Best Cities for Young Families in Southern California

Spencer TierneyOct 24, 2014
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The Los Angeles area might be the hot spot in Southern California, but Orange County, its neighbor, tends to be the most family friendly.

When NerdWallet crunched the numbers to find the best places for young families in Southern California, four of the top five cities on our list were in Orange County.

The common standout is quality schools, but Orange County also has a strong labor force and has invested in infrastructure improvements, such as the $64 million project to expand Irvine’s Sand Canyon Avenue where it intersects with Interstate 5.

Best cities for young families in Southern California

1. Irvine

The beautiful city of Irvine attracts families with its strong education — from public elementary schools to the renowned University of California, Irvine. In addition to the honor of a top score of 10 by GreatSchools, Irvine schools have strong backing from the community, thanks to initiatives such as the city’s Challenge Match Grant program that matches the exact amount raised by the nonprofit Irvine Public Schools Foundation. The city’s high home values come with the territory, and access to the ocean and numerous parks help create a balance between nature and a thriving business community.

2. Rancho Santa Margarita

A hop and a skip from Irvine and the ocean, this small master-planned city prides itself on its village vibe even as it embraces growth, which has been strong—long-term income showed a 31.22% increase from 1999 to 2012. With schools in two districts, Rancho Santa Margarita’s quality education is backed by students’ state test scores, which are especially high in science. Local businesses play a key role in the city’s growth, and the chamber of commerce, with its rebranding in 2012, is determined to attract small business.

3. Seal Beach

As the third city in Orange County on our list, Seal Beach is also home to exceptional educational choices. The surrounding Los Alamitos School District boasts California Distinguished Schools, including Seal Beach’s J. H. McGaugh Elementary School. This quiet community of beach homes is known for its naval weapons station and, among other features, the second-longest pier in the state.

4. Beaumont

With its mountain trails in San Gorgonio Pass and a name that means “beautiful mountain” in French, Riverside County's Beaumont is also home to another peak: Residents’ income growth soared 128% in the past decade, making it one of the fastest-growing cities in California. Plus, with a median value of $226,000, the city’s housing isn't too steep for potential homeowners, and the city’s 16 public parks help round out the community.

5. Cypress

Despite being only 6.6 square miles, Cypress stands in a strategic location for growth, and its proximity to four freeways and commercial centers is part of it. Education in the Cypress School District, which includes six elementary schools, is characterized by academic rigor and strong marks on standardized California tests. For business owners who want to get through the official paperwork and get a business up and running quickly, the city’s small size is an advantage.

6. Walnut

This suburb in eastern Los Angeles County balances access to a large metropolitan area with small-town charm. Like Cypress, despite its size, this city offers big opportunities for residents. The area’s long-term income growth since 1999 is a solid 26% with a median annual income level just above $102,000. Community comes into play at 11 parks and events such as the Walnut Family Festival in October.

7. Agoura Hills

Perched to the northwest of Los Angeles, Agoura Hills is close to commercial centers, but it still is home to several parks, including the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area. Education has strong roots here, too. As reflected in its high GreatSchools ratings, the Agoura Hills schools in Las Virgenes Unified School District provide well-rounded curricula — from elementary school arts and technology programs to Agoura High School’s ComedySportz High School League for young improvisers. A community mainstay for the past decade has been the Reyes Adobe Days fall festival, which highlights California and ranch culture.

8. Loma Linda

Health is a focal point in Loma Linda — even its economy depends on it. Top employers in San Bernardino County include the esteemed Loma Linda University Medical Center and other hospitals as well. Public schools in the area have good ratings, especially Bryn Mawr Elementary School, a recent nominee for the National Blue Ribbon School honor.

9. Yorba Linda

The city — just below the Chino Hills State Park in northeastern Orange County — offers space for those with a passion for horses. Several equestrian centers are in town, as well as trails for riding, hiking and biking. Schools, which are part of the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, earned a strong 9 ranking at GreatSchools. In the past few years, the district has invested $600 million to modernize facilities, improve technology and build new schools.

