Many young couples with children — families who often are on a tight budget — also face the difficult task of trying to find a home to buy. These young families are looking for affordable housing, and they aren’t willing to sacrifice their quality of life.
NerdWallet previously crunched the data to find the Best Towns in West Virginia for Young Families. This year, we added new metrics to provide a more comprehensive analysis. We considered the following 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 from GreatSchools to find the best schools for young families.
- 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 also if it is a healthy one for children.
Our analysis revealed some trends:
Look to Mountaineer Country and the Mid-Ohio Valley. These two areas claimed all but two of our top 10 places.
Larger families live here. Despite large average family sizes, the percentage of residents in West Virginia who are married with children is less than we have seen in other states.
Quality at a good price. Our lists usually tend to favor either affordable housing or expensive, but top-notch communities. West Virginia was unique in that half of our top 10 cities were below the state median home value and the average school ranking was 8 out of a top score of 10.
Best cities for young families in West Virginia
The largest city in our top 10, Wheeling jumped up five spots from 2013’s study, largely because we measured growth of family income — which is defined as related individuals living in one house — instead of household income growth. Wheeling has an affordable home value of $92,400, and schools received an 8 out of 10 ranking at GreatSchools. Wheeling has a rich history, and it is home to the West Virginia Independence Hall and Centre Market. Wheeling also has a large trail system for biking and jogging.
Nitro, which made our list of Best Places for Homeownership in West Virginia, is a city of 7,000 on the banks of the Kanawha River. The city’s home value of $91,000 complements its long-term family income growth, which has increased 38% since 1999. Young children attend the well-rated Rock Branch Elementary School, then later, Nitro High, which received a perfect 10 at GreatSchools. Parents looking for entertainment can visit nearby Ridenour Memorial Park, the Nitro Museum or the Mardi Gras Casino and Resort.
Even though it’s one of the most expensive places to live on our list, Hurricane is one of the more family-friendly communities: Over a quarter of residents are married with children. Hurricane offers quality schools at every level, and it is a short drive to the 11,119-acre Crown City Wildlife Area.
Vienna is an affordable place to live with a variety of cultural opportunities, including the oil and gas museum, a pre-Civil War mansion and events, such as the annual Christmas parade. Economically, Vienna is an important hub for the Mid-Ohio Valley, and it is a 15-minute drive from Parkersburg, the third-largest city in the state.
5. Shady Spring CDP
Shady Spring is a small census-designated place outside Beckley and 70 miles south of Charleston. While Shady Spring might not be an ideal location for commuters, its proximity to the Ghent — which is home to Flat Top Lake and the Winterplace Ski Resort — make it ideal for families who like to play outside. Parents will also find a quality education for their children at Shady Spring’s high-scoring schools.
6. Cross Lanes CDP
Cross Lanes is Nitro’s bigger neighbor and another option for families looking to live in the Charleston metro area. As an unincorporated census-designated place, Cross Lanes is served by variety of school districts, including schools in Charleston, which received an average ranking of 9 out of 10 on GreatSchools. The median home value of $135,000 is substantially higher than Nitro, but for families seeking to live in a place with more families, it could be worth the markup.
7. Brookhaven CDP
Brookhaven is an unincorporated census-designated place of 5,200 people in the Morgantown metropolitan area. Brookhaven’s location is arguably the most convenient in our top 10 — it is minutes from Morgantown Municipal Airport, West Virginia University and it is along highways 68, 69 and 79, giving it immediate access to the north, south and east. Additionally, it’s near the recreational hot spots of Cheat Lake and Coopers Rock State Forest. With its convenient location, Brookhaven saw the second-highest jump in family income growth, but it also is home to higher median home values of $152,2000.
Summersville is a place for people who love the country. With just 3,570 residents in 2013, Summersville has the advantage of being next to the Gaudley River National Recreation Area and the Monogahela National Forest. The median home value of $85,700 makes this the most affordable place in our top 10. However, without a main highway to connect Summersville and Charleston, residents are looking at a 70-mile commute to the bigger city.
With just a short commute on Highway 79 to Morgantown and with an average home value of $89,000, Fairmont is an excellent place for young families on a tight budget. The town of 18,000 residents is a draw for tourists, who visit its nearby outdoor attractions, including Prickett’s Fort State Park.
Bridgeport is the only place on our list with the distinction of a perfect 10 ranking at GreatSchools. Bridgeport’s population also has one of the state’s highest percentages of families with children. The median home value of $195,000, the highest in the top 20, could be linked to Bridgeport’s features, such as the nationally acclaimed Pete Dye Golf Club. The city also made our list of Best Places for Homeownership in West Virginia.
Best Cities for Young Families in West Virginia (full data)
|Rank||City||2013 population||GreatSchools ranking||Median home value|| Family income growth
|Median family income 2013||Percent of families
with at least 1 child
|Young families score|
|5||Shady Spring CDP||3,142||9||$127,500||48.44%||$54,639||23.00%||52.81|
|6||Cross Lanes CDP||10,080||9||$135,400||27.68%||$69,774||17.60%||52.61|
|35||Teays Valley CDP||13,568||9||$199,500||33.21%||$83,536||23.30%||45.18|
|39||Cheat Lake CDP||9,133||8||$264,600||78.71%||$105,040||32.20%||44.09|
|43||Pea Ridge CDP||6,589||6||$135,300||13.75%||$62,895||18.80%||42.32|
All data are from the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Communities Survey. Our methodology took into account four factors:
Home affordability. Home affordability, 30% of the final 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 make up 20% of the final score. The two metrics involved were growth in family income from 1999 to 2013, and the median family income in 2013. Both were weighted equally and positively.
Family friendliness. To measure if an area is a good one for families, which is 30% of our final score, we looked at the percentage of married couples with at least one child under 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 rank from 1 to 10 for the quality of schools. The education score is 20% of the final score.
Charleston, West Virginia, image via iStock.