Everything may be bigger in Texas, but when it comes to raising a family, smaller cities may win out.
Texas now ranks as the fastest-growing state for job growth, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but to raise kids well, education and affordable housing also carry weight.
To find the best places for young families in Texas, NerdWallet crunched the data by analyzing the following factors:
1. Public school excellence. GreatSchools, which compares students’ test scores to the state average on a 1-10 scale, with 10 as the highest.
2. Home affordability. Using U.S. Census Bureau data, we weighed median home values and monthly homeownership costs, including mortgage payments, taxes, insurance costs, utilities, fuel and other bills. Places with more affordable homes had higher scores.
3. Growth and prosperity. We assessed a city’s economy using census figures that detailed median annual household incomes from 2012 and long-term income growth since 1999.
» MORE: Best mortgage lenders in Texas
Our analysis revealed certain trends:
Suburbs are tops. Seven of the top 10 places are within the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, where the school districts outperformed schools in the rest of the state.
Long-term income growth stands out. All but one place in the top 10 had growth rates higher than the state average of 29.14% over the past decade. Not only are these suburbs excelling in education, they’re bringing in new wealth to the area — and quickly. The big driver of this growth, the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, keeps the region soaring with support for 143,000 jobs and an economic contribution of $31 billion to the area every year.
School districts have more than good test scores. Academics are only part of the success of these cities’ schools. From new sports facilities to growing classroom programs, school districts are finding ways to expand the culture of learning.
NerdWallet crunched the data for 111 places in Texas — cities, towns and census-designated places. Only places with a population over 25,000 residents were analyzed. To see the full data set, click here.
Best places for young families in Texas
Frisco is fast becoming a “star” city — even the Dallas Cowboys are moving there. When the team’s new headquarters is complete, it will share a practice facility with Frisco’s high school athletes, who are in one of the fastest-growing school districts in Texas. What’s more impressive is the district’s rare honor of a perfect 10 rating at GreatSchools. In the past 14 years, Frisco’s population has skyrocketed 246.9%, or added more than 150,000 people, and income growth is 10% above the state’s rate. A half-hour drive from Dallas, this suburb balances commercial and retail growth with a small-town feel. Plus, Frisco embraces its roots — literally — with a decade-long designation as a Tree City USA and almost 1,400 acres of parks, including the Texas Sculpture Garden.
More affordable than Frisco, Friendswood carries its strong school districts in stride, but the city stands out with a higher rate of income growth. With the fourth-highest rate in the state at nearly 50%, the city’s prosperity has helped this quiet Houston suburb to excel in education as it maintains a strong community culture. From options such as pre-engineering and bilingual programs, the city’s educational system has been recognized for innovation and high achievement. NASA programs also help invigorate students’ opportunities. For recreation, the city has eight parks where events take place year-round, including the Holiday Hustle Fun Run in December.
More than prosperity is on the rise in Allen. This suburb, which is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Dallas, is home to a thriving community with quality education and culture. The city has seen a 29.2% growth rate, which is just slightly higher than the state’s growth. Allen opened its doors wider in recent years, thanks to the Allen Event Center, which was built in 2009 and holds more than 7,000 people. Two years later, Allen High School opened a 1,500-seat performing arts center, where the local philharmonic orchestra has played. Allen also appreciates natural settings with almost 800 acres of parks and historical sites, including the last stone dam in the country.
Lower home values and housing costs in Burleson make this the most-affordable city in our top 10. A 20-minute drive from Fort Worth, along Interstate 35W, Burleson is commuter friendly with a strong local community and Burleson Independent School District. The city is flexing its business muscles, too. After the completion of a $14 million construction project, Burleson opened an H-E-B! plus, a popular superstore in Texas and Mexico, and the first one in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Like many of the cities on our list, Mansfield lies within the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, making the suburb a convenient place for commuters. In education, 165 students at six Mansfield high schools received an AP Scholar Award for college-level achievement in August. In business, success is also apparent. The largest private employer, Mouser Electronics, added 150 full-time jobs at its North Main Street location and expanded warehouse space by 125,000 square feet. Residents also have a chance to appreciate natural scenery with annual Winter Walk events on park trails and at the city’s newest community park, Elmer W. Oliver Nature Park.
