Connecticut may be one of the smallest states in the U.S., but it is also one of most educated and it has one of the highest per capita income levels in the nation.
Even though its location, in the middle of the megalopolis between Boston and New York, puts young couples in the right location for a wide range of employment opportunities, there are also significant challenges for families just starting out — mostly affordability. While parts of Connecticut have some of the highest housing costs in the country, NerdWallet found the communities in the Constitution State that offer young families the best combination of solid schools, great neighbors and affordability.
- Small towns are a good bet. Eight of the top 10 best cities for young families in Connecticut have populations of less than 30,000 residents.
- Schools add value. Even though eight of the top 10 cities have median home prices that are above the state median, the excellent schools help families get a solid return on their housing investment.
- Greater Hartford is a winner. Six of the 10 cities are near Hartford, the state’s capital. This is three more top-ranked Hartford communities compared with our last list.
Factors in NerdWallet’s analysis
- 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.
NerdWallet crunched the data for 47 places in Connecticut — cities, towns and census-designated places. Only places with over 5,000 residents were analyzed. To see the full data set, click here.
Best cities for young families in Connecticut
A 345-year-old town just outside Hartford, Simsbury takes the top place on our list because it offers young families an outstanding combination of affordability and quality schools. A median household can expect to pay 22% of monthly income on homeownership costs, the lowest in the top 10. It also has a GreatSchools rating of 9 out of 10. Active families will want to get out and play on the 84-mile Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, which runs through Simsbury.
Trumbull’s location in Fairfield County makes it convenient to work at local companies, such as GE, and for commuting to New York City, so it isn’t surprising that Trumbull has the most expensive housing in the top 10. However, young families get top value for their housing dollar: Trumbull has a GreatSchools rating of 9, and at 35%, it has the highest percentage of households in the top 10 with at least one child under 18.
As part of the town of Berlin, Kensington offers young families the combination of affordability with convenient access to Hartford, which is only 15 miles away. The town is located on the New Haven-Springfield commuter rail line, which is set to launch in 2016, and will get an additional boost with a new $3.3 million mixed-use development across from the town’s train station.
Glastonbury residents experienced an 85% jump in median income since 1999, one of the biggest gains in the state. Its location, near Fortune 500 companies such as United Technologies and Aetna, justifies this exceptional economic growth. Yet even with its recent success, Glastonbury works to maintain its small-town feel. The Apple Harvest Festival, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014, features a three-day concert series and a craft beer and wine garden.
Like Trumbull, its neighbor 11 miles to the west, Orange has relatively high living expenses, with a median home value of $393,300. However, its schools received a 9 at GreatSchools, and over 3 in 10 households have families with children younger than 18. Even though it may be one of the more expensive places in the state, it still holds onto its roots. The annual Orange County Fair, which began in 1898, features tractor pulls and pig races.
Wethersfield is the second-oldest town in Connecticut — in fact, the three grapevines on the Connecticut flag represent the state’s three oldest communities: Windsor, Wethersfield and Hartford. Its antiquity may be Wethersfield’s defining quality, but the town has done exceptionally well economically in recent years: median family incomes have jumped 89% since 1999, the largest gain in the top 10. In turn, young families have flocked to Wethersfield, and the number of families with children under 18 has grown 10% since 2000, also the largest gain in the top 10.
While Connecticut is relatively expensive, young families can find a lower cost of living in Newington. A median family can expect to allocate 24% of monthly median income to homeowner costs, which is below the top 10 average of 26%. Newington may be only 7 miles from Hartford, but the town works to maintain its own identity. One event, the annual Waterfall Festival, celebrates the town’s most unique feature, a 16-foot natural waterfall in Mill Pond Park.
The “Gateway to the Berkshire Mountains,” is the downtown area within Winchester. Young families are attracted by Winsted’s classic small-town atmosphere and the ongoing renovation of the downtown core. Residents here enjoy its location to Bradley International Airport, which is only 24 miles to the east.
Portland is the smallest city in the top 10, with a population of 5,628, but it has a distinctive and rich past. In the 1800s, it was one of the most important brownstone suppliers in the U.S., and the quarries alongside Portland’s downtown offer a unique glimpse into the town’s past.
10. North Haven
North Haven, home of Quinnipiac University’s graduate schools, is less than 10 miles from Yale University. Residents can also enjoy a variety of outdoor activities like hiking, rock climbing and horseback riding in Sleeping Giant State Park.
On the map below, click on an icon to see more details about each city on the top 10 list.
Best cities for young families in Connecticut
|Location||GreatSchools rank||Median home value||Family income growth 1999-2013||Median family income in 2013||Percent of families with at least one child under age 18||Young families score|
NerdWallet looked at 59 places with over 5,000 residents in Connecticut, but 12 places weren’t included in the final list because they lacked complete data for our analysis.
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.
The skyline in Hartford, Connecticut, from the Connecticut River image via iStock.