The Best Cities in Virginia for Young Families

virginia state

by on June 17, 2013

The people of Old Dominion honor their state’s past and look forward to a bright future, both for businesses big and small and the families who reside there.

The state’s become increasingly well known as one of the nation’s corporate hubs, and the unemployment rate’s the lowest in the southeastern states. It’s no wonder why population growth is 50 percent higher than the national average.

With these trends in mind, NerdWallet wanted to answer this question: What brings so many young families to this state?

Financial stability isn’t the only appeal. And so, as we studied the state, we asked a number of questions, including the following:

  1. How are the public schools? We compiled scores from GreatSchools, a nonprofit that evaluates a given school’s standardized test scores in comparison to the state average. Those ratings are on a 1 to 10 scale. Higher ratings led to a higher overall score.
  2. Can you afford to live there? We looked at the cost of buying a home, including ongoing, monthly home costs like mortgage payments, real estate taxes, insurance costs, utilities, fuels and other bills. Lower costs led to a higher overall score.
  3. Is the town prospering? We assessed a town’s local economy with its current median household income as well as income growth over the last decade. Higher income and greater growth led to a higher overall score.

Best Cities for Young Families

1. Glen Allen

Henrico County in general is growing quickly, and Glen Allen in particular is home to three Fortune 500 companies. Business is booming here, and really all around the city of Richmond, providing the residents of Glen Allen with a healthy job market.

2. Vienna

Vienna is home to the Virginians who work in corporate-heavyweight Tysons Corner. More and more people are flocking here, too: homes have been selling quickly, and home values are already up 17 percent from last year – real estate is booming once again in Vienna.

3. Fairfax

Fairfax has already seen great success in the last decade with a growth rate of 46.80 percent, and it’s clearly continuing to be proactive about economic development. The city government plans to expand the downtown area to bring together both the city of Fairfax and the 30,000 students who call George Mason University home.

4. Salem

Salem is by far the most budget-friendly city on the list. Homeownership is extremely affordable, with an average price of $166,200. Nestled in the hills outside of Roanoke, it offers sublime natural beauty, too, especially in the fall, as the trees become maroon, bright orange and yellow.

5. Bon Air

Originally, Bon Air was a haven just for the wealthy of Richmond because of its pleasant climate, great views and convenient access to the city. It’s still populated with up-scale, historical Victorian homes, but it’s also become more accessible for young families. While the rest of the greater Richmond area has expanded significantly in the last ten years, Bon Air’s contained size has allowed it to maintain a small-town feel.

6. Burke

Nearly a fifth of Burke works in public administration, with the nation’s capitol just next door. D.C. may be more widely known, but there’s plenty to love in Burke, too. It’s a small, planned community, with just 1,700 acres split into five neighborhoods – and it’s also got five public pools to match. Don’t mistake a small and compact size for a sleepy town!

7. Mechanicsville

Mechanicsville is home to strong middle-class families, who earn, on average, $69k a year. The town does its part to help these families thrive, too. Among its most attractive features is a supportive local economy. Take for example the county-sponsored seminars that help young entrepreneurs and small-business owners in the area set up shop, with marketing and networking tutorials.

8. Oakton

Oakton’s taken the lead in Northern Virginia’s effort to galvanize the local economy, and, thus far, it’s worked – unemployment is just over 4 percent. Earlier this summer, small businesses from the city joined other Nova tech startups at a summit to discuss the industry’s role in the global economy.

9. McLean

Industry is booming here and in neighboring Tysons Corner. Six Fortune 500 companies call McLean home, including Capital One, Booz Allen Hamilton and Exelis. The residents, too, are exceedingly well-off. Home values are, on average, $800,000 and income levels are high as well. The average salary is $170,933, more than three times the national average. It follows that, with a booming local economy, the public schools are excellent as well. Two of McLean’s high schools are among the top ten in the state, according to U.S. News and World Report.

10. Chesapeake

Chesapeake is one of the most highly educated cities in America, with over 27 percent having a bachelor’s degree — that’s 10 points greater than the national average. Naturally, high-level job opportunities abound here, too, with a number of Fortune 1000 companies headquartered in the city, including Dollar Tree.

Rank City Nearest big city GreatSchools rating Median home value Monthly owner costs Median household income Growth,’99-’11 Overall score for young families
1 Glen Allen Richmond 9 $241,600 $1,689 $65,173 18.06% 64.97
2 Vienna Washington, DC 9 $588,300 $2,879 $116,933 36.73% 62.53
3 Fairfax Washington, DC 8 $472,600 $2,375 $99,300 46.80% 62.20
4 Salem Roanoke 8 $166,200 $1,342 $48,050 23.21% 62.12
5 Bon Air Richmond 8 $229,100 $1,518 $69,561 20.99% 61.53
6 Burke Washington, DC 8 $493,300 $2,494 $127,845 36.64% 61.26
7 Mechanicsville Richmond 8 $242,000 $1,608 $68,757 20.56% 60.73
8 Oakton Washington, DC 8 $578,300 $2,672 $123,415 40.41% 59.56
9 McLean Washington, DC 9 $892,100 $3,824 $170,933 41.11% 58.69
10 Chesapeake Norfolk 7 $271,700 $1,892 $70,115 38.18% 57.77

Methodology

The overall score for each city was derived from the following measures:

  1. 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)
  2. Median home value from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP04, half-weighted)
  3. Monthly homeowner costs from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP04, half-weighted)
  4. Median household income from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP03, half-weighted)
  5. Income change between 1999 and 2011 from the from the U.S. Census (data sets P053 and DP03, half-weighted)

82 Virginia cities, towns and villages designated as places by the U.S. Census were included in this analysis. Only places with a population greater than 15,000 were considered.

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