The Best Places For Young Families in Washington
What do young families look for in a place to call home? While money isn’t everything, economic security provides families a higher quality of life that includes job opportunities, affordable housing prices and good school systems. Even a shorter commute time can mean less stress and more time to spend with family and loved ones.
Major employers based in Washington State, like Amazon, Costco, Microsoft and Starbucks, create a booming job market for the state. The median family income for Washingtonians was $84,594 in 2017, which is $10,703 more than the average family made in the U.S. that same year. Households in Washington also benefit from no state income tax.
When it comes to education, Washingtonians are a brainy bunch, thanks in part to the wide selection of two-year and four-year colleges in the state, including the University of Washington and Washington State University. A budget approved in 2015 by the state Legislature reduced tuition costs up to 20% for students at four-year public universities and colleges.
If these aren’t enough reasons to start or raise a family in Washington, the “Evergreen State” is known for its natural beauty and great outdoor settings, giving families endless options for fun in nature — another important factor that shapes quality of life there. Taking all of these factors into account, researchers at LendingTree compiled a list of the best places for young families in Washington.
- Clarkston Heights-Vineland in southeast Washington State is the best place to raise a family in Washington, according to LendingTree’s research, with a final score of 69.3.
- Felida and Connell take the second and third spots, with final scores of 66.8 and 66.2, respectively.
- On the other end of the list, we found White Center to be the most challenging place for young families in Washington, with a final score of 43.9.
- Parkwood and Sequim finished out the bottom three towns on our list, with final scores of 44.0 and 44.1, respectively.
The top 10 cities to live in Washington
#1 Clarkston Heights-Vineland
What makes Clarkston Heights-Vineland a great place for young families to live? Affordability. Households spend $835 monthly in costs related to housing, and families with children earn a median household income of $80,079. The average time it takes workers to travel for work is 16 minutes — much lower than the national average of 25.4 minutes, which means more time young families can spend with their loved ones. Only 26.1% of the households in Clarkston Heights-Vineland have children, but the homeownership rate for those families is 76.1%. Located at the border of Washington and Idaho, the unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds — common ages for those starting a family — is 1.4%. Statistically, 0% of 16- to 19-year-old here are not enrolled in high school but have no diploma, which suggests good school quality.
Located in Vancouver, Washington, Felida is an affluent, family-friendly suburban community. About 41% of households in Felida have children, and the median income for these families is $142,344. Among households in Felida with kids, 86.1% own their home and the median cost for housing is $1,840 per month. The unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds is 1.4% and 100% of teenagers aged 16 to 19 are either in school or have graduated. The average time it takes workers to get to their jobs is about 26 minutes, a bit longer than the time the average American spends commuting.
A rural community in Eastern Washington, Connell was established in 1883 as a railroad stop called Palouse Junction. Today, almost half — 45.1% — of households in Connell have children, and among them, 43.2% are homeowners. The median income for families with children in Connell Is $38,828 and monthly housing costs come to $727 per month — both numbers are the lowest compared with other cities on this list. The average commute time for workers is 16 minutes, and the unemployment rate is 1.2%. Every teenager, in statistical terms, between the ages of 16 to 19 is in school or has a diploma.
For affluent young families looking to buy a home, Duvall is a great option in Washington. More than 92% of families with children there own their home and nearly half (47.2%) of all Duvall households have children. Median income for those families is $166,107 and median housing cost is $2,254 per month. Unemployment among 25- to 44-year-olds is low — 0.8% — and effectively every teenager aged 16 to 19 is going to school or has graduated. The average travel time to work is 32.4 minutes. According to the real estate site HomeSnacks, which examined the most recent crime rates from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Duvall ranked as the second-safest place to live in Washington.
#5 North Fort Lewis
North Fort Lewis is a place for renters — 0% of families with children own their home here and 84.3% of all households have children, the highest percentage with kids of any city on this list. The median household income of families with children is $62,578 and the median housing cost is $1,662. The unemployment rate among 25- to 44-year-olds is 1.4%, and it takes the average worker about just 10 minutes to get to work — the shortest commute yet on this list. Statistically, 0% of 16- to 19-year-olds here are not enrolled in high school or have no diploma.
Wollochet is an affluent suburb of Seattle where most residents — 82.2% — own their homes. Median housing monthly cost is $1,622 and the median income for households with children is $133,750. About 30% of households have children, and again, school quality is good: 0% of 16- to 19-year-olds are not currently in high school if they haven’t already graduated. The unemployment rate is 2.8% and residents travel about 24 minutes to commute to work daily.
#7 Otis Orchards-East Farms
Located in Spokane County near the state’s border with Idaho, Otis Orchards-East Farms is a great option for young families looking for a mid-sized city to call home. About 83% of all residents own their home, and 33% have children. In contrast with most other towns on this list, 4.8% of 16- to 19-year-olds in Otis Orchards-East Farms are not enrolled in or haven’t graduated from high school. The median household income for families with kids is $77,298 and housing cost is $1,113 per month. The unemployment rate for 25- to 44-year-olds is low at 0.7%, and for those who are employed, the average commute time is 26 minutes.
Residents in Othello pay about $858 each month in housing costs, which is about the same as those living in Clarkston Heights-Vineland — the best place for young families in Washington. Yet, families in Othello earn $48,421 in median income, which is only half as much as they make in Clarkston Heights. Both the adult unemployment rate and percentage of kids aged 16 to 19 who are not enrolled in or graduated from high school are the highest in Othello at 4.8% and 7.5%, respectively. More than half — 54.4% — of households have children, and 64.1% of these families own their homes. Workers in Othello travel just over 16 minutes to get to their jobs.
#9 Cottage Lake
Real estate company Coldwell Banker ranked Cottage Lake the best booming American suburb in which to live in in 2013 because of its host of small, successful firms and ability to benefit from big corporate headquarters in nearby Seattle. Households with children in Cottage Lake have a median income of $188,639 — more than any other place on this list — and the median monthly housing cost is $2,400. About 40% of households have children, and 90.9% of families with children here own their homes. The unemployment rate among 25- to 44-year-olds is 1.8%, and 1.2% of 16- to 19-year-olds are not enrolled in high school and have no diploma. The average commute time for workers is just over 30 minutes.
This suburb of Seattle was ranked one of the best places to live by CNN in 2017. Households with children in Newcastle earn $164,500 in median income and spend $2,081 monthly for costs associated with housing. About 40% of families here have children, and about 84% of all households with children own their homes. The unemployment rate is 2.7% for 25- to 44-year-olds, and every 16- to 19-year-old is either in high school or has graduated. The average commute time for work is 28.2 minutes.
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 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 focus 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 in 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.