Families who are considering moving to New Jersey have many choices when looking for a place to settle down. But for young families, the options can be more limited as they search for the places with the best schools that are also affordable and come with strong job prospects.
To find the communities in New Jersey that offer the best mix of what young families want, NerdWallet analyzed cities and towns across the state. Here’s what we looked at:
Does the town have good public schools? We measured schools’ academic performance with ratings from GreatSchools. The nonprofit compares a school’s standardized test scores to the state average to obtain a rating, with 10 as the highest ranking. Higher ratings led to a higher overall score.
Can you afford to live there? We looked at median house values in each town and monthly housing 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 past decade. Higher income and stronger growth led to a higher overall score.
Best towns in New Jersey for young families
Sayreville is on the Raritan River, in Middlesex County. The schools here received a 9 out of 10 rating from GreatSchools. Sayreville is known as an industrial town, and it also boasts a developing tech sector and a growing residential population.
Ridgewood is a village in Bergen County, near Manhattan. In 2011, CNNMoney named it the 26th best place to live, thanks in part to steady incomes provided by jobs in the financial services industry. The village’s downtown district features over 50 restaurants.
3. Fair Lawn
Fair Lawn is a suburb of New York City in Bergen County, and the schools here are among the best in New Jersey. In recent years, the state Department of Education named Lyncrest Elementary a Reward School — one of only 57 in the state to earn the distinction — because of schoolwide performance and a high graduation rate.
About 30,000 people live in Westfield, in Union County. Westfield High School sent 95% of its recent graduates to continuing education, and 93% of that group went on to a four-year college or university. Westfield’s downtown district features 40 restaurants, as well as stores and boutiques. Over a third of the shops and restaurants have been in business for the past 25 years.
5. Old Bridge
Old Bridge is in Middlesex County. The county offers 21 parks that total over 6,625 acres of recreational space. Many workers commute to New York City, but there are opportunities here, too, with companies at the area’s 100 business parks.
Bergenfield, a borough in Bergen County, is about 13 miles from Manhattan. In 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek named it the second-best place in the state to raise children. The Washington Post also named Bergenfield Schools among the most challenging in the nation after an analysis of students’ participation in AP courses and performance on exams.
7. Toms River
Toms River is the seat of Ocean County, which features over 50 miles of beaches. Downtown Toms River includes riverboat dining on the River Lady, a 130-passenger boat, and waterfront concerts.
Summit is a city in Union County. The community’s 21,000 residents speak over 35 languages. Its six square miles include parks and fields, a nine-hole golf course and an aquatics center. From May to November, there is also a farmers market at DeForest and Maple.
Somerset is an unincorporated area in Franklin Township. The surrounding area is home to major employers and other workers commute to Manhattan. Top industries are pharmaceuticals, technology and communications. The county also includes 13,000 acres of parks, where residents can play golf, picnic, hike, bike and swim.
10. Cliffside Park
Cliffside Park is a borough in Bergen County. The town is one square mile and home to 23,000 residents. The area has a thriving health care industry. Top employers include Hackensack University Medical Center — a 900-bed research and teaching hospital — and Valley Health Systems.
Best towns in New Jersey for young families data
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|Rank||City||Nearest big city||GreatSchools rating||Median home value||Monthly owner costs||Median household income||Population growth|
|1||Sayreville||New York City||9||$338,900||$2,310||$73,937||25.5%||60.8|
|2||Ridgewood||New York City||9||$702,900||$3,986||$154,348||48.0%||56.9|
|3||Fair Lawn||New York City||8||$419,500||$2,827||$95,725||32.7%||56.3|
|4||Westfield||New York City||9||$649,800||$3,511||$127,658||29.7%||54.3|
|5||Old Bridge||New York City||7||$365,300||$2,491||$95,188||28.9%||54.3|
|6||Bergenfield||New York City||7||$374,700||$2,890||$86,191||38.6%||53.7|
|7||Toms River||New York City||6||$315,500||$2,174||$73,796||32.6%||52.3|
|8||Summit||New York City||9||$758,400||$3,833||$118,565||27.5%||49.8|
|9||Somerset||New York City||4||$337,600||$2,382||$93,589||42.2%||47.0|
|10||Cliffside Park||New York City||5||$421,500||$2,822||$68,780||48.6%||46.8|
The score for each city was derived from the following sources:
- GreatSchools city rating. GreatSchools city ratings are calculated by averaging the overall rating for each school in the city.
- Median home value is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey.
- Monthly homeowner costs are from the 2011 American Community Survey.
- Median household income is from the 2011 American Community Survey.
- Median income change from 1999 to 2011 is from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Our analysis included 46 New Jersey cities and census-designated places. Only places with populations over 20,000 were considered.
A previous version of this article included an incorrect link in the Sayreville description. It has been corrected here.