The Best Towns in Missouri for Young Families

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When families in Missouri buy a home, they buy more than just a property – they also buy into the community and the opportunities it offers in the job market and at schools. We wanted to identify the best towns for young families, so we asked the following questions as we analyzed communities across the state:

  1. Does the town have good public schools? We measured schools’ academic performance with ratings from GreatSchools. This non-profit compares a given school’s standardized test scores to the state average to obtain a rating on a 1 to 10 scale (10 representing the highest score). Higher ratings led to a higher overall score.
  2. Can you afford to live there? We looked at both median home values in each town and ongoing monthly home costs, including mortgage payments, real estate taxes, insurance costs, utilities, fuel and other bills. Lower costs led to a higher overall score.
  3. Is the town growing and prospering? We assessed a town’s economy by looking at median household income and income growth over the last decade. Higher income and greater growth led to a higher overall score.

The Best Towns for Young Families

1. Nixa

Nixa is an 19,000-person city in Christian County. Its public schools system is excellent, having earned a 100 percent score on the state Annual Performance Report for 11 consecutive years. Christian County is also the fastest-growing county in the entire state, according to a 2011 report by the U.S. Census.

2. Ozark

Ozark is located 19 miles south of Springfield. The city has expanded tremendously in size, having grown by 84.4 percent between 2000 and 2010 – over 10 times the rate of the state average. The local government’s budget management has been so tight that it earned top marks from Standard & Poor’s, a credit-rating agency.

3. Wentzville 

Wentzville is a 45-minute drive from downtown St. Louis. The city is also the third-fastest growing community in the state, having quadrupled in size between 2000 and 2010. Wentzville hosts many recreational events, too, including concerts and movies in the park, and just 30 minutes away are wineries in the city of Augusta.

4. Kirkwood 

Kirkwood is an inner suburb of St. Louis. It is home to excellent schools, including Kirkwood High, which ranked third in the state on U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 list of best high schools and sixth on Newsweek’s. Unemployment in the community is low as well, at 5.8 percent.

5. Festus

Festus is in Jefferson County, near its twin city of Crystal City. The local school district has won many awards, including several for the excellence of its faculty. In 2013, it was recognized as a National Model Professional Learning Community District – a distinction given to schools that are dedicated to learning and that foster a collaborative community among staff.

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6. Crestwood

Crestwood is a suburb of St. Louis. Lindbergh School District includes five National Blue Ribbon Schools. Business here is doing well, too; the community is a retail hub, with over two million square feet of retail space.

7. Raymore 

Raymore is in western Missouri, in the Kansas City metro area. The local government recently launched an initiative to help residents beat high healthcare costs – the city hall lobby now offers free discount cards for prescription medications. Raymore-Peculiar School District also boasts a high graduation rate of 93.8 percent – meanwhile, the graduation rate for high schools across the state is 80.7 percent. 

8. Ballwin

Ballwin is a suburb of St. Louis, and Money Magazine has named it one of the best places to live in the nation three times in the last decade. A local school district, Parkway, includes 14 National Blue Ribbon Schools and 17 Missouri Gold Star Schools. The community also offers access to four state parks.

9. Wildwood

Wildwood is an affluent outer suburb of St. Louis. Households here earn more than any other community that made this list. Recreational opportunities abound here, too, with a ski resort in town and Six Flags St. Louis nearby.

10. Bolivar

Bolivar is the seat of Polk County, about 30 miles north of Springfield. Nearby are several lakes, including at Stockton State Park, where residents can water ski, scuba dive, swim and fish. Within the city is Southwest Baptist University, a private university of 3,800 students that’s been one of America’s Best Christian Colleges for 15 years.

Rank City Nearest big city GreatSchools rating Median home value Monthly owner costs Median household income Growth,’99-’11 Overall score for young families
1 Nixa Springfield 9 $138,300 $1,120 $51,040 35.5% 72.5
2 Ozark Springfield 8 $136,800 $1,165 $50,638 48.0% 72.1
3 Wentzville St. Louis 8 $203,200 $1,664 $70,642 49.6% 70.8
4 Kirkwood St. Louis 9 $232,900 $1,683 $74,088 34.4% 69.9
5 Festus St. Louis 8 $141,100 $1,270 $50,872 38.7% 69.0
6 Crestwood St. Louis 9 $191,700 $1,409 $68,101 25.7% 68.9
7 Raymore Kansas City 8 $175,400 $1,577 $74,512 33.0% 67.3
8 Ballwin St. Louis 9 $233,500 $1,746 $81,388 22.5% 66.8
9 Wildwood St. Louis 9 $351,000 $2,224 $118,019 25.5% 66.6
10 Bolivar Springfield 7 $109,400 $939 $34,189 38.9% 66.0


The overall score for each city was derived from the following measures:

  1. GreatSchools city rating. GreatSchools city ratings are calculated by averaging the weighted overall rating for each school in the city (weighted by the number of students enrolled at the school)
  2. Median home value from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP04, half-weighted)
  3. Monthly homeowner costs from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP04, half-weighted)
  4. Median household income from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP03, half-weighted)
  5. Income change between 1999 and 2011 from the U.S. Census (data sets P053 and DP03, half-weighted)

84 Missouri cities and areas designated as places by the U.S. Census were included in this analysis. Only places with a population greater than 10,000 were considered.

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