Quality of life matters to all future homeowners, but Louisiana’s young families — like couples starting out everywhere — could face tighter finances that limit their options. And some couples searching for their first house may be looking for the best place at the same time they are preparing for the arrival of their first child.
To help families across the U.S. narrow their options and find the “Best Cities for Young Families,” NerdWallet crunched an array of data for the second year, and this time, we have expanded our analysis to find places that are not only affordable, but that also have the extras families seek. Our calculations consider several factors:
- Home affordability.We looked at median home value and selected monthly homeowner costs to prioritize affordable communities.
- Prosperity and growth.Looking at current and past family incomes, we calculated the income of residents, as well as the projected long-term growth of eachcity.
- Quality of education.We looked at ratings from GreatSchools to find the best schools for young families.
- Family friendliness.This year, we added a new component to our methodology —the percentage of families with school-age children and the poverty rate for young children. This measure helps determine if an area is not only affordable for families, but if it is also a healthy one for children.
- NerdWallet crunched the data for 104 cities, towns and census-designated places in Louisiana. Only places with populations of 5,000 or more were analyzed.
Our analysis of Louisiana revealed some trends:
- Top places are spread out. We usually find our top cities are clustered around one or two metro areas, but our analysis of Louisiana found the10 best cities located around the state — from Lafayette to Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and other places.
- Small cities score big. All but two of our top 10 cities have populations over Louisiana’s median of 10,200.
Income is on the rise.
Family income growth has passed many other states, with an average increase of 37.3% since 1999.
1. Youngsville: Youngsville, only 10 miles outside Lafayette, is an upper-income community where 44% of families have children — the highest we found in Louisiana. The city also includes schools that earned an 8 out of 10 rating at GreatSchools, Cajun eateries and low crime rates — which have all helped boost its population growth to one of the highest in the state. The city has seen family income jump 89.4% since 1999.
2. Chackbay: Chackbay is an unincorporated community of 5,800 on the outskirts of Greater New Orleans. While Chackbay is best known for its annual Gumbo Festival, it made our list because it is an affordable community where families will find company — nearly 27% of residents have children. Families here give high marks to Chackbay Elementary School. On weekends, Chackbay residents make the quick trip to Lac des Allemands, which is quickly becoming one of the premier trophy fishing spots in Louisiana.
3. Ponchatoula: Located about the same distance from New Orleans or Baton Rouge, Ponchatoula is an ideal home base for parents who work in different cities. Our analysis found the state’s second-highest income growth, 102.8%, since 1999 in Ponchatoula. The city has a vibrant historical district and it’s close to Joyce Wildlife Management Area.
4. Leesville: Leesville is a historic town best known for its location near the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk. Leesville residents will find a range of outdoor recreation and quality medical care at the nearby Byrd Regional Hospital. The city has a median home value of $89,200, which is among the more affordable options in our top 10.
5. St. Gabriel: In this communityof 6,700 people about 16 miles outside Baton Rouge, newcomers will discover a quaint small town with convenient access to a bigger city. St. Gabriel is in a transition and growth phase, especially when it comes to family income, which has increased from $30,000 to $60,000 — the highest rise in the state — since 1999. A median home value of $77,800, the second lowest in our top 10, makes St. Gabriel an affordable location for those seeking a short commute to the state’s capital.
6. Red Chute: Our only entry in the Shreveport area, Red Chute is an unincorporated community in Bossier Parish. The community’s median home value of $154,600 is in the middle, however, the average family income of $83,219 is higher than most other places in our top 10. The high income-to-housing ratio suggests Red Chute is a hidden gem.
7. Moss Bluff: Moss Bluff is home to about 12,000 residents in an unincorporated suburb of Lake Charles. The area is known as the home of the 1,087-acre Sam Houston Jones State Park. Moss Bluff makes our list with its high percentage, nearly 32%, of families with children. The high school, Sam Jones High, has educated notable alumni, including Ralph Eggleston, who directed “Toy Story,” and David Filo, co-founder of Yahoo.
8. Oakdale: With a median home value of $64,000, Oakdale makes our list as the second-most affordable community in the state. Oakdale’s school system includes a highly ranked elementary school, making it an option for young families seeking a starter home in an affordable area.
9. Jennings: What was once a small agricultural community has seen growth in its population and in the prosperity of its residents. Jennings is home to 10,300, and many have watched their median family income increase 71% since 1999. With a median home value of only $89,600, the city is among the more affordable on our list.
10. Cut Off: Cut Off is an unincorporated community of 6,099 on Bayou Lafourche. The area is a place where nearly 30% of residents are married with children. Industry here leans toward agriculture and manufacturing, making it an ideal home for blue-collar workers seeking quality communities.
Other local cities in the top 75 include Larose, ranked at 17; Galliano, ranked at 24; Thibodaux, ranked at 46; Raceland, ranked at 71.
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All data are from the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Communities Survey. NerdWallet’s methodology took into account four factors:
Home affordability: Home affordability, 30 percent of the final score, was calculated by averaging index scores for median home value and median selected monthly owner costs. The lower the costs, the higher the score.
Growth and prosperity: Growth and prosperity make up 20 percent of the final score. The two metrics involved were growth in family income from 1999 to 2013, and the median family income in 2013. Both were weighted equally and positively.
Family friendliness: To measure if an area is a good one for families, which is 30 percent of our final score, we looked at the percentage of married couples with at least one child under 18, and the percentage of families in poverty with at least one child under age 5. The percentage of families with at least one child was 70 percent of the score, while the percentage of families in poverty was 30 percent of the score.
Educational quality: Using data from GreatSchools, every place was assigned a ranking from 1 to 10 for the quality of schools. The education score is 20 percent of the final score.
Posted on Fri, February 6, 2015
by Kamran Rosen, NerdWallet