The Best Towns in Louisiana for Young Families

louisiana state

by on October 7, 2013

Families in Louisiana enjoy the state’s diversity, from its Creole dishes to Cajun music. More than its rich culture and food, adults in Louisiana seek opportunities for themselves and their kids, too. With that in mind, we asked the following as we analyzed cities and towns across the state to identify the best for young families:

  1. 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.
  2. Can you afford to live there? We looked at both median 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.
  3. Is the town growing and prospering? We assessed a town’s economy by looking at median household income and income growth over the last decade. Higher income and greater growth led to a higher overall score.

Check out our cost of living calculator here as well as our mortgage rates calculator for more information.

The Best Towns for Young Families

1. Leesville

Leesville is the seat of Vernon Parish, just eight miles up the road from Fort Polk South. It is home to the largest military base in the state, Fort Polk, where 24,000 military personnel and their families reside. Amenities include several nearby lakes – just an hour’s drive away is the Toledo Bend Reservoir, known for its bass fishing – a museum and a historic main street.

2. Walker

Walker is in the Baton Rouge metro area, and it is one of the fastest growing cities in the state. The community’s business parks have helped pave the way for further development. The schools, too, have done well: earlier this year, three of Livingston Parish’s high schools were recognized by U.S. News & World Report as among the best in the nation.

3. Belle Chasse

Belle Chasse is part of the greater New Orleans metro area, and it is home to great schools. In 2011, Plaquemines Parish Schools was ranked fifth in the state on overall performance. The parish is also known as a “sportsman’s paradise” because of its excellent fishing spots.

4. West Monroe

West Monroe sits on the Ouachita River, across from its twin city, Monroe. Its parish is home to one of the largest companies headquartered in Louisiana – CenturyLink, a telecommunications company – as well as the University of Louisiana at Monroe. The university serves more than its full-time students; it also gives support to aspiring entrepreneurs and small-business owners with its Small Business Development Center.

5. Zachary

Zachary is in the Baton Rouge metro area, and it supports an extremely strong school system. For eight consecutive years, the Zachary Community School District has been the top-performing district in Louisiana according to the state department of education.

6. Galliano

Galliano is on the Bayou Lafourche in southeastern Louisiana. The larger area is known as Cajun Country because of its blend of French, Spanish, English and German heritage. With the Gulf of Mexico and its long, warm summers, Galliano residents have the opportunity to fish and boat for several months every year.

7. Eunice

Eunice is a prairie village in the Acadiana region of Louisiana. The community has a strong tradition of Cajun and Creole culture. The Liberty Theater – listed on the National Register of Historic Places – is known for its performances of Cajun and Zydeco music and humor.

8. Patterson

Patterson is in St. Mary Parish, near Morgan City. A port is on either end of the parish, making it a hub for business, industry and trade. Indeed, in 2010, Patterson was recognized by the state government for its commitment to economic development.

9. St. Rose

St. Rose lies on the East Bank of the Mississippi River, in St. Charles Parish. The area’s biggest industries are energy and petrochemical. The latter, especially, has seen a great deal of development. Last year, an LSU professor projected that the energy industry would add 9,000 jobs to the Baton Rouge economy by 2015, thanks in part to the expansion of a plant in St. Charles Parish.

10. Sulphur

The city of Sulphur belongs to Calcasieu Parish, in southwestern Louisiana. Like St. Rose, its economy has boomed with the petrochemical industry. The schools here are strong, too. Frasch Elementary earned an “A” rating from the state Department of Education.

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 Leesville 8 $82,300 $863 $39,167 64.1% 71.9
2 Walker Baton Rouge 8 $169,000 $1,242 $61,967 61.8% 68.3
3 Belle Chasse New Orleans 9 $239,200 $1,863 $69,353 46.7% 64.8
4 West Monroe Monroe 8 $110,900 $1,047 $37,011 34.5% 64.0
5 Zachary Baton Rouge 9 $179,900 $1,429 $61,094 23.0% 63.9
6 Galliano 7 $105,600 $1,106 $48,589 54.6% 63.9
7 Eunice 7 $85,000 $905 $32,146 50.4% 63.7
8 Patterson 6 $114,800 $1,165 $43,158 81.9% 63.5
9 St. Rose New Orleans 8 $150,900 $1,233 $48,217 38.9% 63.4
10 Sulphur Lake Charles 8 $112,800 $1,008 $46,307 21.1% 62.2

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 U.S. Census (data sets P053 and DP03, half-weighted)

108 Louisiana cities and areas designated as places by the U.S. Census were included in this analysis. Only places with a population greater than 5,000 were considered.

