Home prices are just one factor when deciding where to settle down and raise a family. Good schools, safety and the local economy are important, too. In South Carolina, many communities stand out based on these attributes.
The state’s economy is strong and likely to get even better. According to economists at the University of South Carolina, 2016 is expected to be the seventh year of economic growth in the state. Personal income, one of the factors NerdWallet considered when analyzing South Carolina communities, is projected to grow 4.9% in the coming year as wages are forecast to climb again.
The western part of the state is an especially good place for families, according to our analysis. The communities in our top 10 are located along the sprawling Interstate 85 corridor, and also the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina.
However, the state does have room for improvement. The median school rating in the communities we examined was 6 out of a top score of 10. Also, our data show that 26.55% of families in poverty have a child under 5 years old.
To find the best places for young families in South Carolina, we analyzed home affordability — the median value on our list is $130,450 — prosperity and income growth, education and family friendliness. Read our full methodology at the end of this study.
Best places for young families in South Carolina
1. Oak Grove
Oak Grove, a census-designated place west of Columbia, has a population just over 10,300 and is a short drive to Lake Murray and its outdoor activities. In 2015, Oak Grove Elementary was honored as one of Palmetto’s Finest, reserved for the top two elementary schools in the state, and its principal was named elementary principal of the year. The median annual family income in 2014 was $70,455, up more than 44% from 1999. Here, housing is on the more affordable end with the median home value of $127,100, which is about $3,000 less than the median of all communities we analyzed, and monthly homeownership costs are at $1,069, among the lowest in the top 10. At GreatSchools.org, Oak Grove schools scored 8 out of 10, and NeighborhoodScout.com deemed the area “safe.”
2. Fort Mill
Fort Mill is bursting with Carolina culture, with a historic district downtown and several places on the National Register of Historic Places. In this Charlotte suburb, families can enjoy the South Carolina Strawberry Festival in spring, drive to the nearby Carowinds amusement park, or spend an afternoon indoors at the Fort Mill History Museum. From 1999 to 2014, median annual household incomes grew more than 51%, the second-highest rate among all 88 places we surveyed. The high school principal was recognized as a principal of the year. Homes are valued at a median of $190,200, well above the $130,450 median of our analysis, and residents here get top-rated schools and a community rated as “most safe.” One note: The percentage of families in poverty with children under 5 is the highest on our top 10 list.
If an afternoon at the park is your family’s idea of a good time, Clover could be the perfect choice. With just over 5,000 residents, three local parks and a YMCA, there is plenty of room for everyone in town to enjoy a class, picnic, ballgame or playground. The median home value in Clover is $115,100 and selected monthly ownership costs total $1,058 — the second lowest in our top 10. Income growth here lagged behind nearly all of our top 10 places, but for those seeking employment opportunities, it’s about a 45-minute drive to Charlotte and about a half-hour commute to Rock Hill.
Simpsonville is the biggest community in our top 10, with an estimated 19,219 people. It’s about 20 minutes outside Greenville and also around a 20-minute drive to the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. Heritage Park is the town’s largest park and features miles of trails, a working miniature steam train, several ball fields and the Charter Spectrum Amphitheatre, which plays host to performers throughout the year and a summer movie program. Simpsonville earned NeighborhoodScout’s “most safe” crime risk rating.
5. Tega Cay
Tega Cay, on North Carolina’s border, is a suburb of Charlotte. The town is a peninsula on Lake Wylie, where residents have access to waterfront parks, trails and a beach. Tega Cay is one of the more affluent communities in our top 10, with the highest median home value ($290,100), the second-highest median annual income at $117,025, and no families living in poverty with young children. Over 38% of the households here are married couples with children.
Home to Clemson University, this city has a population of 14,254, but just 15.1% of households are made up of families with children — the lowest percentage in our top 10. The median annual family income here is $83,801, well over the state median of $52,648, and the median home value of $198,600 is similarly higher than the median of the communities we analyzed. Despite the smaller number of parents and kids living in Clemson, the city doesn’t lack family friendly activities. It’s on the banks of Lake Hartwell and features miles of walking trails and waterfalls. The city also boasts several historical sites and museums, is home to the South Carolina Botanical Garden, and has the sporting events, culture and entertainment found in a college town. GreatSchools rated Clemson schools a 9 out of 10.
