Best Cities for Young Families in Illinois

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Best Cities for Young Families in Illinois

Chicago is the economic powerhouse of Illinois — a whopping 82% of the state’s GDP flows from the Chicago region — but young families face major challenges finding a place to live here. Housing costs are high, and even though schools have improved, there still are issues. While Chicago may effectively be the capital of the Midwest, NerdWallet’s second analysis of over 200 cities, towns and census-designated places in Illinois revealed that young families who look outside the city will find good schools, neighborhoods with kids and affordable housing.

Our analysis revealed some trends:

  • Small towns dominate. Eight of the top 10 cities on our list have populations less than 25,000.
  • Affordability matters. Only three cities in top 10 have median home prices at the high end. This means families can find a mix of affordability and good schools — of the seven less expensive cities, the average GreatSchools ranking is 8 out of 10.
  • Chicagoland communities. Eight of the top 10 cities are near Chicago, giving this year’s list one more top-ranked Chicagoland community compared with our last top 10 list.

NerdWallet’s analysis considers several factors:

Home affordability. We looked at median home value and selected monthly homeowner costs to prioritize affordable communities.

Prosperity and growth. Looking at current and past family incomes, we calculated the income of residents, as well as the projected long-term growth of each city.

Quality of education. We looked at ratings at GreatSchools.org to find the best schools.

Family friendliness. This year, we added a new component to our methodology — the percentage of families with school-age children and the poverty rate for young children. This measure helps determine if an area is not only affordable for families, but if it is also a healthy one for children.

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NerdWallet crunched the data for 220 places in Illinois — cities, towns and census-designated places. Only places with over 10,000 residents were analyzed. To see the full data set, click here.

Best cities for young families in Illinois

1. Lake Zurich

Lake Zurich is 38 miles northwest of the Chicago Loop, but between the town center, which is right on Lake Zurich, and the adjacent Cuba Marsh Forest Preserve, which offers 782 acres for cycling, cross-country skiing and hiking, it can feel more like the Swiss Alps than suburban Chicago. Mayor Tom Poynton has boosted the town’s cultural and social opportunities in the past two years with a series of community events, including a weekly farmers market, the Rock the Block downtown block party and the Lake Zurich Craft Beer Fest. In addition to its picturesque surroundings, Lake Zurich has exceptional schools: it is one of two cities in the top 10 that scored a perfect 10 rating at GreatSchools. At Lake Zurich High School, 76% of students meet or exceed ACT college readiness benchmarks, far outpacing the state average of 46%, according to IllinoisReportCard.com. Although median home values are the second highest on our list, the median family income is higher, too, helping make Lake Zurich a good value for the price.

2. Chatham

The highest-rated town outside the Chicago metropolitan region, Chatham is on the banks of Lake Springfield, just south of the capital. Chatham is a more affordable option for families, with the lowest median home value in the top 10,at $168,700. Even though its economic opportunities are closely linked to nearby Springfield, the annual Sweetcorn Festival, which includes the Illinois Championship Cow Chip Throw, helps Chatham keep its small town identity.

3. Cary

Cary is 45 miles northwest of Chicago, in the Fox River Valley, and for commuters, it is just over a one-hour train ride on the Metra to downtown Chicago. Cary’s location offers access to outdoor recreation — Hollows Conservation Area, Three Oaks Recreation Area and Fox Bluff Conservation Area all sit within the town’s borders. Cary is home to community events, too, and this past year brought the inaugural Cary Main Street Fest, a two-day concert series, which mirrors the successful formula of Chicago neighborhood festivals. Cary is positioning itself as a haven for young families with its recent push to implement a 20-year economic development plan. As well, Cary could become a magnet for families if plans go forward to develop and make the area around the Metra station more walkable.

4. Minooka

Minooka, with 10,931 residents, is the smallest city in the top 10, but its size and array of activities for everyone in the family make it an appealing place for young couples that want to connect and engage in their community. The city has our list’s second-highest percentage, behind Western Springs, of families with children under 18. This historic railroad town about 50 miles southwest of Chicago offers an ideal combination of affordability — it has the third-lowest median home value in our top 10 — and education, with schools that were rated 8 out of 10 at GreatSchools.