10. Murrieta

Affordable homes and good schools make up a big part of the patchwork that is Murrieta, a city between Los Angeles and San Diego. The median home value in 2012 comes to $286,600, which is far below the state’s median. When it comes to education, Murrieta Valley Unified School District provides academic rigor that helps students achieve above-average state test scores. The city is also close to Camp Pendleton, the largest training facility for Marines on the West Coast.

Check out this interactive map of our top 10 cities for young families in Southern California. Click on each icon to see the place’s overall score.

Best cities for young families in Southern California

Scroll right to see all data categories.

City

GreatSchools rating

Median home value in 2012

Homeownership costs

Median household income in 2012

Income growth for 1999-2012

Overall score

1

Irvine

10

646,500

2,995

92,663

28.60%

64.04

2

Rancho Santa Margarita

9

530,800

2,883

102,975

31.22%

63.62

3

Seal Beach

10

286,400

2,842

50,675

20.43%

63.22

4

Beaumont

6

226,000

2,210

67,758

127.98%

62.74

5

Cypress

9

512,100

2,349

80,440

24.95%

62.66

6

Walnut

9

626,700

2,715

102,093

26.02%

62.26

7

Agoura Hills

9

689,700

2,936

110,716

27.25%

61.46

8

Loma Linda

8

291,500

2,316

58,040

51.92%

60.92

9

Yorba Linda

9

696,500

3,320

116,881

30.46%

60.47

10

Murrieta

8

286,600

2,405

75,485

23.93%

60.20

11

Twentynine Palms

7

156,600

1,263

42,572

36.54%

60.07

12

Lake Forest

8

505,600

2,574

93,127

37.02%

59.88

13

Santee

8

330,500

2,262

69,238

29.12%

59.85

14

Temple City

9

567,300

2,380

64,148

31.66%

59.64

15

Santa Clarita

8

390,100

2,535

84,291

26.34%

59.41

16

Diamond Bar

8

531,400

2,520

90,181

30.94%

58.60

17

Chino Hills

8

491,800

2,694

97,065

23.85%

58.58

18

Poway

8

519,500

2,692

94,224

31.40%

58.51

19

Carlsbad

9

617,200

2,948

83,875

28.75%

58.39

20

Redondo Beach

9

720,500

3,351

98,816

42.85%

58.33

21

San Dimas

8

429,200

2,374

76,454

21.58%

57.88

22

Brea

8

544,200

2,537

82,055

37.31%

57.67

23

Mission Viejo

8

558,000

2,687

96,088

22.80%

57.23

24

El Segundo

9

765,500

3,064

86,364

40.79%

56.98

25

La Palma

8

575,100

2,547

87,289

27.54%

56.85

26

La Verne

8

463,200

2,539

76,519

24.77%

56.71

27

Glendora

8

465,200

2,487

74,619

24.34%

56.62

28

Thousand Oaks

