The Best Towns in Georgia for Young Families
(A 2015 version of this study can be found here.)
Georgia has it all: mountains, beaches and one of the largest metropolitan areas in the entire United States.
But which areas are the best to raise a family? NerdWallet wanted to find out, and so we asked the following questions as we analyzed cities and towns across the state:
- Does the town have good public schools? We measured academic performance with scores from GreatSchools. This non-profit organization compares a given school’s standardized test scores to the state average to obtain a rating on a 1 through 10 scale (10 being the highest score). Higher ratings led to a higher overall score.
- Can you afford to live there? We looked at both average home prices in each town and ongoing monthly home costs, including mortgage payments, real estate taxes, insurance costs, utilities, fuel and other bills. Lower costs led to a higher overall score.
- Is the town growing and prospering? We assessed a town’s economy by looking at average household income and income growth over the last decade. Higher income and greater growth led to a higher overall score.
The best places for young families
Residents of Evans enjoy a vibrant downtown area, family-friendly festivals and an exciting urban life as a suburb of nearby Augusta, the Garden City. In April, the Masters Golf Tournament comes to the city, drawing over 250,000 visitors to the area every year. Year-round, too, the economy is strong, thanks in part to a growing healthcare industry and research center. Georgia Regents University, for example, maintains a business incubator to help health-care researchers develop their ideas and their entrepreneurship.
2. Peachtree City
Peachtree City is renowned for its educational opportunities – for both children and adults. Most every one of its public schools earned a perfect score from GreatSchools, including McIntosh High School and Peachtree City Elementary, both of which the U.S. Department of Education has honored as National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence in 2007 and 2011, respectively. Clayton State University and Point University both maintain campuses in the city and even offer their services to the community, to part-time students. Point, for example, offers degrees to adult learners with its Access program. Apart from a standout educational system, Peachtree City is also distinguished by an eccentric love of golf carts. Approximately 9,000 households own one, and nearly 100 miles of golf-cart paths wind across town, providing for a fun and easy way of transportation.
3. Sugar Hill
Sugar Hill stands out for its superb educational system, unique location and recreational opportunities. Sugar Hill’s schools earned a near-perfect rating from GreatSchools and it’s no surprise why. North Gwinnett Middle, for example, last year outperformed the entire state of Georgia on the Grade 8 Writing Assessment. There’s plenty of fun to be had in this small city, too. It’s only a 10-minute drive from the sparkling Lake Lanier, which offers an island resort and a lakeside campground as well as numerous city parks and a golf course.
The city of Perry is nicknamed the Crossroads of Georgia. Perry’s biggest industry is tourism, thanks to sights like the award-winning Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter. Just in the last decade, its tourism industry grew by over 22% – more than any other industry – helping support this small city of 13,000 people.
5. St. Simons
Georgians looking for work-play balance need to look no further than St. Simons. This island community just east of Brunswick is known for its year-round pleasant climate and natural beauty. The schools here are fantastic, too. One of the elementary schools, Oglethorpe Point, was recently recognized by the Georgia Department of Education for being among the top 10% in the state, while St. Simons Elementary was recognized for making the greatest gains. In other words, schools here are already great, and they’re striving to become even better.
Suwanee is distinguished by an outstanding school system. The city earned a rating of 10 out of 10 from GreatSchools and was recognized by the Department of Education with an Advanced Placement Honors award for the North Gwinnett High School. Beyond its strong schools, Suwanee attracts young families with its abundance of city parks. The most popular is Town Center Park, a 10-acre ground with an amphitheater and giant fountain.
Business is booming in Alpharetta. The tech industry, in particular, has done well here, with seven of metro Atlanta’s top 25 tech employers calling this city home. Just minutes away from the world’s busiest airport and Atlanta’s best research universities, Alpharetta is an ideal economic environment that will surely continue to prosper in the future. The surrounding community, too, benefits from Alpharetta’s success; the city’s businesses employ in excess of approximately 120,000 people, totaling to more than double the city’s own population.
Martinez is a fantastic place for the adventurous Georgian family. The start of the Augusta Canal is here, and along it is a 15.5-mile bike trail as well as a boat tour in the canal itself. Just this past year, to accommodate its growing population, Martinez demolished one of its elementary schools so that it can re-build a bigger and better one.
Low home prices, easy access to major highways and a warm small-town atmosphere all prompt Georgians to settle in the town of Buford, located 35 miles north of Atlanta. The city supports a strong creative community, too; housing an artist colony of painters, sculptors and more, Buford is always vibrant with gallery openings, shows and other cultural events.
Fayetteville is a town with a sense of history just half an hour’s drive from Atlanta. The city’s courthouse is the oldest surviving courthouse in the state, having been built in 1825; it has even been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. To celebrate the building’s endurance, Fayetteville hosts the Annual Fayette Fine Art Show in May as well as several other cultural events throughout the year. The schools, too, are excellent. Fayette County High’s debate team regularly outperforms its competitors; since 1988, they’ve won nearly every regional championship.
|Rank||City||Nearest big city||GreatSchools rating||Median home value||Monthly owner costs||Median household income||Growth,’99-’11||Overall score for young families|
|3||Sugar Hill||Duluth, Atlanta||9||$182,500||$1,636||$72,941||22.6%||67.2|
|4||Perry||Warner Robins, Macon||7||$135,200||$1,184||$49,976||59.1%||66.4|
The overall score for each city was derived from the following measures:
- GreatSchools city rating. GreatSchools city ratings are calculated by averaging the weighted overall rating for each school in the city (weighted by the number of students enrolled at the school)
- Median home value from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP04, half-weighted)
- Monthly homeowner costs from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP04, half-weighted)
- Median household income from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP03, half-weighted)
- Income change between 1999 and 2011 from the U.S. Census (data sets P053 and DP03, half-weighted)
96 Georgia cities and towns designated as places by the U.S. Census were included in this analysis. Only places with a population greater than 10,000 were considered.