When young families settle down, they look for opportunities in the job market and in quality schools for their kids. We wanted to identify the best in Nebraska, and so we asked the following questions as we analyzed 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 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.
- 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.
Gretna is just a few miles southwest of Omaha, and it is the fastest growing community in the state. Its population nearly doubled in size between 2000 and 2010, thanks in part to its proximity to both Omaha and Lincoln. With the roads widening on 370, Gretna expects development will continue in this small city.
Seward is the seat of Seward County, and it is in the Lincoln metro area. Schools in the area are excellent; the public school system boasts a graduation rate of 95.5 percent, nearly 6 percent higher than the state average.
Gothenburg is a small city in the Lexington metro area. The public school system claims two Fulbright Scholars in its ranks, and the district includes 10 computer labs throughout its schools – that is one computer for every three students.
York is the seat of York County and located at the center of the country. Students in York Public Schools have done exceedingly well, having outperformed the state average on both the ACT and the statewide assessment of mathematics, science and reading skills.
Aurora offers many amenities in a comfortable rural setting, including art galleries, parks and a golf course. Students at Aurora’s public schools have also done well; their average composite score on the ACT bests both the state and national averages.
Holdrege is the seat of Phelps County and home to two large manufacturers. BD, which produces medical supplies, is the largest employer in the county. Healthcare and agriculture are also big players in the area.
McCook is on the southwestern border of Nebraska, and it offers a multitude of recreational opportunities to its residents. Nearby state recreation areas comprise 19,000 acres, where locals can hunt and fish.
8. Broken Bow
Broken Bow is the seat of Custer County, and it offers one of the most affordable real estate markets in the country. The median home value is $79,500, about a third of the national average for new homes sold. The surrounding area also offers many recreational opportunities, including a city pool, lakes and several golf courses.
9. Falls City
Falls City is easy on family finances. This small city offers one of the most affordable real estate markets in the entire state, with a median home value of $64,500. The public school system recently saw a boon in funding with a $25,000 grant from the Monsanto Fund. The grant supports an education that combines sophisticated technology with lessons in agriculture.
10. La Vista
La Vista is a suburb of Omaha and it has built up quite a bit in the last 15 years, both in infrastructure and population. Since 1998, the community has platted 900 acres of residential land, 300 acres for commercial property and 800 acres of business parks.
|Rank||City||Nearest big city||GreatSchools rating||Median home value||Monthly owner costs||Median household income||Growth,’99-’11||Overall score for young families|
The overall score for each city was derived from the following measures:
- 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)
- Median home value from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP04, half-weighted)
- Monthly homeowner costs from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP04, half-weighted)
- Median household income from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP03, half-weighted)
- Income change between 1999 and 2011 from the U.S. Census (data sets P053 and DP03, half-weighted)
60 Nebraska cities and areas designated as places by the U.S. Census were included in this analysis. Only places with a population greater than 2,000 were considered.