8

611,900

2,922

100,156

30.39%

56.47

29

Redlands

7

308,200

2,207

66,901

38.93%

56.26

30

Palm Desert

8

325,900

2,102

53,456

10.64%

56.21

31

Culver City

8

607,300

2,647

76,182

47.09%

56.11

32

Temecula

7

311,200

2,435

78,668

32.18%

56.05

33

Alhambra

8

484,900

2,215

53,917

37.50%

55.97

34

Cerritos

8

602,100

2,517

87,788

20.21%

55.84

35

Corona

7

341,600

2,418

78,982

32.49%

55.73

36

South Pasadena

9

838,300

3,207

84,185

51.06%

55.72

37

Lakewood

7

430,100

2,314

78,876

35.49%

55.16

38

La Mirada

7

422,000

2,338

81,319

31.94%

55.16

39

Arcadia

9

776,200

3,042

77,342

37.86%

55.12

40

Fullerton

8

493,200

2,663

67,617

34.51%

55.12

41

Laguna Hills

8

568,500

2,708

85,594

21.87%

55.12

42

Hanford

6

197,600

1,691

54,767

45.73%

54.91

43

Placentia

8

515,400

2,598

75,693

20.52%

54.88

44

Encinitas

8

703,800

2,915

90,868

42.08%

54.76

45

Yucca Valley

6

163,100

1,436

42,962

41.23%

54.54

46

La Quinta

7

366,800

2,382

72,099

32.17%

54.35

47

Moorpark

7

543,300

2,761

102,411

33.62%

54.29

48

Rancho Palos Verdes

9

973,900

3,580

119,778

25.42%

54.21

49

Rancho Cucamonga

7

374,100

2,439

77,329

26.91%

54.16

50

Torrance

8

622,100

2,717

76,082

34.68%

54.04

51

Claremont

8

559,400

2,814

80,754

22.52%

53.94

52

Fountain Valley

8

607,600

2,582

81,212

16.46%

53.87

53

West Covina

7

389,100

2,261

68,677

29.57%

53.83

54

Yucaipa

6

240,500

2,000

59,428

51.82%

53.83

55

Laguna Niguel

8

679,500

3,085

100,589

24.59%

53.81

56

San Marcos

8

375,800

2,577

54,792

19.35%

53.81

57

Chula Vista

7

366,200

2,575

65,364

45.70%

53.66

58

Hacienda Heights

7

465,200

2,286

76,118

27.96%

53.44

59

Santa Fe Springs

7

354,200

1,927

54,551

22.48%

53.26

60

Visalia

6

190,500

1,663

53,718

29.91%

53.25

61

Lake Elsinore

6

216,200

2,215

62,436

49.07%

53.17

62

Camarillo

7

473,300

2,650

83,892

34.32%

53.17

63

Huntington Beach

8

638,100

2,828

81,849

26.26%

53.13

64

Lemoore

6

208,400

1,921

56,258

39.55%

52.94

65

West Hollywood

9

626,300

3,169

53,223

36.77%

52.84

66

La Mesa

7

378,500

2,178

55,744

33.70%

52.84

67

Upland

7

419,200

2,325

64,797

32.96%

52.70

68

Ramona

7

372,900

2,333

62,738

29.02%

52.65

69

San Diego

7

451,800

2,458

63,990

39.92%

52.03

70

San Buenaventura (Ventura)

