Quality schools, cheap cost of living and ample opportunity for employment all bring a young family to settle down in a town. NerdWallet wanted to identify the best in Tennessee, so we asked the following questions as we analyzed cities and towns across the state:
- Does the town have good public schools? We measured schools’ academic performance with ratings from GreatSchools. This non-profit compares a given school’s standardized test scores to the state average to obtain a rating on a 1 to 10 scale (10 representing the highest score). Higher ratings led to a higher overall score.
- Can you afford to live there? We looked at both average home values 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
Collierville has one eye on the past and another on the future. The town does its fair share to preserve its historic spaces. There is the town square and antebellum architecture at the heart of Collierville, spotted with one-of-a-kind boutiques, antique stores, specialty shops and an old-fashioned gas station. Collierville’s town gem is the Train Museum, where visitors can take a trip back in time in a beautifully restored train car. Collierville does its best to work toward a bright future, too, and it is doing a great job. Collierville High School is extraordinarily successful: 98% of its students go on to a four- or two-year college, and the majority of students score well above the state average in statewide Gateway exams.
2. Spring Hill
Spring Hill has been recognized for an outstanding educational system. GreatSchools rated it 9 out of 10 for its high standardized-test scores. Beyond academics, too, the schools here shine. Summit High supports an active extra-curricular activities program. For instance, this year, students founded a new community service club through the town’s Kiwanis organization. The club began the year in a dynamic way with a bake sale and mock presidential election to garner much support from the Spring Hill townspeople.
3. Mt. Juliet
Mt. Juliet is stationed at the crossroads of major interstate highways, and it boasts just a day’s drive to over half of the American population. There is more to Mt. Juliet than its advantageous location: with one of the lowest tax rates in the state, Mt. Juliet is the perfect place for family life. Home to one of Tennessee’s largest Little League parks, kids will never be bored with over a dozen baseball and softball fields for lessons and sporting events. Additionally, both parents and children can enjoy Mt. Juliet’s fishing and boating opportunities at the nearby lakes and the Providence Marketplace, a large shopping complex with hundreds of restaurants and shops.
Nationally recognized for its historical protection efforts and business advancement campaigns, Franklin is a city that is as grand as its famous namesake. Home to the Nissan North American headquarters and Verizon offices, Franklin provides citizens with a plethora of valuable employment opportunities and boasts a high quality of life for young families. Residents can enjoy a nearby 170-store shopping district at the Cool Springs Galleria as well as more local attractions such as Franklin’s Main Street Festival for arts and crafts enthusiasts, or the popular Wine Down Main Street tasting event, which welcomes over 2,000 wine fanatics each year.
5. Oak Ridge
Oak Ridge, nicknamed the “Secret City”, was established in 1942 as a key site for WWII’s Manhattan Project. The city still offers a wide variety of lucrative high-tech jobs, and scientific development remains a crucial part of Oak Ridge’s economy and culture. Today, the Department of Energy runs a nuclear research laboratory and performs national security work. Its laboratory is home to project Jaguar, the most powerful scientific supercomputer in existence. Aside from fascinating scientific attractions, Oak Ridge boast great family recreation: residents may visit the nearby Great Smoky Mountain Park for hiking or biking or visit nearby lakes for summertime fun.
Brentwood, an affluent suburb of Nashville, is celebrated for the strength of its educational system. With a perfect 10 GreatSchools rating, it is no surprise that students of Brentwood High School have a high graduation rate, at 93.2% — five points higher than the state average last year. More and more National Merit Scholars are recognized each year, with two winning the scholarship this year. Brentwood is also a hub for outdoorsy families. Its Radnor Lake State Park is the country’s largest designated state wilderness park in a metropolitan area.
Bristol is big on family fun. Congress has dubbed it the Birthplace of Country Music, and the city has proven true to its name. Every fall, residents celebrate the city’s country heritage with the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, a music festival held in Bristol’s lively downtown. The festival attracted 45,000 visitors in 2010, and has grown every year since, with nearly 150 local and nationally-known bands. Bristol is also home to the Bristol Motor Speedway, a NASCAR track, which normally sells out over 150,000 seats per race.
Residents of Hendersonville enjoy a great work-life balance. Schools here are strong and even supported by the rich and famous — Hendersonville High recently bolstered its performing arts program with the help of alumna Taylor Swift, who donated $75,000 to the school so it could refurbish its auditorium. On the weekends, residents enjoy a great outdoors life. Hendersonville sits on the northern shore of Old Hickory Lake, a 97-mile body of water that offers ample opportunity for family fun, with spots for hiking, skiing, fishing, boating and more.
9. Johnson City
Johnson City may first have caught your attention as the birthplace of Mountain Dew. It is much more than that, too, with a growing healthcare industry and great family fun. There are plenty of career opportunities at some of the state’s best medical facilities, including the Johnson City Medical Center, at the heart of Tennessee’s Med-Tech corridor. Johnson City’s residents love to have a great time, too. The Little Chicago Blues Festival celebrates the city’s Prohibition-era speakeasies, and the Umoja Unity Festival highlights the city’s diverse cultural history.
Kingsport was named an All-American City by the National Civic League because of its inclusiveness, diversity and strong civic engagement. More than a strong community, Kingsport is a fun one, too. It is the start of the 200-mile Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail, and it hosts a number of family-fun events every year. In July, the air in Kingsport is dotted with colorful hot air balloons for Fun Fest. This 9-day celebration is a family festival that is considered one of the top summer events in the Southeast region, with an annual attendance of over 180,000 enthusiasts.
|Rank||City||Nearest big city||GreatSchools rating||Median home value||Monthly owner costs||Median household income||Growth,’99-’11||Overall score for young families|
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)
59 Tennessee 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.