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The Best Towns in New Mexico for Young Families

Oct. 20, 2013
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We wanted to identify the best towns in New Mexico for young families, so we asked the following questions 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.

Many of the top communities featured below have grown significantly in recent years, and several also feature great outdoor recreation, from hiking to boating.

The Best Towns for Young Families

1. Clayton

Clayton is in northeastern New Mexico, at the intersection of Highways 56, 412, 64 and 87. The community has grown substantially over the last several years. With an 18.1 percent growth rate, its population has expanded at double the rate of the state average.

2. Los Alamos

Los Alamos lies on the Pajarito Plateau and White Rock Canyon. The community is just a 45-minute drive from Santa Fe, one of the largest cities in the state. Within Los Alamos, residents can enjoy a number of recreational spots, from a ski mountain to an aquatic center and a high-altitude golf course.

3. Edgewood

Edgewood is a quickly growing community in the Santa Fe metro area. Incorporated only in 1999, Edgewood was first just a handful of subdivisions, a strip mall and a few shops. Since then, from 2000 to 2010, the town has doubled in size.

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4. Artesia

Artesia is in Eddy County, in southeastern New Mexico. The city includes eight parks, including Jaycee Park, where residents can play softball, baseball, soccer, football, volleyball, tennis, golf and racquetball. Just outside the city is Brantley Lake State Park, where families can fish, water-ski, boat and sail.

5. Rio Rancho

Rio Rancho is the largest city and economic hub of Sandoval County. CNNMoney has named it one of the best places to live twice in the last five years. Hewlett-Packard and Intel, two big employers in the area, have added close to 2,500 jobs in the last few years.

6. Clovis

Clovis is in Curry County, in the eastern part of the state. The Census declared it and neighboring Portales a microplex in 2003, which has helped bring in new businesses. The two cities share a customer base of 50,000 people, and it is considered a retail hub.

7. Portales

Portales is the seat of Roosevelt County, in eastern New Mexico. In addition to being a retail hub, Portales, like its neighbor Clovis,  boasts plenty of recreational opportunities. Within the city are public parks, baseball fields and tennis courts, and just four miles away is Oasis State Park, where residents can picnic, hike, camp and fish.

8. Carlsbad

Carlsbad is the seat of Eddy County, in the southeastern region of the state. The city’s unemployment rate is low, at just 4.6 percent in July 2013. The city is nearby recreational hot spots, too, including Carlsbad Caverns National Park just 18 miles away and the Guadalupe Mountains National Park further southwest.

9. Silver City

Silver City is the seat of Grant County, in southwestern New Mexico. Silver City is one of National Geographic’s “Adventure Towns” because of its great hiking and the close-by Continental Divide Trail, which ascends the Pinos Altos Mountains into the Gila National Forest. In 2009, Phoenix Home & Garden also featured the city because of its two dozen art galleries and studios.

10. Milan

Milan is a suburb of Grants, in Cibola County. The community is growing quickly, having seen 71.6 percent population growth between 2000 and 2010. Homes in the area are very affordable, too, with a median home value of just $63,400.

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 Clayton 9 $86,700 $957 $40,287 57.4% 69.7
2 Los Alamos Santa Fe 10 $308,600 $1,948 $104,336 45.9% 67.0
3 Edgewood Santa Fe 9 $188,900 $1,269 $58,343 37.3% 65.1
4 Artesia Carlsbad, Roswell 7 $110,000 $967 $43,926 48.8% 61.2
5 Rio Rancho Albuquerque 8 $182,300 $1,362 $58,649 24.3% 59.5
6 Clovis 7 $110,400 $1,027 $39,732 37.6% 59.2
7 Portales 7 $95,900 $846 $30,262 22.7% 58.1
8 Carlsbad 6 $90,700 $919 $44,985 46.7% 58.0
9 Silver City 7 $125,400 $860 $29,558 14.2% 56.5
10 Milan Albuquerque 6 $63,400 $699 $31,047 26.0% 56.3


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)

88 New Mexico 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.

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