7

445,900

2,334

66,586

27.32%

51.86

71

Artesia

7

440,500

2,250

59,078

32.76%

51.82

72

Wasco

5

137,700

1,193

42,221

45.60%

51.75

73

Highland

6

265,200

2,065

57,313

39.01%

51.26

74

El Centro

6

161,900

1,669

41,418

24.90%

51.12

75

San Clemente

8

735,600

3,294

87,184

37.28%

50.88

76

Dana Point

8

732,900

2,956

80,938

28.39%

50.88

77

Monterey Park

7

478,200

2,324

55,800

37.02%

50.70

78

Barstow

5

111,000

1,232

44,623

27.24%

50.31

79

Glendale

8

597,000

2,764

54,369

30.05%

50.13

80

South El Monte

6

343,000

1,803

48,056

38.67%

49.92

81

Rosemead

7

444,900

2,179

46,781

29.30%

49.77

82

Burbank

7

570,500

2,678

67,693

42.61%

49.66

83

Tustin

7

509,700

2,839

74,011

32.20%

49.61

84

Tulare

5

168,800

1,442

45,995

36.74%

49.40

85

Covina

6

386,000

2,319

66,818

37.84%

49.17

86

Norco

6

401,000

2,584

82,074

31.00%

49.10

87

San Luis Obispo

7

542,900

2,347

46,651

46.12%

49.00

88

San Gabriel

7

552,900

2,371

56,260

34.62%

48.98

89

Rowland Heights

7

486,600

2,402

61,315

17.30%

48.80

90

Bakersfield

5

191,600

1,718

54,265

35.72%

48.65

91

Simi Valley

6

448,500

2,588

87,894

24.90%

48.55

92

Lakeside

6

327,400

2,246

61,222

25.17%

48.25

93

Palm Springs

6

285,700

1,959

45,404

26.22%

48.15

94

Oceanside

6

356,500

2,312

61,181

32.14%

48.15

95

Duarte

6

375,200

2,172

63,160

24.47%

48.11

96

Delano

5

144,900

1,244

35,507

26.17%

48.06

97

Westminster

7

462,100

2,307

54,780

10.78%

47.96

98

Indio

5

211,900

1,903

50,528

45.93%

47.76

99

Brawley

5

153,400

1,468

40,075

28.13%

47.58

100

Whittier

6

435,800

2,452

67,417

36.87%

47.55

101

Fontana

5

258,100

2,136

64,195

40.22%

47.22

102

La Habra

6

392,600

2,289

60,954

27.91%

47.16

103

Buena Park

6

405,300

2,345

64,205

27.55%

47.12

104

Garden Grove

6

412,000

2,181

59,988

25.62%

47.05

105

Hemet

5

125,400

1,419

33,460

24.67%

46.86

106

San Juan Capistrano

7

560,400

2,987

75,356

20.78%

46.84

107

El Cajon

6

333,400

2,119

45,750

28.63%

46.75

108

Monrovia

6

540,300

2,670

69,449

53.06%

46.67

109

Riverside

5

251,700

1,958

56,403

35.43%

46.56

110

Valinda

5

335,100

1,997

66,727

34.59%

46.52

111

Downey

6

430,300

2,360

60,132

31.67%

46.40

112

Hesperia

5

158,800

1,560

46,027

14.49%

46.40

113

Apple Valley

5

191,500

1,658

48,491

19.96%

46.29

114

Long Beach

6

441,600

2,379

52,900

41.94%

46.07

115

Orange

6

524,700

2,698

78,678

33.37%

46.07

116

Fallbrook

6

389,500

2,422

56,792

29.73%

45.97

117

Ontario

5

262,800

1,876

54,994

29.54%

45.96

118

San Jacinto

4

147,800

1,640

47,453

54.94%

45.88

119

Pico Rivera

5

344,900

1,922

57,044

37.24%

45.51

120

Victorville

4

148,800

1,641

52,165

44.15%

45.42

121

Norwalk

5

326,200

1,992

60,485

31.35%

45.32

122

Montclair

5

266,700

1,761

50,266

23.21%

45.08

123

Shafter

4

141,100

1,285

40,731

38.00%

45.06

124

La Puente

5

298,200

1,886

52,886

28.30%

44.82

125

Baldwin Park

5

291,900

1,783

51,244

23.10%

44.68

126

Stanton

5

282,700

1,910

50,542

29.17%

44.66

127

Porterville

4

156,100

1,328

42,628

33.02%

44.31

128

Chino

5

344,300

2,394

71,671

29.37%

44.28

129

Cathedral City

5

194,000

1,832

44,763

15.11%

44.08

130

Arvin

4

99,800

1,151

30,719

29.76%

43.98

131

Rancho Mirage

6

544,100

2,932

77,304

29.21%

43.69

132

Bloomington

4

175,400

1,592

46,639

36.75%

43.52

133

Paramount

5

269,700

1,803

44,167

20.19%

43.45

134

Lemon Grove

5

300,000

2,031

49,986

25.52%

43.16

135

National City

5

281,700

1,868

38,798

