When young families choose a place to settle down, they look for more than affordable homes. Homeownership is a more complex decision than that — it means investing in your community and all it has to offer, from its public schools to the job market.
NerdWallet asked the following questions to find the best communities for young families in Pennsylvania.
- 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.
- Can you afford to live there? We looked at both median home values in each town and monthly home costs, including mortgage payments, taxes, insurance costs, utilities, fuel and other bills. Lower costs led to a higher overall score.
- Is the town growing and prospering? We assessed a town’s economy by looking at median annual household income and income growth over the past decade. Higher income and stronger growth led to a higher overall score.
The best towns in Pennsylvania for young families
1. Jefferson Hills
Jefferson Hills is a suburb of Pittsburgh, about 15 miles south of the big city. The local school district, West Jefferson Hills, is ranked No. 15 out of the 104 school systems in the seven-county region around Pittsburgh. Statewide, it fares even better, ranking number 51 out of 497 schools on math, reading and science.
Greensburg is the seat of Westmoreland County and is about a 45-minute drive from Pittsburgh. The city supports an arts community with institutions such as the Westmoreland Museum of American Art and the Palace Theatre. For outdoorsy families, there’s the Five Star Trail for biking, jogging and cross-country skiing.
Phoenixville is in Chester County, about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia. One district is in in the National Register of Historic Places, and it features art galleries, antique stores and restaurants. Residents also have easy access to the Perkiomen Trail, a 19-mile path.
Broomall is a community just outside Philadelphia. The local school district, Marple Newtown, offers 16 AP courses and 32 honors courses. The county is also home to Ridley Creek State Park, 2,606 acres of woodlands and meadows where residents can hike, bike and fish.
Lansdale is a borough of Montgomery County about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia. A local high school, North Penn, has been recognized by Newsweek for having one of the best high schools in America. In particular, the school was distinguished for producing college-ready students: 95% of students graduate, and 89% go on to higher education.
Emmaus is a borough of Lehigh County, near Allentown. Money magazine ranked it as one of the 100 best places to live in the U.S. in 2007 and 2009. The Lehigh Valley region includes two Fortune 500 companies, and the economy is becoming increasingly focused on technology — including biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and optoelectronics.
7. Willow Grove
Willow Grove is a suburb of Philadelphia in Montgomery County. The local school district is excellent — the community earned an 8 out of 10 at GreatSchools.
Hershey is a 15,000-person community in Derry Township, about 15 miles from Harrisburg. It has been called Chocolate Town, U.S.A., and the Sweetest Place on Earth because the chocolates of the same name are made here. The community is more than just a tourist destination; it is home to excellent schools. Hershey High School was ranked No. 16 in the state by U.S. News & World Report.
9. Allison Park
Allison Park is a suburb of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County. Its schools, part of Hampton Township School District, have been recognized as some of the best by publications including Forbes, Family Circle magazine and the Pittsburgh Business Times. The district is also one of three in the county to be recognized by the state Department of Education for making Adequate Yearly Progress for six or more consecutive years.
Wyomissing is a borough of Berks County, in southeast Pennsylvania. The Washington Post named Wyomissing Area High School the third-most challenging high school in the state — which was based on the number of students taking college-level exams. The borough also includes over 175 acres of parkland, including picnic areas and trails.
The best towns in Pennsylvania for young families
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|Rank||City||Nearest big city||GreatSchools rating||Median home value||Monthly owner costs||Median household income||Growth,'99-'11||Overall score for young families|
The overall score for each city was derived from the following measures:
- 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.
- Median home value is from the 2011 American Community Survey, a division of the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Monthly homeowner costs are from the 2011 American Community Survey.
- Median annual household income is from the 2011 American Community Survey.
- Income change from 1999 to 2011 is from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Our analysis included 90 Pennsylvania cities and towns. Only places with a population over 10,000 were considered.