When people think of a strong economy and the state of New York, they often think first of the Big Apple. But, for young families in the state, there’s more to consider: high-quality schools for their kids, a low cost of living and good jobs. With that in mind, NerdWallet looked for the best cities and town in New York, using the following metrics:
- Does the city have good public schools? We looked at school quality with the help of GreatSchools. GreatSchools is a well respected nonprofit that rates schools with standardized-test scores. The ratings, offered on a 1 to 10 scale, are calculated by comparing a school’s scores to the state average. Higher ratings led to a higher overall score.
- Can you afford to live there? We looked at homes’ median values and ongoing, monthly home costs, including mortgage payments, real estate taxes, insurance costs, utilities, fuels and other bills. Lower costs led to a higher overall score.
- Is the city growing and prospering? We assessed the local economy of the city through the median household income and income growth over the last decade. A higher income and greater growth led to a higher overall score.
Best cities for young families
1. Saratoga Springs
In Saratoga Springs, there are plenty of golf courses, a racetrack, and natural springs, which offer potable water. For children, this is an idyllic setting, and one where they’ll be raised right: GreatSchools rated the city’s schools a 9 out of 10.
2. West Seneca
West Seneca offers easy access to the city of Buffalo – it’s just south – and cheap living, with homes valued at an average of $126,300 and ongoing monthly costs at $1,314. For low-income families, the town does its best to make living as comfortable as possible, too. Among the government’s services is a Rehabilitation program, which gives homeowners financial assistance for any necessary home repairs.
3. East Meadow
East Meadow, right in the middle of Hempstead, is home to Getty Oil and the U.S. headquarters of Lufthansa and Swiss International Airlines. Among the suburban towns and small cities on the list, East Meadow is also among the most diverse. Families wanting a little more excitement have easy access to NYC, too: it’s just 30 miles away.
Cheektowaga has a strong blue-collar workforce and cheap homes to match. The median home is valued at $96,100 and monthly costs, on average, are $1,173. University life is bustling as well, with three colleges in the area, and there’s natural beauty, too, with greenways and trails. It’s no wonder this place is called the Land of the Crabapple.
Merrick may be among the most expensive cities on the list, but it also boasts superbly high growth: a whopping 44% from 1999 to 2011. More than a great economy, Merokians have the benefit of being close to everything – including the Big Apple – and still secluded enough to maintain a small-town feel, right on Long Island.
In recent years, the community of Tonawanda has proven just how strong they are. When faced with air quality problems in 2009, the community galvanized to find a solution. Since then, air quality has much improved. The benzene that once leaked into the air is now about 90% gone, according to a January study. Resilient community aside, there’s a lot to love in Tonawanda. The homes are cheap, with a median value of $111,500.
Ithaca has continued to grow in the last couple decades, thanks to a vibrant university life – it’s home to an Ivy League – and an expanding high-tech and tourism sector. Quite a few locals are on Cornell University’s payroll, and pay and benefits there are top-notch. The cost of homeownership may be more mid-range and median income a little lower than most, but the city is small enough that you can live in a significantly cheaper suburb, like Newfield, and still be as little as 10 minutes from the big city.
The children of Holbrook are well educated – schools are rated 8 out of 10 – and entertained, too. Holbrook is an active community with events for the holidays and activities for your kids, including an Easter Egg roll, a Memorial Day parade, Halloween, a Menorah lighting and an annual carnival.
9. North Tonawanda
In North Tonawanda, the cost of living is low, with your average home valued at $98,100, and it’s ongoing monthly costs at $1,222. It’s smack in the middle between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, too, which means you have access to a big city and one of the most spectacular sightseeing opportunities in the world.
Smithtown is among the most appealing cities on Long Island. The economy is healthy, with median income double the national average, and a growth rate of 35.82%. The homes may be relatively expensive – the median value is $522,100 – but a quality education comes with it: they’re rated a 9 out of 10 by GreatSchools.
|Rank||Nearest big city||City||GreatSchools rating||Median home value||Monthly owner costs||Median household income||Growth,’99-’11||Overall score for young families|
|1||Albany||Saratoga Springs city||9||$291,800||$1,858||$63,145||39.92%||61.4|
|2||Buffalo||West Seneca CDP||8||$126,300||$1,314||$54,655||18.14%||61.1|
|3||New York City||East Meadow CDP||9||$430,000||$2,946||$91,828||36.68%||55.6|
|9||Buffalo||North Tonawanda city||6||$98,100||$1,222||$46,203||18%||54.1|
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 from the U.S. Census (data sets P053 and DP03, half-weighted)
78 New York cities designated as places by the U.S. Census were included in this analysis. Only places with a population greater than 20,000 were considered.