5. Lindenhurst

With cross-country skiing in the winter and playing on the town’s two beaches in the summer, Lindenhurst is a year-round destination for active families. Located in the heart of the Lake County Forest Preserves, the town has 19 parks to serve its population of 14,450 — or one park for every 760 residents. Lindenhurst is also more affordable than Lake Zurich, the other Lake County city in the top 10, with a median home value nearly a third cheaper than its neighbor in the south.

6. Oswego

Oswego, also on the Fox River, is 50 miles west of Chicago, near Aurora and Naperville. This city has become an own economic entity with a tenfold population growth in recent decades from 3,875 in 1990 to 31,036. The boom shows no signs of slowing: Oswego’s population is expected to reach 69,000 by 2040, according to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Despite this exponential growth, the city maintains a sense of community with events such as Wine on the Fox, PrairieFest weekend celebration and Brew at the Bridge craft beer festival.

7. South Elgin

South Elgin, another community on the Fox River, is located in Kane County, about an hour northwest of Chicago. The South Elgin Economic Development Council has brought businesses and retailers, including Best Buy and Home Depot, to the village and families have followed. Community events such as the Riverfest Express weekend and attractions like the Fox River Trolley Museum, which offers rides on vintage trolleys, have historically been a big draw for young families. But new planned developments — a marina, river walk and pedestrian bridges over the Fox River and bike paths — could make South Elgin an even bigger draw in the future.

8. Morton

Morton, which produces over 80% of the world’s canned pumpkin, is the other city on our list outside the Chicago region. Morton had the largest median income growth, 58%, in our top 10 from 1999 to 2013. With its location between Peoria and Bloomington-Normal, Morton’s prosperity has been boosted by its proximity to the headquarters of Fortune 500 companies such as State Farm and Caterpillar. And yet, Morton still offers a winning combination of affordability and good schools: the town has a GreatSchools rating of 9, and with only 20% of residents’ median monthly income going toward housing costs, it has the most affordable housing in the top 10.

9. Western Springs

The closest city in the top 10 to Chicago, Western Springs is home to the highest median income on our list. Here the higher monthly housing costs are offset by an exceptional school district — it is the only other city in our top 10 that earned a perfect 10 rating at GreatSchools. Even though it is geographically close to Chicago, Western Springs works to maintain its own identity, with organizations such as the Village Club of Western Springs, a 115-year-old group that helps put on community and family events throughout the year.

10. New Lenox

New Lenox is 42 miles southwest of Chicago, or just over an hour to Chicago’s La Salle Station on the Merta. Much like Oswego, the population of New Lenox is expected to more than double by 2040, to about 68,000 residents, according to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Even with the expected growth, New Lenox will likely continue to appeal to active families. The Hickory Creek Barrens Nature Preserve, the centerpiece of the Forest Preserve District of Will County, has access for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing and fishing. As well, the Old Plank Road Trail, a 22-mile paved path, goes right through New Lenox. There are also cultural options, including the New Lenox Triple Play annual concert series.

Check out this map of our top 10 places for young families in Illinois. Click on each icon to see the place’s overall score.

 