6. Sugar Land
Success is sweet, and in Sugar Land, it’s everywhere. With the seventh-largest school district in Texas, the city excels in diversity in its student body and in academic opportunities, including a digital media academy program. On the business track, the city is prepping for its second retail study after the first one in 2010 helped land a Costco. Even though it’s the headquarters of Minute Maid and home of a new Texas Instruments facility, this Houston suburb still manages to be a good place to walk, with sidewalks looping from schools to parks to the city center.
As the second-most affluent city on our list, residents in Keller shoulder the highest homeownership costs, but the local schools might be part of the reason. With a 9 out of 10 rating at GreatSchools, the city has its sights set on a strong education for its students. As a northern suburb of Fort Worth, residents have the benefit of being close to a metropolis, but without having to give up vibrant parks and public art displays.
Along with its affordability, Wylie is welcoming in other ways, especially when it comes to relationships and “The Wylie Way.” This code of conduct helps guide the city’s students as they focus on relationships and college readiness. The city seems to echo this motto with a small-town community vibe even as it grows. The chamber of commerce showcases its Texas roots with a championship rodeo every September, and the parks near Lavon Lake make a perfect spot for a weekend respite. And “The Wylie Way” has seen success: Wylie’s school district was one of 12 on the College Board’s AP District Honor Roll in 2012.
Pearland is shining strong, getting its name on the Texas Retail Survey’s 2012 list of the top 50 city retail markets in the state. With a 38.9% income growth over the past decade, Pearland is a place where expansion in business and the city are meshing together. At the Pearland Town Center and the Lower Kirby Urban Center, retail, residential and office sites share space, and at the town center, a 25-acre lake and surrounding parks give the urban setting a peaceful quality. Just as important, the school district strives to create a safe environment for all students. Last year, several campuses were recognized for participation in the Houston-based “No Place for Hate” initiative, which seeks to promote diversity and discourage discrimination in the classroom for K-12 students.
10. Flower Mound
Flower Mound, the most affluent suburb on our list, is in bloom. From its premier medical centers to its lakeside scenery, this town has surged over the past 10 years on many fronts. To increase commercial infrastructure, the town recently poured $25 million into the Lakeside Business District, where companies such as CustomInk and Best Buy have opened facilities. Flower Mound’s school system, Lewisville Independent School District, has seen six of its schools recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence. Water sport enthusiasts and horse lovers also thrive here — the town is close to two lakes and three equestrian centers.
Check out this interactive map of our top 10 places for young families in Texas. Click on each icon to see the place’s overall score.
The score for each place is from the following data:
- Public schools made up 33.3% of the score. We used data from GreatSchools, which the nonprofit calculates by averaging the overall rating for each school in the city.
- Median home values were 16.7% of the score. The information is from the 2012 American Community Survey, a division of the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Monthly homeowner costs were 16.7% of the score. The information is from the 2012 American Community Survey, a division of the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Median household incomes were 16.7% of the score. The information is from the 2012 American Community Survey, a division of the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Income change from 1999 to 2012 was 16.7% of the score. The information is from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Best places for young families in Texas
Scroll right for all data categories.
|City||GreatSchools rating||Median home|
value in 2012
homeowner costs in 2012
income in 2012
|Median income growth|
from 1999 to 2012
|12||The Woodlands CDP||9||264,600||2,142||105,099||23.28%||60.6|
|45||North Richland Hills||7||148,000||1,611||63,806||13.63%||51.5|
|46||Fort Hood CDP||6||48,200||1,592||41,015||26.00%||51.5|
Note: Little Elm, which became a city in 2012, was excluded because of inconsistent census data. Socorro, Mission Bend and DeSoto weren’t included because of missing ratings at GreatSchools.
Image via Shutterstock.