Lots of people are moving to Georgia from around the country and the world, turning once-sleepy railroad towns into bustling suburbs. And why not? The Atlanta region, which has been the main engine of the state’s growth, has big employers and less-expensive homes — at least relative to many other places in the U.S.
But is the Peach State the right state for you and your young family? And if so, which city offers the best landing spot?» COMPARE: List of the best places for young families in Georgia
NerdWallet analyzed the data for 145 cities, towns and census-designated places in Georgia to find the top 10 that offer the best combination of affordability, growth and prosperity, family-friendliness and quality schools. To see the full data set — and learn more about the factors you might want to consider — click here.
The Atlanta area attracts people and business. Five of 10 of the top cities are within 40 miles of Atlanta, the state’s capital. It’s also headquarters to companies such as Home Depot, Delta Airlines and UPS, and home to prominent educational institutions like Georgia Tech, Morehouse College and Emory University.
The best places have more families with kids. The top 10 places have more families with at least one child younger than 18 — 32% on average — than in the rest of the cities in our analysis. Those cities average 17% of families with at least one child.
The top 10 cities cost more. The median home value in the top 10 was an average of $178,420, which is over $30,000 higher than the average median for all 145 cities in our analysis. Similarly, median selected monthly owner costs — a U.S. Census Bureau metric that includes a mortgage, real estate taxes, insurance, utilities and other costs of owning a home — was $1,490, well above the average of all cities.
Best places for young families in Georgia
1. Holly Springs
Once a rail town where the train depot served as city hall, Holly Springs has more than tripled in population since 2000 to about 10,000 residents. The city sits about 40 miles north of Atlanta along Interstate Highway 575 and ranks first in our analysis for family friendliness, with 40% of families with at least one child younger than 18 and virtually 0% of families living in poverty with a child under 5. It’s not the most affordable city, however: Holly Springs’ median home value and median selected monthly owner costs make it the 124th city in affordability among the 145 in our analysis.
An unincorporated suburb of Augusta, Evans sits near the Savannah River, the border with South Carolina. Schools in Evans, which are part of the Columbia County School District, scored well in our analysis, ranking seventh out of 145 with a SchoolDigger score of 86.56 out of 100. The area also ranked third overall for family friendliness, with 35% of families with at least one child younger than 18 and 4% of families in poverty with a child under 5.
Though its name in Spanish translates to “corner,” Rincon’s original limits formed a 2½-mile circle around the town’s railroad depot. The suburb of the coastal city of Savannah today is a town of 9,500, having grown 120% since 2000. Income growth was second-fastest among our top 10 cities, rising 88% to $77,039 from 1999 to 2015. Meanwhile, like most of the places in the top 10, Rincon scored well for family friendliness, with 31% of families with at least one child under 18 and a negligible percentage of families in poverty with a child under 5.
Just down the road from Holly Springs, Woodstock, like its neighbor, was a rail and mill town for much of its past. Today, the city of 27,000 is one of the faster-growing suburbs of Atlanta, increasing in population by more than 160% since 2000. About 30% of the city’s families have children, while just 6% of families with young children live in poverty; with these metrics, it ranks fifth in our analysis for family-friendliness.
Suwanee, like many places in our top 10, started out as a rail stop, but according to the city’s website, growth has taken off since completion of Interstate Highway 85, which runs through its eastern end and extends southwest to Atlanta. The city’s schools, part of Gwinnett County Schools, rank No. 1 in our analysis, with a SchoolDigger score of 95.28. It also ranks second in our analysis for its family-friendliness. Perhaps not coincidentally, Suwanee is the least affordable city in our top 10 and 133rd most affordable overall, with median home value that’s No. 14 and median monthly owner costs that rank at No. 13.
Established in 1908 after the construction of a railroad spurred growth in the area, Kingsland sits on the Atlantic coast just north of the border with Florida. The city of 16,000 scores well in family-friendliness, ranking seventh in our analysis on that measure. For history buffs: Kingsland’s 1.8-acre downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Originally called Kramer but renamed after the city in Germany, Bremen sits about 50 miles west of Atlanta along Interstate Highway 20, just shy of the Alabama border. The city ranks the highest among the top 10 and sixth overall in income growth, with median family income jumping 104% (to $59,914) from 1999 to 2015. Bremen’s schools also score well in our analysis, ranking fourth among all 145 cities. On the downside, the estimated percentage of families living in poverty with a child younger than age 5 is 58% (13th highest), though the overall percentage of residents in poverty, a more general indicator of population income levels, was lower, at about 20%, according to census data. That said, the city’s strength in other metrics helped it score well overall in our analysis.
8. Sugar Hill
Named either because a railcar full of sugar spilled there or because gold was found in nearby hills, Sugar Hill sits about 40 miles northeast of Atlanta along I-85. The city of 20,000 has among the highest-ranked schools in our analysis (6th) with a SchoolDigger score of 87.45. Although it’s a place where 19% of families with a child younger than 5 live in poverty, the data for Sugar Hill is lower in this metric relative to most other places in our analysis.
Just to the east of Sugar Hill and named after the president of the railroad that passed through town, Buford is the most affordable place in our top 10, although it still ranks 97th out of 145 on that measure in our overall analysis. Meanwhile, the city of 13,000 ranks well on both quality of schools (8th) and family-friendliness (16th). Buford is similar to Sugar Hill in poverty levels among families with a child under age 5, and it also scores well overall because the percentage is lower than most of the 145 places in this analysis.
Located about 60 miles northeast of Atlanta along I-85, Jefferson was named after the third U.S. president, who was in office when the city was incorporated in 1806. The city of 10,000 ranks well for its schools (10th) and family-friendliness (15th).
Tips for relocating
- Find financial options, such as a good credit card, to cover expenses while in transition.
- Learn how to lessen the financial burden of moving.
- Assess your priorities to see if you should rent or buy a home.
For resources, check out NerdWallet’s Moving and money: A financial guide for relocating.
Best places for young families in Georgia data
With the exception of school scores, all data are estimates from the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Our analysis excluded 10 places because of missing data. For example, the analysis doesn’t include Macon-Bibb County because there is no median income data available for 1999. Our methodology focused on four factors:
Home affordability. Home affordability, 30% of the total score, was calculated by averaging index scores for median home value and median selected monthly owner costs. The lower the costs, the higher the score.
Growth and prosperity. Growth and prosperity are 20% of the total score. The two metrics involved were growth in family income from 1999 to 2015, and median family income in 2015. Both were weighted equally and positively.
Family friendliness. To measure the degree to which an area is a good place for young families, 30% of our total score, we looked at the percentage of married-couple households with at least one child younger than age 18, and the percentage of families in poverty with at least one child under age 5. (The percentage of families with at least one child was 70% of this score, while the percentage of families in poverty was 30% of the score.)
Educational quality. Using data from SchoolDigger, every place was assigned a score from 0 to 100 for the quality of schools. Education is 20% of the total score.
A previous version of this article misstated the name of the river nearest Evans, Georgia. This article has been corrected.
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