Best cities for young families in Illinois full data set

Rank Name GreatSchools Score Median home value  Family income growth 1999-2013  Median family income in 2013 Percent of residents married with children Young families score
1 Lake Zurich 10 $322,600 43.82% $120,986 38.00% 71.14
2 Chatham 8 $168,700 43.45% $86,571 35.70% 70.67
3 Cary 9 $232,700 37.46% $105,567 36.60% 69.72
4 Minooka 8 $204,300 19.87% $90,199 42.40% 68.88
5 Lindenhurst 8 $217,900 36.23% $101,954 38.20% 68.78
6 Oswego 8 $234,400 44.35% $103,214 38.90% 68.50
7 South Elgin 7 $210,200 46.95% $98,929 38.20% 68.29
8 Morton 9 $176,800 58.25% $85,247 25.40% 67.53
9 Western Springs 10 $528,800 52.82% $151,105 43.00% 67.26
10 New Lenox 8 $280,200 52.71% $103,378 38.60% 67.25
11 Antioch 7 $218,800 71.60% $96,924 37.00% 67.19
12 Plainfield 7 $295,300 42.89% $115,456 44.50% 67.17
13 Frankfort 9 $357,400 49.52% $124,180 38.80% 67.17
14 Waterloo 8 $184,300 75.62% $82,432 26.30% 66.86
15 Edwardsville 9 $185,400 82.59% $92,976 23.50% 66.82
16 Lake in the Hills 8 $209,800 26.37% $92,644 35.90% 66.34
17 Vernon Hills 9 $316,100 50.35% $107,194 34.80% 66.28
18 Channahon 7 $206,600 25.82% $90,579 38.10% 66.13
19 Bartlett 8 $272,200 30.83% $104,295 37.50% 65.88
20 Washington 7 $165,100 59.43% $83,239 30.20% 65.82
21 Shiloh 8 $208,700 80.23% $103,980 24.40% 65.58
22 Glen Carbon 9 $201,500 68.64% $94,171 26.10% 65.48
23 Grayslake 9 $231,900 39.35% $101,927 33.30% 65.46
24 Naperville 9 $377,400 40.88% $125,058 36.20% 65.25
25 Algonquin 8 $253,700 42.91% $113,939 33.60% 65.23
26 Elmhurst 10 $366,600 64.33% $114,689 31.50% 65.14
27 Montgomery 6 $186,700 59.39% $81,335 36.80% 64.94
28 Crystal Lake 8 $209,000 37.25% $91,779 31.10% 64.44
29 Lemont 9 $349,000 43.16% $101,018 33.00% 64.11
30 Deerfield 10 $494,000 50.43% $161,250 35.50% 63.65
31 Yorkville 6 $234,100 49.18% $90,089 38.00% 63.60
32 St. Charles 10 $279,600 50.52% $104,500 25.30% 63.45
33 Batavia 9 $278,000 58.10% $108,548 29.70% 63.44
34 Troy 7 $171,900 66.86% $89,636 25.00% 63.03
35 La Grange 10 $437,600 52.83% $122,786 34.00% 63.01
36 Buffalo Grove 9 $304,100 37.79% $110,956 29.20% 62.67
37 Hoffman Estates 8 $261,000 40.51% $92,649 28.50% 62.10
38 Huntley 9 $228,200 47.30% $89,053 25.20% 62.01
39 Libertyville 10 $407,300 49.78% $133,050 27.30% 62.00
40 Lockport 7 $217,000 51.39% $89,594 30.40% 61.95
41 Arlington Heights 10 $325,200 43.96% $97,617 25.50% 61.92
42 Downers Grove 9 $337,800 66.26% $108,962 25.00% 61.69
43 Wheaton 9 $338,500 53.72% $112,807 27.40% 61.67
44 Shorewood 7 $230,500 24.52% $95,680 35.40% 61.50
45 Normal town, Illinois 7 $160,100 115.09% $86,851 19.10% 61.45
46 Wauconda 7 $215,000 48.67% $85,938 30.30% 61.44
47 Geneva 9 $314,100 40.07% $108,275 28.70% 61.37
48 Roscoe 8 $165,400 28.24% $76,002 28.40% 61.29
49 North Aurora 6 $243,300 56.80% $91,815 31.60% 61.25
50 Glen Ellyn 9 $385,100 64.52% $123,135 28.60% 61.09
51 Schaumburg 9 $243,500 40.65% $85,712 22.40% 60.77
52 Round Lake Beach 5 $144,600 10.31% $65,479 40.00% 60.76
53 Warrenville 7 $208,900 39.06% $86,813 24.80% 60.21
54 Homewood 7 $180,100 53.95% $88,077 22.80% 60.20
55 Roselle 8 $251,600 31.77% $85,988 27.40% 60.02
56 Carol Stream 8 $237,700 39.22% $90,343 26.10% 59.89
