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The Best Cities in Kentucky for Young Families

Oct. 14, 2013
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Families in the Bluegrass State choose a place to settle down that offers opportunities in the job market and good schools for their kids. With that in mind, we asked the following question as we analyzed cities and towns across the state to find the best for young families:

  1. Does the city 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 city 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 city growing and prospering? We assessed a city’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.

The Best Towns for Young Families

1. Williamsburg

Williamsburg is in southeastern Kentucky, and it is known as the Gateway to the Cumberlands. Running through town is the Cumberland River, and nearby are the Cumberland Falls and Lake Cumberland, where residents can boat and fish. The city itself offers recreational opportunities, too, including several parks and a museum.

2. Union

Union is in northern Kentucky, near Cincinnati. Kentuckians have flocked to the city in the last several years, so much that Union’s population nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010. The community’s crime rate is extremely low, too, at just 1.9 percent – far below the state average.

3. Central City

Central City is the largest city in Muhlenberg County. Just twenty miles away is Lake Malone, where residents can swim, boat, fish and more. According to the Muhlenberg Alliance for Progress, the county is also located at the center of the eastern United States’ industrial and consumer markets.

4. Buckner

Buckner is in Oldham County, and it is home to excellent schools. Oldham County School District is a Kentucky District of Distinction, a designation given to schools with overall performance at the 95th percentile or higher. Several schools in the district are also National Blue Ribbon Schools.

5. Fort Mitchell

Fort Mitchell is on the northern edge of Kentucky, in the Cincinnati metro area. Beechwood High School is especially distinguished. It was just awarded a National Blue Ribbon, and it regularly makes top-schools lists from Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report.

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6. Versailles

Versailles is the seat of Woodford County and is part of the Lexington-Fayette metropolitan area. The city is distinguished by its success at the races. Some of the most famous horse farms in the Bluegrass Region are in Versailles, and many of them are home to winners of the Kentucky Derby.

7. Alexandria

Alexandria is in Campbell County and just twenty minutes from Cincinnati. The county offers the most navigable waterway of any other county in the state and hundreds of acres for fishing. It is also home to one of the best healthcare facilities in the nation, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, which has been recognized by publications like U.S. News & World Report.

8. Maysville

Maysville rests on the Ohio River, in Mason County. The city supports the fine arts, with several galleries in town, antiques and crafts and a 500-seat theatre. On the weekends, residents can also golf, bike and even zip-line.

9. Burlington

Burlington is the seat of Boone County. The local school district is top-notch. Last year, on the ACT, graduating seniors bested the national average with a composite score of 21.3.

10. Monticello

Monticello is the seat of Wayne County, near Lake Cumberland. With its proximity to the lake and the various houseboat manufacturers in the area, the county has become known as the Houseboat Manufacturing Capital of the World. In addition to boating, the landscape in Monticello and Wayne County gives residents a place to camp, hike and more.

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 Williamsburg 8 $72,100 $894 $26,868 48.3% 72.2
2 Union Cincinnati, OH 9 $243,800 $1,800 $103,750 21.4% 67.5
3 Central City Madisonville 7 $79,800 $785 $38,376 40.2% 67.4
4 Buckner Louisville 8 $296,600 $2,077 $114,618 40.6% 67.2
5 Fort Mitchell Cincinnati, OH 8 $194,900 $1,457 $60,084 29.7% 64.4
6 Versailles Lexington 8 $129,000 $1,091 $43,086 22.9% 64.3
7 Alexandria Cincinnati, OH 8 $160,000 $1,385 $67,778 22.3% 64.2
8 Maysville 7 $101,800 $896 $36,429 31.0% 63.5
9 Burlington Cincinnati, OH 7 $170,200 $1,372 $71,237 25.4% 61.2
10 Monticello 6 $78,400 $768 $23,958 37.5% 61.2


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)

82 Kentucky 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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