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The Best Towns in West Virginia for Young Families

Nov. 17, 2013
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West Virginia families buy more than a property when they settle down. They buy into the community and all it offers. With that in mind, we asked the following questions as we analyzed cities and towns across the state to identify the best for young families:

  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 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

1. Bridgeport

Bridgeport is a city in Harrison County, near Morgantown. The schools are excellent, having earned a perfect 10 out of 10 from GreatSchools. Bridgeport High School also boasts the highest attendance rate among Harrison County high schools, at 97.6 percent. For golfing families, just north of the city is the Pete Dye Golf Club, one of the top 50 courses in the country according to Golf Digest.

2. Hurricane

Hurricane is in Putnam County, approximately 25 miles from Charleston. The community is served by Putnam County Schools, whose teachers are among the most educated in the state: 63 percent have a master’s or more, over 10 percent more than the state overall. For fun, residents of Hurricane can enjoy a city park with fishing and picnicking areas, a water park and a skate park.

3. Nitro

Nitro is a city in Kanawha and Putnam Counties, near Charleston and Huntington. A local school, Nitro High, has been recognized by the College Board for having the highest success rates in the state on AP Math and Science. Earlier this month, Nitro celebrated the opening of a new bridge that connects it to St. Albans – a project the president of the Nitro Development Authority called “essential to the future growth of Nitro.”

4. Vienna

Vienna is next to Parkersburg, in Wood County. A local middle school has received much acclaim. In 2000, it was named a National Blue Ribbon School, and, more recently, it has been recognized as a West Virginia Exemplary School in 2000, 2004 and 2006. Recreational spots in town include several parks and a wildlife refuge, a 277-acre space populated by deer, turkey, fox and coyote.

5. Charles Town

Charles Town is the seat of Jefferson County and is located approximately 60 miles from the nation’s capital. The city is one of the fastest growing in the state, with 80.9 percent population growth last decade. The county’s major employers include Clarion Hotel, the National Park Service, Shepherd University and the American Public University System.

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6. Wheeling

Wheeling is the seat of Ohio County, approximately 60 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. Residents here enjoy a low cost of living: out of the 351 metro areas in the country, Wheeling ranks as the 22nd-most affordable. It also boasts the largest trail system in the region – 24 miles that Wheeling residents can walk, jog or cycle.

7. South Charleston

South Charleston sits on the border of Charleston proper, in Kanawha County. Unemployment in the greater metro area is low, at 5.6 percent – Morgantown is the only metropolitan in the state that beats it. For fun, South Charleston residents can enjoy Little Creek Park for hiking, a community center for basketball, racquetball and other sports and Oakes Field, a football and soccer field for local schools, which seats 5,000.

8. Fairmont

Fairmont is the seat of Marion County, and it began as a coal-mining town. Today, the city supports new businesses with a loan program, tax credits and grants. The community is also among the most affordable in the state, with a median home value of $86,400.

9. Sissonville

Sissonville sits along the Pocatalico River, just north of Charleston. The local high school boasts a strong sports program, with a girls soccer team that just earned its second state title. On the weekends, residents also have easy access to hiking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing with Kanawha State Forest just a few miles down the road.

10. Buckhannon

Buckhannon is the seat of Upshur County, approximately 70 miles southwest of Morgantown. In May, the city hosts the Strawberry Festival, which serves strawberry treats to 100,000 visitors and brings in arts-and-crafts exhibits as well as a block party on Main Street. Major employers in town include Alcon, St. Joseph’s Hospital and West Virginia Wesleyan College.

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 Bridgeport Morgantown 10 $190,400 $1,424 $72,721 47.5% 68.3
2 Hurricane Charleston, Huntington 9 $125,800 $1,106 $56,861 43.6% 67.2
3 Nitro Charleston 8 $86,900 $899 $42,102 30.0% 62.1
4 Vienna Parkersburg 9 $115,400 $982 $46,200 17.8% 62.0
5 Charles Town Washington, DC 8 $232,600 $1,840 $62,402 91.8% 61.3
6 Wheeling Pittsburgh, PA 8 $92,000 $924 $34,807 27.1% 59.6
7 South Charleston Charleston 8 $108,300 $941 $43,008 13.5% 57.6
8 Fairmont Morgantown 7 $86,400 $951 $34,643 35.2% 57.5
9 Sissonville Charleston 7 $113,400 $971 $47,730 30.0% 57.4
10 Buckhannon Morgantown 6 $103,500 $935 $35,473 51.5% 56.3
11 Charleston 7 $136,600 $1,145 $46,004 35.3% 55.3
12 Point Pleasant 5 $83,500 $766 $39,698 46.9% 55.2
13 St. Albans Charleston 6 $99,400 $925 $44,323 19.4% 52.3
14 Morgantown 8 $166,100 $1,105 $25,948 25.7% 52.1
15 Princeton 5 $79,000 $840 $29,920 37.7% 51.1


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)

36 West Virginia cities and towns designated as places by the U.S. Census were included in this analysis. Only places with a population greater than 4,000 were considered.

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