57 Mount Prospect 8 $296,300 49.08% $85,223 28.20% 59.88
58 Bloomington 6 $161,000 81.49% $84,385 20.70% 59.82
59 Gurnee 7 $262,300 34.69% $102,016 29.50% 59.81
60 Sycamore 7 $174,600 58.92% $82,514 22.60% 59.48
61 Mundelein 7 $237,100 29.63% $90,288 30.90% 59.29
62 Tinley Park 7 $233,000 47.66% $91,027 26.40% 59.27
63 La Grange Park 8 $326,200 65.81% $97,692 25.40% 59.25
64 Romeoville 4 $174,800 21.99% $74,094 35.80% 59.16
65 Morris 7 $190,200 61.39% $72,204 23.40% 59.10
66 Barrington 10 $462,900 57.66% $130,991 32.50% 59.05
67 Northbrook 10 $511,600 42.49% $136,310 29.70% 58.99
68 Oak Park 9 $358,800 85.49% $109,780 23.60% 58.98
69 Rolling Meadows 8 $238,900 23.39% $73,461 25.30% 58.67
70 Champaign 6 $149,500 121.61% $72,677 14.30% 58.53
71 Plano 5 $136,900 40.52% $65,378 31.70% 58.49
72 McHenry 6 $188,600 42.97% $79,717 26.90% 58.35
73 Hickory Hills 9 $228,600 5.87% $57,993 25.40% 58.28
74 Streamwood 5 $190,500 24.11% $80,767 30.20% 58.12
75 Hanover Park 6 $185,300 14.88% $70,488 32.60% 57.98
76 Round Lake 4 $186,600 43.35% $83,217 34.00% 57.86
77 Palatine 8 $277,700 40.27% $88,820 24.90% 57.77
78 Morton Grove 9 $303,500 32.36% $84,066 23.80% 57.75
79 Glenview 9 $474,500 52.32% $122,967 28.00% 57.75
80 River Forest 9 $568,900 76.96% $158,000 30.50% 57.74
81 Lisle 9 $320,800 55.28% $102,209 20.80% 57.69
82 Prospect Heights 9 $275,900 16.63% $64,892 24.40% 57.63
83 Bourbonnais 6 $173,800 51.10% $74,535 23.80% 57.61
84 Mokena 6 $290,100 45.05% $108,360 29.80% 57.61
85 Effingham 6 $112,100 70.03% $59,103 18.60% 57.56
86 Evergreen Park 6 $197,300 54.59% $82,727 22.10% 57.40
87 Bolingbrook 5 $216,500 26.12% $85,573 34.40% 57.29
88 Aurora 5 $181,500 29.37% $70,971 32.10% 57.10
89 Oak Forest 6 $203,900 37.10% $82,363 25.90% 56.98
90 Woodridge 7 $262,400 50.98% $93,523 24.20% 56.94
91 Park Ridge 9 $401,700 45.43% $106,390 25.90% 56.53
92 Lombard 7 $241,700 44.53% $86,739 20.50% 56.50
93 Pontiac 5 $99,600 57.15% $59,079 17.80% 56.13
94 Evanston 8 $353,200 89.71% $106,871 19.60% 56.12
95 Orland Park 8 $279,700 45.08% $98,039 22.10% 56.08
96 Darien 8 $303,900 24.76% $93,364 20.20% 55.98
97 Charleston 7 $95,800 118.34% $52,708 11.30% 55.78
98 Belvidere 5 $117,900 33.11% $56,611 29.10% 55.75
99 West Chicago 5 $232,600 12.08% $71,084 37.50% 55.40
100 Wilmette 9 $626,500 45.81% $155,688 33.70% 55.35
101 Moline 5 $113,300 56.64% $61,659 17.70% 55.21
102 Bradley 6 $134,300 46.85% $61,319 18.80% 55.20
103 Fairview Heights 5 $132,300 51.35% $74,361 16.90% 55.14
104 Joliet 4 $171,700 49.62% $71,459 29.60% 54.87
105 Villa Park 6 $237,600 41.94% $79,070 25.30% 54.86
106 Macomb 7 $96,800 92.02% $49,913 11.60% 54.86
107 Fox Lake 7 $169,000 47.10% $68,472 18.10% 54.73
108 Palos Hills 8 $212,700 31.61% $68,872 17.00% 54.71
109 Carbondale 7 $114,800 161.79% $41,577 7.30% 54.69
110 Bridgeview 6 $173,900 43.68% $60,452 22.70% 54.43
111 Burbank 5 $191,600 27.84% $63,140 28.50% 54.31
112 Brookfield 5 $240,300 62.33% $85,444 22.50% 54.30
113 Peru 6 $118,900 72.53% $63,940 15.10% 54.26
114 Dixon 5 $94,500 60.20% $57,222 15.00% 53.89
115 Canton 4 $82,700 79.57% $55,685 15.50% 53.83
116 Elk Grove Village 7 $266,900 38.32% $85,944 21.40% 53.76
117 Belleville 5 $104,100 72.96% $62,230 14.80% 53.67
