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The Best Towns in Michigan for Young Families

Sept. 17, 2013
Best Towns in Michigan for Young Families
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Michigan is home to some of the Midwest’s most spectacular sights. The Great Lakes are here, and the coastline is the continental United States’ longest, at 3,288 miles – there is a reason young families come to visit every summer.

Families settle down here, however, for more, including quality schools. With that in mind, we asked the following as we analyzed cities and towns 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.

The Best Towns for Young Families

1. Troy

Troy is an affluent community just a half-hour’s drive north of Detroit. Education here is phenomenal. Not just one but in fact all of the district’s schools have earned a Blue Ribbon from the Department of Education. That’s a grade-A education from kindergarten to senior year of high school.

2. Portage

Portage calls itself a Natural Place to Move: 17 parks spot this 32.2-square mile city as well as 900 acres of protected land. Portage is a great place to move for its schools, too. The Portage district earned a near-perfect rating from GreatSchools.

3. Rochester Hills

Rochester Hills is an affluent community in Oakland County. The city is home to two universities, and both do their fair share to support the surrounding community. Oakland University, for example, maintains a lifelong-learning program which brings guest lecturers and more for older residents in the area .

4. Royal Oak

Royal Oak supports a vibrant arts scene. The city arts commission just brought back its summer concert series, Art Explored “Live”, which features local bands on the Royal Oak Library Lawn. Meanwhile, the Royal Oak Music Theatre and Landmark Theaters bring acclaimed international artists and independent films to town.

5. Novi

Residents of Novi have demonstrated a strong commitment to their community, including to the city’s natural spaces. The local library loans out meters that give every Novi family the ability to measure their household’s electricity usage. In 2005, the people of Novi signed a petition that successfully brought 14.7 acres of wetlands and woodlands under the protection of the city government.

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6. Midland

Midland is in the Great Lakes Bay Region, just east of Bay City and Saginaw. The schools here are excellent, having been rated a 9 out of 10 by GreatSchools. In the 2007-2008 school year, 100% of the Midland School District’s teachers were rated as “highly qualified” by the state government. The district’s graduation rate has been as high as 98%.

7. Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor is a big college town, home to the University of Michigan, which employs over 27,000 county residents and stimulates the economy with football games every fall. High-tech research and development, in particular, has thrived in the city.

8. East Lansing

East Lansing is known for its great educational opportunities. Michigan State University calls the city home as do nine public schools. The city is affordable, too, with a cost of living 15.6% below the national average.

9. Livonia

Livonia is a suburb of Detroit, and it is also a large community of its own right, as the ninth-largest city in the state. Livonia also claims the second-most parks and nature preserves in Michigan.

10. Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant is at the center of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, where residents can enjoy the many lakes, rivers and forests around town. The Chippewa River, for example, conjoins five of the city’s parks and gives residents a place to tube, kayak and canoe. The city is also home to Central Michigan University.


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 Troy Detroit 10 $237,000 $2,002 $85,946 10.8% 73.7
2 Portage Kalamazoo 9 $155,900 $1,408 $56,330 14.0% 72.5
3 Rochester Hills Detroit 10 $226,400 $1,987 $79,009 5.5% 71.1
4 Royal Oak Detroit 8 $167,000 $1,526 $62,495 19.6% 70.5
5 Novi Detroit 10 $250,200 $2,131 $76,561 6.5% 70.2
6 Midland 9 $140,100 $1,246 $50,203 3.6% 68.8
7 Ann Arbor 9 $234,900 $1,906 $53,377 15.3% 68.5
8 East Lansing Lansing 9 $186,200 $1,705 $31,694 12.3% 67.8
9 Livonia Detroit 8 $171,000 $1,552 $69,887 10.9% 67.4
10 Mount Pleasant 7 $130,600 $1,209 $28,020 14.0% 63.2


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)

106 Michigan 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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