Best Cities for Young Families in Alabama

Home Search, Mortgages
You can trust that we maintain strict editorial integrity in our writing and assessments; however, we receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners and get approved. Here's how we make money.
Best Cities for Young Families in Alabama

Few states in the South have made the economic transition from agriculture to industry and services as well as Alabama.

Just after World War II, Redstone Arsenal, near Huntsville, became the military’s center for rocket engineering. This effort that eventually became NASA and the Marshall Space Flight Center now ensures that Alabama has a steady flow of money and brainpower.

Alabama has leveraged this position to become a state with diverse industries and many of the qualities that young families seek. The median value of housing in the state is $124,900, 29% below the value of the national mark. Affordability in the state is demonstrated by the 69.7% homeownership rate — higher than the national average of 64.9%. For a young family seeking a long-term investment in a home and their community, Alabama is a solid choice.

NerdWallet found the communities in the Yellowhammer State that offer young families the best combination of solid schools, great neighbors and affordability. Here are the highlights of our second analysis of cities, towns and census-designated places in Alabama.

Our analysis revealed some trends:

Choices big and small. The population of cities in the top 10 ranges from 6,200 in Meridianville to 55,000 in Auburn. From small towns to larger suburbs, families have plenty of choices in Alabama.
It’s relatively expensive. Every city in our top 10 has a median home value above the statewide median of $124,900. However, the communities also score well when it comes to schools and family friendliness, so young families in Alabama get a lot for their buck.
Communities statewide. Even though the metropolitan areas of Birmingham and Huntsville claim three communities each, the rest of our top 10 is spread across the state. Seven towns are also holdovers from our last list.

mortgage-broker

GET EXPERT ANSWERS TO YOUR MORTGAGE QUESTIONS

Get personalized help from an unbiased mortgage broker. Understand your options and find the best rates.

iStock_000060467992_Small-11

COMPARE MORTGAGE RATES FOR FREE

See personalized mortgage rates in seconds using our comprehensive mortgage tool.


Our analysis considers several 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 at GreatSchools.org to find the best schools.
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 if it is also a healthy one for children.

NerdWallet crunched the data for 96 places in Alabama — cities, towns and census-designated places. Only places with over 5,000 residents were analyzed. To see the full data set, click here.

Best cities for young families in Alabama

1. Southside

“Rich in Hospitality and Genuine Southern Character” is the motto of Southside, and this picturesque riverside town lives up to its billing. Southside has the highest proportion, a third, of family households with children in the top 10, and the Etowah County school system recently ranked third in the state for academic performance. Active families will enjoy the nearby Noccalula Falls Park, which offers hiking trails with views of the park’s 90-foot waterfall.

2. Meridianville

Huntsville is sometimes called the “Silicon Valley of the South,” so Madison County, where most of it is located and the home of Meridianville, has been a destination for money and jobs for decades. Top employers include the Army’s Redstone Arsenal, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Boeing Co., Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. Yet even with an economy full of high-paying engineering jobs, Meridianville has remained affordable: most families will pay about 16% of their monthly income for selected homeowner costs, the lowest rate in the top 10.

3. Madison

If you want your child to grow up to be a rocket scientist, there may be no better place in America than Madison. The town is next to the Redstone Arsenal, which was the birthplace of NASA and now is the home to the Army’s Aviation and Missile Command, the Missile Defense Agency and the Marshall Space Flight Center. Madison has been the beneficiary of the accompanying pool of talent — income growth has been strong in recent years, jumping 76% since 1999. Schools are also excellent as demonstrated by the GreatSchools rating of 9 out of 10, which is tied for the highest mark in the state.

4. Trussville

Trussville is so much like Mayberry, the fictional North Carolina town from “The Andy Griffith Show,” that residents have adopted it as a nickname for their town. It’s a fair comparison: Trussville’s schools earned a strong ranking at GreatSchools, and more than 3 in 10 family households include children. The city is in the planning stages of a downtown redevelopment, which will bring mixed-use properties to the area, ultimately centralizing the town’s economic and cultural offerings.

5. Pelham

For those who seek a fitness challenge, Pelham may be the best city on our list for active and athletic young families who want to push themselves. Oak Mountain State Park is the home of the Southeast Xterra Challenge and the USA Triathlon Off-Road National Championship. Athletic pursuits aside, residents enjoy a combination of affordability and good schools, which received a strong ranking at GreatSchools, and a median home value of $164,800, which is below the top 10 average of $170,410.