118 Taylorville 6 $82,100 67.43% $57,319 14.00% 53.66
119 Skokie 8 $292,200 32.82% $76,205 22.00% 53.58
120 Glendale Heights 5 $186,600 23.54% $69,532 26.30% 53.50
121 Carpentersville 4 $165,400 3.20% $56,269 32.20% 53.32
122 Woodstock 6 $182,600 38.74% $66,414 22.80% 53.26
123 Loves Park 4 $118,300 32.50% $59,942 20.80% 53.14
124 Des Plaines 6 $242,700 46.39% $78,519 21.80% 52.89
125 Westchester 6 $237,200 39.54% $82,226 18.10% 52.89
126 Lincolnwood 8 $369,600 47.99% $105,417 22.50% 52.83
127 Kewanee 4 $62,300 58.92% $47,510 15.10% 52.83
128 Worth 5 $179,800 46.08% $62,409 21.10% 52.61
129 Westmont 7 $274,800 47.78% $75,993 20.20% 52.60
130 Wheeling 6 $193,100 18.56% $65,791 22.30% 52.52
131 Quincy 4 $97,500 75.89% $54,450 16.80% 52.51
132 Mattoon 5 $77,900 47.10% $46,778 13.70% 52.13
133 Sterling 5 $84,700 30.02% $48,971 16.30% 52.02
134 Elgin 4 $178,900 27.04% $66,831 28.10% 52.00
135 Wood Dale 6 $232,400 21.72% $70,000 24.80% 51.97
136 Marion 6 $102,700 80.43% $54,786 12.50% 51.94
137 Machesney Park 5 $118,600 22.53% $59,202 19.00% 51.90
138 Jacksonville 5 $89,200 70.13% $56,343 12.90% 51.89
139 East Peoria 4 $129,700 60.97% $66,863 17.50% 51.88
140 Oak Lawn 5 $201,800 53.39% $72,989 21.40% 51.85
141 Bloomingdale 8 $278,900 27.50% $85,888 17.70% 51.81
142 Crestwood 3 $160,200 59.18% $72,923 18.30% 51.75
143 Norridge 7 $256,800 39.39% $66,609 17.60% 51.56
144 Herrin 4 $78,100 78.14% $50,828 18.90% 51.41
145 Highland Park 8 $511,100 36.81% $138,133 27.30% 51.11
146 Elmwood Park 6 $228,300 40.17% $66,321 19.30% 50.97
147 Zion 3 $144,000 34.49% $61,493 23.80% 50.81
148 Northlake 3 $173,100 29.32% $62,601 28.00% 50.66
149 Palos Heights 6 $288,200 40.11% $97,949 17.30% 50.62
150 Niles 7 $273,500 33.16% $64,750 18.00% 50.33
151 Beach Park 2 $170,500 32.41% $74,882 25.20% 50.27
152 Ottawa 5 $133,900 62.29% $59,256 17.40% 50.24
153 Midlothian 3 $159,300 35.86% $67,929 22.60% 50.22
154 Pekin 4 $99,100 44.57% $54,896 16.30% 50.13
155 Swansea 4 $166,900 63.28% $81,396 19.30% 50.00
156 Alsip 5 $170,900 33.70% $64,125 19.90% 49.91
157 Lyons 4 $177,400 38.10% $61,185 19.20% 49.76
158 Collinsville 5 $120,900 49.30% $63,232 13.70% 49.60
159 Cicero town, Illinois 2 $157,200 22.17% $46,479 34.90% 49.56
160 East Moline 3 $109,600 48.19% $53,106 16.80% 49.40
161 Springfield 4 $116,900 66.91% $65,741 13.30% 49.38
162 Forest Park 7 $230,600 52.92% $67,442 10.30% 49.37
163 Godfrey 2 $142,900 40.28% $70,622 18.00% 49.29
164 Matteson 3 $167,500 40.65% $83,802 19.20% 49.17
165 Franklin Park 5 $190,100 37.56% $64,226 22.50% 48.95
166 Crest Hill 4 $160,200 44.98% $65,693 15.80% 48.50
167 Peoria 4 $122,100 69.17% $61,573 14.00% 48.47
168 Melrose Park 4 $188,100 20.72% $49,118 27.10% 48.13
169 Schiller Park 5 $202,000 28.36% $53,378 22.50% 48.07
170 Summit 3 $175,500 32.40% $50,485 28.00% 47.92
171 Bensenville 5 $225,800 14.45% $62,563 23.10% 47.71
172 Addison 4 $238,100 14.34% $61,844 25.60% 47.34
173 Granite City 3 $82,300 54.83% $55,142 12.30% 47.25
174 River Grove 6 $195,400 44.28% $57,784 18.60% 47.19
175 Lincoln 5 $90,700 59.78% $55,021 13.70% 47.18
176 Rock Island 3 $98,900 58.59% $55,075 13.20% 46.94
177 Urbana 4 $149,600 112.44% $59,099 8.70% 46.68
178 Lansing 4 $137,500 30.88% $62,241 16.70% 46.51
