(A 2015 version of this study can be found here.)
Georgia has it all: mountains, beaches and one of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S.
But which areas are the best to raise a family? NerdWallet asked the following questions to find the best cities and towns across the state:
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.
Can you afford to live there? We looked at both median home values in each town and monthly home costs, including mortgage payments, taxes, insurance costs, utilities, fuel and other bills. Lower costs led to a higher overall score.
Is the town growing and prospering? We assessed a town’s economy by looking at median annual household income and income growth over the past decade. Higher income and stronger growth led to a higher overall score.
The best towns in Georgia for young families
Residents of Evans enjoy a vibrant downtown area, family-friendly festivals and an exciting urban life as a suburb of Augusta. In April, the Masters Tournament comes to the city, drawing over 250,000 golf fans. Year round, too, the economy is strong, thanks in part to a growing health care industry and research center. Georgia Regents University, for example, maintains a business incubator to help health care researchers develop their ideas and entrepreneurship.
2. Peachtree City
Peachtree City is known for its educational opportunities — for both children and adults. Most every one of its public schools earned a perfect score at GreatSchools, including McIntosh High School and Peachtree City Elementary, both of which the U.S. Department of Education has honored as National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence. Apart from a standout educational system, Peachtree City is also distinguished by a love of golf carts. About 9,000 households own one, and nearly 100 miles of golf-cart paths wind across town.
3. Sugar Hill
Sugar Hill stands out for its superb educational system, unique location and recreational opportunities. Sugar Hill’s schools earned a near-perfect rating from GreatSchools and it’s no surprise why. North Gwinnett Middle has been honored for outperforming the entire state of Georgia on the Grade 8 Writing Assessment test. There’s plenty of fun in this small city, too. It’s only about a 10-minute drive to the Lake Lanier, which offers an island resort and a lakeside campground.
The city of Perry is nicknamed the “Crossroads of Georgia.” Perry’s biggest industry is tourism, which includes places like the award-winning Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter. In the past decade, the tourism industry has grown over 22% — more than any other industry — and has helped support this small city of 13,000 people.
5. St. Simons
Georgians looking for work-play balance need to look no further than St. Simons. This island community is known for its pleasant climate and natural beauty. The schools here are fantastic, too. One elementary school, Oglethorpe Point, was recognized by the Georgia Department of Education for being among the top 10% in the state, while St. Simons Elementary was recognized for making the greatest gains.
Suwanee is distinguished by an outstanding school system. The city earned a perfect 10 at GreatSchools and was recognized by the Department of Education with an Advanced Placement Honors award for the North Gwinnett High School. Beyond its strong schools, Suwanee attracts young families with its abundance of city parks. The most popular is Town Center Park, a 10-acre space with an amphitheater and fountain.
Business is booming in Alpharetta. The technology industry, in particular, has done well here, with seven of metro Atlanta’s top 25 tech employers calling this city home. This city is just minutes away from the world’s busiest airport and Atlanta’s best research universities. The surrounding community, too, benefits from Alpharetta’s success: the city’s businesses employ over 120,000 people, over double the city’s population.
Martinez is a fantastic place for the adventurous Georgian family. Augusta Canal, with its 15.5-mile trail, begins here. To accommodate its growing population in recent years, Martinez demolished one of its elementary schools to re-build a bigger one.
Low home prices, easy access to major highways and a small-town atmosphere all prompt Georgians to settle in the town of Buford, which is about 35 miles north of Atlanta. The city supports a strong creative community, with an artist colony of painters, sculptors and more that ensure a steady stream of gallery openings, shows and other cultural events.
Fayetteville is a town with a sense of history just a short drive from Atlanta. The city’s courthouse is the oldest surviving facility in the state and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. To celebrate the building’s endurance, Fayetteville hosts the Annual Fayette Fine Art Show in May as well as several other cultural events throughout the year. The schools, too, are excellent. Fayette County High’s debate team regularly outperforms its competitors; since 1988, they’ve won nearly every regional championship.
The best towns in Georgia for young families
Scroll right for full data.
|Rank||City||Nearest big city||GreatSchools rating||Median home value||Monthly owner costs||Median household income||Growth,'99-'11||Overall score for young families|
|3||Sugar Hill||Duluth, Atlanta||9||$182,500||$1,636||$72,941||22.6%||67.2|
|4||Perry||Warner Robins, Macon||7||$135,200||$1,184||$49,976||59.1%||66.4|
The overall score for each city was derived from the following measures:
- 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.
- Median home value is from the 2011 American Community Survey, a division of the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Monthly homeowner costs are from the 2011 American Community Survey.
- Median annual household income is from the 2011 American Community Survey.
- Income change from 1999 to 2011 is from the U.S. Census Bureau.
This analysis of 96 Georgia cities and towns considered places with a population over 10,000.
Image via iStock.