7. Boiling Springs
Boiling Springs, a census-designated place in Spartanburg County, is just north of the city of Spartanburg. More than a third of households are married couples with children. The schools here received a 6 out of 10, the lowest score in our top 10, but the community is among the “most safe,” according to NeighborhoodScout. In a promising indicator of growth and prosperity, median annual income grew over 40% to $81,745 from 1999 to 2014.
Lugoff, a census-designated place, is a rural community just off Interstate 20 and northeast of Columbia. It’s a short drive to Goodale State Park, a Civil War era mill pond where families can fish, hike and kayak or canoe among the tall cypress trees. NeighborhoodScout scored Lugoff among the “most safe,” and housing is among the more affordable on our list, with a median home value of $129,700. Income growth was lower than almost all other top places, at 19.56%, but it’s still above the state average of 18.22%.
9. Red Bank
One of our list’s most-affordable communities is a census-designated place just south of Lexington and west of Columbia. Here, the median home value is $115,500 and selected monthly ownership costs are $1,052. The small community has no families in poverty with young children.
10. Five Forks
If you want to live among lots of other families, nearly 47% of households in Five Forks are married couples with children. With a population of 16,173, this census-designated place on the outskirts of Greenville and minutes from the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport has a slightly more urban appeal than the smaller towns on our list. Five Forks has the highest median annual income of our list, $118,571, which is up 39.69% over 15 years.
Best places for young families in South Carolina
Scroll to the right in the table below to see all data categories.
|Place||Population||GreatSchools.org rating||Median home value in 2014||Selected monthly homeowner costs||Median annual family income in 2014||Income growth 1999-2014||Residents who are married with children||Families in poverty with children under age 5||Crime-risk rating||Score|
|Oak Grove CDP||10,344||8||$127,100||$1,069||$70,455||44.07%||20.5||2.5||Safe||72.15|
|Fort Mill||12,068||9||$190,200||$1,379||$85,382||51.02%||26.5||33.5||Most safe||71.70|
|Tega Cay||8,224||9||$290,100||$1,839||$117,025||41.12%||38.4||0||Most safe||64.86|
|Boiling Springs CDP||8,542||6||$148,400||$1,213||$81,745||40.55%||34.5||10.9||Most safe||64.32|
|Lugoff CDP||8,039||7||$129,700||$1,146||$66,310||19.56%||20.7||7.1||Most safe||63.61|
|Red Bank CDP||9,128||8||$115,500||$1,052||$52,841||3.94%||20.3||0||Safe||63.46|
|Five Forks CDP||16,173||8||$258,900||$1,609||$118,571||39.69%||46.9||2.6||Most safe||63.14|
|Garden City CDP||8,824||8||$122,800||$1,140||$51,135||26.56%||9.3||0||Safe||63.07|
|Belvedere CDP||5,504||6||$92,600||$1,025||$50,652||25.80%||21.3||14.5||Less safe||59.92|
|Fountain Inn||8,031||6||$118,800||$1,048||$53,074||16.86%||22.1||26.5||Most safe||58.73|
|Ladson CDP||15,369||6||$119,300||$1,152||$55,556||24.21%||21.7||33.9||Most safe||56.44|
|Homeland Park CDP||6,574||6||$68,900||$781||$34,816||12.75%||11.4||81.1||Least safe||56.18|
|Goose Creek||38,545||6||$167,600||$1,367||$66,280||38.26%||26||22.2||Most safe||55.46|
