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The Best Towns in Missouri for Young Families

missouri

by on October 27, 2013

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When families in Missouri buy a home, they buy more than just a property – they also buy into the community and the opportunities it offers in the job market and at schools. We wanted to identify the best towns for young families, so we asked the following questions as we analyzed communities across the state:

  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. Nixa

Nixa is an 19,000-person city in Christian County. Its public schools system is excellent, having earned a 100 percent score on the state Annual Performance Report for 11 consecutive years. Christian County is also the fastest-growing county in the entire state, according to a 2011 report by the U.S. Census.

2. Ozark

Ozark is located 19 miles south of Springfield. The city has expanded tremendously in size, having grown by 84.4 percent between 2000 and 2010 – over 10 times the rate of the state average. The local government’s budget management has been so tight that it earned top marks from Standard & Poor’s, a credit-rating agency.

3. Wentzville 

Wentzville is a 45-minute drive from downtown St. Louis. The city is also the third-fastest growing community in the state, having quadrupled in size between 2000 and 2010. Wentzville hosts many recreational events, too, including concerts and movies in the park, and just 30 minutes away are wineries in the city of Augusta.

4. Kirkwood 

Kirkwood is an inner suburb of St. Louis. It is home to excellent schools, including Kirkwood High, which ranked third in the state on U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 list of best high schools and sixth on Newsweek’s. Unemployment in the community is low as well, at 5.8 percent.

5. Festus

Festus is in Jefferson County, near its twin city of Crystal City. The local school district has won many awards, including several for the excellence of its faculty. In 2013, it was recognized as a National Model Professional Learning Community District – a distinction given to schools that are dedicated to learning and that foster a collaborative community among staff.

6. Crestwood

Crestwood is a suburb of St. Louis. Lindbergh School District includes five National Blue Ribbon Schools. Business here is doing well, too; the community is a retail hub, with over two million square feet of retail space.

7. Raymore 

Raymore is in western Missouri, in the Kansas City metro area. The local government recently launched an initiative to help residents beat high healthcare costs – the city hall lobby now offers free discount cards for prescription medications. Raymore-Peculiar School District also boasts a high graduation rate of 93.8 percent – meanwhile, the graduation rate for high schools across the state is 80.7 percent. 

8. Ballwin

Ballwin is a suburb of St. Louis, and Money Magazine has named it one of the best places to live in the nation three times in the last decade. A local school district, Parkway, includes 14 National Blue Ribbon Schools and 17 Missouri Gold Star Schools. The community also offers access to four state parks.

9. Wildwood

Wildwood is an affluent outer suburb of St. Louis. Households here earn more than any other community that made this list. Recreational opportunities abound here, too, with a ski resort in town and Six Flags St. Louis nearby.

10. Bolivar

Bolivar is the seat of Polk County, about 30 miles north of Springfield. Nearby are several lakes, including at Stockton State Park, where residents can water ski, scuba dive, swim and fish. Within the city is Southwest Baptist University, a private university of 3,800 students that’s been one of America’s Best Christian Colleges for 15 years.

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 Nixa Springfield 9 $138,300 $1,120 $51,040 35.5% 72.5
2 Ozark Springfield 8 $136,800 $1,165 $50,638 48.0% 72.1
3 Wentzville St. Louis 8 $203,200 $1,664 $70,642 49.6% 70.8
4 Kirkwood St. Louis 9 $232,900 $1,683 $74,088 34.4% 69.9
5 Festus St. Louis 8 $141,100 $1,270 $50,872 38.7% 69.0
6 Crestwood St. Louis 9 $191,700 $1,409 $68,101 25.7% 68.9
7 Raymore Kansas City 8 $175,400 $1,577 $74,512 33.0% 67.3
8 Ballwin St. Louis 9 $233,500 $1,746 $81,388 22.5% 66.8
9 Wildwood St. Louis 9 $351,000 $2,224 $118,019 25.5% 66.6
10 Bolivar Springfield 7 $109,400 $939 $34,189 38.9% 66.0

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)

84 Missouri cities and areas designated as places by the U.S. Census were included in this analysis. Only places with a population greater than 10,000 were considered.

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  • natedaily

    11. Parkville

  • Steven Records

    One of the big wins for families in Ozark is James River Church. It’s a great place to bring your kids.

  • Carla Jean Page

    I WOULD HAVE TO SAY THAT COLUMBIA IS A GREAT TOWN TO LIVE IN

  • Renee Truby

    Nixa is The Best town in MO!The LOCATION, SCHOOLS, and PEOPLE are all AMAZING. This City is truly one of a kind.

  • Paul

    Joplin would have been there, except for the numerous meth houses.

  • Madoline Minnich

    What?! Festus is a horrible place to raise your family. Better yet, stay clear of Jefferson County Missouri! Known as the meth capital, and heroin is getting just as popular! That’s why I up and moved out of there to Columbia, MO and I love it here! My parents moved to Festus 20 years ago for things being said about it like this. The school is horrible, do your research and you will find that Festus High School has been needing a new building for many years now and it still has not happened. Don’t take your family here, my parents regret it till this day.

    Forgot to mention I went to Festus High School. I was Class of 2011. I do not think this school should have any awards what so ever!

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Thanks for your comment. Data shows that the schools in Festus are doing quite well. The ratings we pulled, from GreatSchools, scored schools in Festus with their results on 2011-12 standardized tests. Students at Festus Elementary, for example, performed very well on the math portion of the MAP; they earned an 83 percent — significantly higher than the state average of 53 percent.

      We understand that some residents will disagree with the rankings, but the article’s purpose is less to be a definitive guide to real estate and more to show where you can find a balance of good income, affordable homes and quality schools — three important factors many young families consider when looking for a place to live.

      • Madoline Minnich

        Yes completely understand about the data. But this is the kind of information my parents viewed over 20 years ago. You might one to add in the important factor of the crime and drug rate in Festus and areas around because that is a big factor when it comes to a family living in a town. I do not recommend living here, I don’t have data, but I have experience.

    • Brandi

      I live in Festus and I’m pretty sure this is referring to the R7 area. I love that my children go to school here. You’re right about schools in the city limits. But, they do not in any way, compare to R7.

  • turkeykicker

    Kearney isn’t on the list. Somebody messed up.

  • Jennifer Jenkins

    I’ve lived in Bolivar my entire life and all I want to do is get the heck out of this town!! It’s either your rich or your poor and the college still runs this town. We can’t get a decent restaurant unless it’s fast food and forget about having an adult beverage at a eatery! There are no good paying jobs here, so you have to go out of town to find a job that will pay. There are good aspects of the town if your looking for a small town feel this is this place.