179 Burr Ridge 9 $664,700 19.07% $154,199 23.30% 46.47
180 Streator 4 $80,400 44.68% $49,000 14.60% 46.45
181 Galesburg 4 $73,500 45.12% $46,420 10.10% 46.37
182 Wood River 3 $88,500 73.73% $58,851 13.60% 46.24
183 Centralia 4 $64,700 44.90% $46,229 9.40% 45.95
184 Berwyn 3 $189,000 39.10% $60,970 22.20% 45.90
185 Mount Vernon 4 $76,600 62.71% $45,794 11.60% 45.79
186 South Holland 3 $160,100 19.67% $72,096 16.80% 45.57
187 Waukegan 2 $143,800 22.62% $51,911 26.10% 45.56
188 Justice 3 $188,800 19.53% $60,069 19.00% 45.53
189 Decatur 3 $81,800 51.32% $50,105 11.20% 45.33
190 Park Forest 3 $90,100 18.66% $56,459 12.80% 45.03
191 Alton 3 $84,600 36.89% $42,729 13.60% 44.72
192 Chicago Heights 2 $118,100 33.74% $49,426 18.50% 43.99
193 Freeport 3 $78,500 35.56% $47,988 10.90% 43.71
194 North Chicago 1 $123,900 20.04% $45,830 24.90% 43.44
195 Blue Island 2 $134,000 34.54% $49,134 18.70% 43.40
196 DeKalb 3 $165,500 69.75% $59,671 16.80% 43.35
197 Richton Park 3 $161,500 39.11% $67,191 9.90% 43.33
198 Rockford 3 $102,200 25.82% $47,393 14.90% 43.27
199 Chicago Ridge 4 $158,300 12.19% $49,477 18.50% 43.15
200 Chicago 5 $233,200 40.23% $54,163 14.30% 43.06
201 Sauk Village 1 $85,600 8.21% $50,554 15.10% 42.88
202 Rantoul 2 $81,700 21.41% $44,806 14.80% 42.65
203 Country Club Hills 2 $149,400 11.44% $64,302 15.10% 42.33
204 Kankakee 3 $99,000 26.03% $38,400 14.40% 41.44
205 Hazel Crest 2 $127,200 16.69% $59,015 12.60% 40.39
206 Bellwood 2 $140,200 8.88% $57,551 16.00% 40.29
207 Danville 2 $65,600 43.29% $43,606 9.90% 40.26
208 Calumet City 2 $111,500 22.84% $47,788 12.90% 40.09
209 Cahokia 2 $56,900 17.87% $36,542 11.80% 39.60
210 Maywood 2 $150,900 23.95% $51,988 14.50% 39.29
211 Markham 2 $106,500 20.19% $49,991 13.00% 38.82
212 Dolton 1 $116,200 13.76% $54,629 13.40% 38.49
213 Riverdale 2 $91,100 18.52% $45,417 10.00% 36.51
214 Harvey 2 $85,100 10.76% $35,398 9.60% 35.33

 

Six places were excluded because of incomplete data on schools, median home cost or selected monthly ownership cost data.

Methodology

All data are from the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Our methodology focused on four factors:

Home affordability. Home affordability, 30% of the total score, was calculated by averaging index scores for median home value and median selected monthly owner costs. The lower the costs, the higher the score.

Growth and prosperity. Growth and prosperity are 20% of the total score. The two metrics involved were growth in family income from 1999 to 2013, and median family income in 2013. Both were weighted equally and positively.

Family friendliness. To measure if an area is a good place for families, which is 30% of our total score, we looked at the percentage of married couples with at least one child under age 18, and the percentage of families in poverty with at least one child under age 5. The percentage of families with at least one child was 70% of the score, while the percentage of families in poverty was 30% of the score.

Educational quality. Using data from GreatSchools, every place was assigned a ranking from 1 to 10 for the quality of schools. Education is 20% of the total score.


Chicago, Illinois, image via iStock.