When young families choose a place to settle down, they look for more than an affordable home. They look for a community that offers them opportunities, both in the job market and at schools. We wanted to find the cities and towns with the best such opportunities in New Hampshire, so we asked the following questions as we analyzed communities 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 average household income and income growth over the last decade. Higher income and greater growth led to a higher overall score.
What makes these towns great? Let us know in the comments below.
The Best Towns for Young Families
Durham is in Strafford County and home to the University of New Hampshire, a research university with nearly 15,000 students on campus. Residents enjoy easy access to the coast – with the beaches of Wallis Sands and kayaking on the Oyster River – as well as a healthy economy. Income in Durham rose by 84.2 percent between 1999 and 2011, the most of any community we studied – and by a significant margin.
Hooksett is located between Manchester and Concord, in Merrimack County, and it is one of the fastest-growing communities in the state. Last decade, its population grew by 14.9 percent – the highest of any community on this list (it beat Durham by a thin margin of 0.2 percent). Big industries in the area include healthcare, with several hospitals in the Lawrence-Methuen-Salem area.
Littleton sits on the northwestern New Hampshire-Vermont border, in Grafton County. After an economic downturn over a decade ago, the vacancy rate downtown is just 2 percent (it used to be 20 percent). An industrial park in town employs over 1,100 people and creates over $35 million in wages.
Hanover sits on the Connecticut River and is home to Dartmouth College. The college is also one of the largest employers in the community and, alongside Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, employs 10,000 people. The community is also a popular skiing spot, with the Dartmouth Skiway in the area. The slopes there stretch 100 skiable acres and include a 968-foot vertical drop.
Like its neighbor Hanover, Lebanon sits on the Connecticut River. The city boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, at 3.1 percent. Most residents have a short commute, too, with over 60 percent of Lebanon residents working within the city limits. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is a major employer in the community as well as a number of high-tech companies and the Norris Cotton Cancer Center – a cancer research and care center with offices in Dartmouth-Hitchcock.
Portsmouth is one of the largest cities in the state and is on the coast – and still includes an active port. The largest employers in the city include Portsmouth Regional Hospital and Liberty Mutual, the insurance company – both of which employ over 1,000 people. Beyond industry, there is a lot going on, too. Earlier this year, the New York Times applauded the community for its wide selection of restaurants, cafes and ice cream parlors.
Newmarket sits on the Great Bay, near Portsmouth and the Atlantic Coast. The community is home to an award-winning elementary school – Newmarket Elementary – which, in 2012, won a Blue Ribbon from the New Hampshire Partners in Education for its volunteer programs. For fun, Newmarket residents can enjoy the Lamprey River, which runs through town and gives locals a place to fish, boat and make their way to the larger Great Bay.
Hampton sits on the Atlantic Coast and within the city limits is Hampton Beach State Park, where locals can swim, fish and picnic. Running along the heart of Downtown Hampton is Route 1. Clustered around it are a library, schools, shops and restaurants. And every winter, floats, bands, entertainers and marchers travel down the road for the Hampton Holiday Parade.
Londonderry is in Rockingham County, just south of Manchester and west of Derry. The community’s median household income is among the highest in the state, at $92,168. For fun, residents can enjoy hiking and cross-country skiing as well as Londonderry’s orchards and farms. A scenic highway, the Apple Way, connects five of the community’s orchards.
Keene is the seat of Cheshire County, in southwestern New Hampshire. Every year, the city hosts Pumpkin Fest, which brings in thousands to carve jack-o-lanterns. In October, the city broke the record for the most carved and lit jack-o-lanterns in one place – edging out Boston – at 30,581 pumpkins.
|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)
40 New Hampshire 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.