housing costs also help families get ahead in Powdersville, where a typical family earns $73,516 per year. Plus, the city boasts a 0% unemployment rate among 25- to 44-year-old workers.
One drawback might be the quality of schooling in Powdersville, which has a high school dropout rate of 13.7% — the highest of any South Carolina city in the Top 10.
Understanding the rankings
We chose seven indicators to rank cities and towns with above 4,073 people in South Carolina 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 home ownership is both more common and perhaps importantly 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.
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 4,073.