30.08%

43.10

136

Santa Ana

5

343,200

2,041

54,387

25.28%

43.07

137

Santa Paula

5

323,200

2,191

54,168

30.05%

43.03

138

Lomita

5

481,700

2,286

62,899

45.25%

42.94

139

Santa Monica

8

992,100

3,646

72,271

42.51%

42.67

140

Lennox

5

319,700

1,782

36,660

29.66%

42.57

141

Perris

4

162,100

1,693

46,435

30.72%

42.45

142

Bellflower

5

355,000

2,120

50,765

28.97%

42.23

143

Coalinga

4

174,200

1,557

46,712

22.50%

42.16

144

Costa Mesa

6

592,400

2,715

65,373

28.86%

42.15

145

Banning

4

176,500

1,353

38,919

21.33%

41.91

146

Imperial Beach

5

358,600

2,112

46,975

30.92%

41.82

147

Maywood

5

274,200

1,856

36,540

19.88%

41.79

148

Montebello

5

404,500

2,082

50,581

30.35%

41.75

149

Lawndale

5

374,900

2,014

48,727

24.90%

41.73

150

San Fernando

4

292,000

1,850

54,856

37.45%

41.48

151

Moreno Valley

4

194,700

1,817

55,872

17.91%

41.29

152

San Bernardino

4

166,100

1,582

39,097

25.55%

41.25

153

Carson

4

357,200

2,214

71,653

37.05%

40.97

154

Rialto

4

194,700

1,745

49,428

19.81%

40.87

155

Anaheim

5

415,900

2,416

59,627

26.54%

40.66

156

Escondido

5

335,200

2,195

49,787

16.96%

40.63

157

Hawthorne

5

412,800

2,300

44,906

40.83%

40.59

158

Cudahy

4

203,300

1,843

39,263

35.20%

40.22

159

Lamont

3

105,700

1,140

34,256

33.93%

39.99

160

Vista

5

349,200

2,211

48,676

14.28%

39.82

161

Azusa

4

323,400

1,976

53,063

35.40%

39.70

162

Blythe

3

152,700

1,537

48,327

36.81%

39.51

163

Bell Gardens

4

284,500

1,626

38,272

25.08%

38.82

164

Pasadena

5

620,600

2,823

68,310

48.46%

38.73

165

Oxnard

4

344,700

2,252

60,736

24.96%

37.82

166

Gardena

4

354,600

2,032

50,148

28.62%

37.61

167

El Monte

4

352,800

1,880

41,861

29.05%

37.22

168

Calexico

3

161,500

1,475

37,431

29.39%

37.11

169

Lynwood

4

294,500

1,906

42,723

19.05%

37.07

170

Bell

4

290,600

1,828

36,654

22.40%

36.98

171

Corcoran

3

127,500

1,219

34,594

12.38%

36.80

172

South Gate

4

304,400

1,884

41,851

17.25%

36.69

173

Desert Hot Springs

3

139,700

1,475

32,883

26.54%

36.41

174

Huntington Park

4

307,700

1,955

36,620

26.53%

36.41

175

Inglewood

4

342,700

2,147

44,558

30.02%

36.39

176

Altadena

4

588,200

2,665

82,854

36.84%

36.26

177

Santa Barbara

6

880,500

2,967

63,758

34.23%

36.18

178

Colton

3

168,700

1,615

41,496

15.99%

35.34

179

Coachella

2

150,900

1,444

41,611

45.54%

34.96

180

Compton

3

253,800

1,800

42,335

33.05%

34.88

181

Adelanto

2

104,400

1,428

41,113

30.13%

34.03

182

Pomona

3

272,600

1,896

48,864

22.10%

33.84

183

Los Angeles

4

470,000

2,633

49,745

35.59%

32.89

184

Walnut Park

3

291,300

1,816

42,558

18.75%

32.59

185

Avenal

2

156,600

1,068

27,927

-6.00%

29.05

186

Port Hueneme

2

313,900

2,036

51,723

22.43%

27.84

Methodology

The score for each place is from the following data:

Public schools made up 40% of the score. We used data from GreatSchools, which the nonprofit calculates by averaging the overall rating for each school in the city.

Median home values, monthly homeowner costs, median annual household incomes and income changes from 1999 to 2012 were each 15% of the score. All of that information is from the U.S. Census Bureau.

NerdWallet crunched the data for 186 places — cities, towns and census-designated places — in Southern California, from San Luis Obispo on the Central Coast to the U.S.-Mexico border. Only places with over 15,000 residents were analyzed. We excluded areas that lacked GreatSchools ratings, median annual household incomes from 1999 or median home values from 2012.


Image via iStock.