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  • beth

    Walker #2? Are you on crack? How can Walker be great for young families? Walker is a small town where anyone who has not grown up here is an outsider. Businesses will not hire an outsider. If an outsider has a decent job, it’s because the company assigned them. Many Baton Rouge businesses have a problem hiring people from Walker, even though it is 10 miles away. The problem is traffic when there is an accident on the interstate and crossing the Comite river. Before the I-12 widening, 4-10 hour delays were common. It’s better now, but an accident will tie things up for miles because of limited options to cross the river.

    Walker has pitched a great deal but delivered on little. For a town of this size, I should be able to walk from one end of it to the other, but I can’t. Not without getting run over.

    Walker has no sidewalks to speak of, even though they promoted this ‘modernization program’ years ago. Many residents are older ‘born here-raised here-will die here’ residents. No sidewalks for them to ride a scooter to the stores. Many roads INSIDE Walker city limits so not meet DOT minimum lane width. They are a carry-over of gravel streets that were paved over. Most city streets cannot handle 2 full-size pickups in width. When passing each other, one must go off the road or hit mirrors. Along each side of the road is an open ditch…..yes, even in residential areas….so there is no real shoulder to the road. An alderman recently told me they can’t paint a center stripe on the road to designate lanes (most people here drive down the middle of the road and move a little to the right when faced with oncoming traffic). His reason was that if they painted a center stripe, each side would not meet lane width requirements…….which is what I already mentioned. So their way around it is to not put a divider line.

    There is a newer sports complex (all outdoor fields), but it was built in a very bad location. I suspect some shady dealing was involved, as there are few landowners in the area. You would think a sports complex would be planned in a location to promote physical activity, but you can’t get to it except by driving to it. Access to the complex is a nightmare. Narrow roads as mentioned above, no walk-to access, and inadequate parking. Most times you risk getting stuck in mud because you’re parking in a field or on the side of a road.

    When it comes to the school system, it is good. In fact, some people fudge the paperwork to get their children in the Walker schools. I think part of the success is the everyone-knows-everyone climate. And if they don’t, they will not stop talking til they do.

    Walker leaders have limited new businesses that want to come to this town. Right now, the community at the next exit 4 miles down the interstate is expanding. They are building shopping centers and housing with easy access to the intestate. Walker, by restricting normal growth, is giving up the tax base. That starts a bad cycle of not having the money to make upgrades and improvements to entice business that generate the tax dollars to make improvements and so on and so on. They do not want their little town to grow and have crime and drugs, even though those problems exist today. There is alot of religious influence determining city planning. They will not approve of restaurants because those restaurants want beer or liquor licenses. There are a few in town, but those are LOCAL owners. Not a single national-chain restaurant like Chili’s, TGI Fridays. Olive Garden, etc. Favoritism at its best.

    Overall, Walker is dying. What they don’t realize is that by not getting ahead of the growth, they will not be able to catch up anytime soon. Walker is living in the past. The leaders do not understand that city planning never ends, and that depending on Livingston Parish to fund in-town projects is ridiculous. We pay city taxes for the city to maintain roads. WHY do the aldermen refuse to take responsibility? Why does the city ignore needed improvements ‘because we haven’t got a grant from the parish yet’?

    Last, but not least, is the landfill. Yes, just to the east of Walker is Waste Management. An endless parade of trash trucks from the surrounding areas drive through the middle of town all day to get to the landfill.

    Walker is a great bedroom community to Baton Rouge on paper. The reality is that it is a small town where the residents are working to keep it small, even though they are being left behind. They want to keep their little town like they remember it. They refuse to think of anything else.

    Pass on Walker. Live somewhere else.