|Parker CDP||11,987||6||$67,400||$814||$30,340||-2.21%||17.4||64.4||Least safe||54.55|
|Lake Murray of Richland CDP||5,475||8||$309,800||$1,915||$114,018||25.64%||20.9||0||Most safe||53.43|
|Moncks Corner||8,711||5||$160,900||$1,196||$55,033||47.40%||20.8||0||Less safe||52.95|
|West Columbia||15,623||5||$130,600||$1,128||$57,992||44.07%||10.1||22.8||Less safe||52.42|
|Myrtle Beach||28,455||8||$167,000||$1,321||$52,767||20.20%||9.6||38.6||Least safe||52.32|
|Lake Wylie CDP||9,640||8||$289,400||$1,673||$91,097||3.28%||30.5||0||Most safe||50.80|
|Sans Souci CDP||7,743||6||$93,800||$939||$31,566||-3.33%||13.2||38.9||Least safe||50.49|
|Laurel Bay CDP||6,404||5||$130,600||$1,115||$39,926||1.76%||45.9||16||Most safe||50.42|
|Berea CDP||14,230||6||$109,600||$986||$37,955||-1.98%||13.8||18.8||Least safe||50.34|
|Seven Oaks CDP||15,906||7||$139,300||$1,182||$59,953||1.81%||15.1||51.4||Less safe||50.33|
|Valley Falls CDP||5,886||5||$125,200||$1,082||$50,096||21.89%||14.4||35.5||Safe||50.06|
|Forest Acres||10,533||6||$179,000||$1,355||$83,068||33.92%||14.8||12.1||Less safe||49.93|
|Little River CDP||9,273||6||$169,500||$1,369||$59,934||32.47%||6.2||0||Most safe||49.88|
|Welcome CDP||5,972||6||$79,500||$793||$32,276||-18.35%||7.5||38.9||Least safe||49.53|
|St. Andrews CDP||21,298||6||$106,200||$1,017||$42,258||0.40%||8.3||39||Least safe||48.45|
|Gantt CDP||14,630||6||$93,100||$1,048||$37,056||-5.66%||12.7||40.4||Least safe||48.42|
|North Charleston||102,143||5||$142,000||$1,360||$47,701||45.13%||16.3||29||Less safe||48.22|
|Burton CDP||6,173||5||$119,100||$1,228||$47,794||14.79%||19.5||0||Less safe||48.03|
|Port Royal||11,264||6||$194,300||$1,549||$50,584||23.78%||24.4||14.9||Most safe||46.19|
|Woodfield CDP||9,484||5||$96,900||$1,183||$45,946||8.11%||14.7||32.3||Least safe||45.92|
|Murrells Inlet CDP||8,027||7||$233,100||$1,689||$61,010||29.27%||13.3||0||Most safe||44.63|
|Red Hill CDP||14,565||5||$159,200||$1,177||$51,765||17.42%||12.3||15.3||Safe||44.34|
|Wade Hampton CDP||19,586||5||$169,000||$1,260||$65,158||20.43%||14.2||23.2||Less safe||43.32|
|North Myrtle Beach||14,485||6||$248,800||$1,455||$63,497||37.88%||4.5||10.1||Least safe||39.75|
|Dentsville CDP||14,122||5||$107,400||$1,133||$39,784||-15.35%||9.2||22.8||Least safe||39.68|
|Lake City||6,720||2||$80,100||$865||$33,795||5.24%||10.6||28||Least safe||37.56|
|Hilton Head Island||38,497||6||$447,400||$2,284||$85,296||19.78%||10.3||11.3||Most safe||37.17|
We analyzed 88 places in South Carolina with populations of 5,000 or more, but some places were excluded because of missing school or income data. 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. Data are from the American Community Survey, a division of the U.S. Census Bureau.
Growth and prosperity. Growth and prosperity are 20% of the total score. The two metrics in this score are growth in family income from 1999 to 2014, and median annual family income in 2014. Data are from the American Community Survey.
Family friendliness. To analyze if an area is a good place for families, which is 20% of the total score, we looked at the percentage of married couples with at least one child under age 18, the average crime score from NeighborhoodScout, and the percentage of families in poverty with at least one child under age 5.
Image via iStock.