6. Hartselle

Hartselle was originally settled in 1870 as a stop along the South and North Alabama Railroad, but the town was moved a half mile to a flat site more suitable for a rail depot. Since then, the town has continued to grow and adapt. Morgan County, where Hartselle is located, has an unemployment rate of 5.3%, according to recent data, which is lower than the statewide rate of 6.0%.

7. Auburn

A handful of times a year, the town of Auburn turns into the most important place in the state of Alabama, though Crimson Tide fans may disagree. On football weekends at Auburn University, the city’s population doubles from 55,404. Auburn, however, isn’t all “War Eagle” chants. With median family income growth of over 350% since 1999, by far the largest gain in the state, Auburn is becoming much more than a college town.

8. Muscle Shoals

Though Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan have all recorded some of their most important work in Muscle Shoals, young families seem to have forgotten about the city. Families with children make up 21% of households, which is down from 30% in 2000. Young families may once again fall in love with Muscle Shoals: It has the lowest median home value in the top 10 at $128,700, and a GreatSchools rating of nine.

9. Calera

Young kids love Calera because Thomas the Tank Engine makes a yearly appearance at the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum. Parents love Calera because the town has done extremely well in recent years. Since 1999, median household incomes have jumped nearly 85%, and the population since 2000 has more than tripled, the highest growth rate in the entire state.

10. Prattville

If you were dropped in the middle of Prattville, you could easily be confused into thinking that you were in a classic New England town. This is an element of Prattville’s original design by founder Daniel Pratt, a New Hampshire native who established the first industry in Alabama. The town remains quite affordable for young families — the median home value of $149,900 is about 12% lower than the top 10 average.

 

Best cities for young families in Alabama

Location GreatSchools rank Median home value  Family income growth 1999-2013  Median family income in 2013 Percent of families with at least one child under age 18 Young families score
1 Southside 8 $153,600 53.16% $80,355 31.60% 73.77
2 Meridianville 8 $165,200 70.17% $93,194 28.60% 72.69
3 Madison 9 $229,400 75.92% $112,323 28.40% 70.29
4 Trussville 8 $228,700 37.89% $92,307 30.80% 68.20
5 Pelham 8 $164,800 51.24% $82,891 23.30% 67.16
6 Hartselle 7 $131,700 63.76% $66,260 28.50% 66.85
7 Auburn 8 $213,400 358.59% $78,905 17.00% 66.40
8 Muscle Shoals 9 $128,700 48.41% $59,686 21.40% 66.31
9 Calera 6 $138,700 84.57% $65,800 27.90% 66.27
10 Prattville 7 $149,900 62.38% $74,254 24.00% 65.03
11 Alabaster 6 $162,700 35.16% $78,906 29.40% 64.84
12 Harvest 7 $163,600 9.92% $67,404 25.50% 64.55
13 Millbrook 6 $141,900 55.18% $68,026 25.70% 64.25
14 Spanish Fort 9 $207,900 35.12% $76,611 23.30% 64.24
15 Oxford 7 $120,600 45.66% $58,841 21.30% 63.92
16 Arab 8 $145,200 61.00% $59,111 18.30% 63.44
17 Hoover 8 $262,500 57.96% $97,905 26.40% 63.36
18 Enterprise 8 $161,800 84.89% $69,632 21.00% 63.35
19 Gardendale 7 $163,500 62.44% $74,375 21.20% 62.89
20 Fort Payne 5 $95,600 35.98% $45,635 23.80% 62.78
21 Boaz 7 $102,900 64.89% $42,375 18.30% 62.64
22 Homewood 9 $275,700 74.26% $79,167 22.20% 62.54
23 Oneonta 7 $115,600 49.79% $42,870 22.10% 61.85
24 Vestavia Hills 8 $338,100 57.41% $111,169 28.50% 61.83
25 Glencoe 9 $110,700 40.57% $53,958 11.20% 61.76
26 Hamilton 8 $91,200 27.54% $35,060 20.30% 61.65
27 Robertsdale 6 $125,800 61.24% $53,523 22.50% 61.64
28 Rainbow City 8 $148,600 36.31% $54,819 17.10% 61.55
29 Fairhope 9 $243,400 83.83% $78,885 20.20% 60.92
30 Albertville 6 $105,200 38.06% $44,032 21.50% 60.53
31 Saraland 8 $134,100 48.52% $56,908 16.90% 60.37
32 Daphne 7 $180,000 46.27% $76,942 20.80% 59.80
33 Mountain Brook 8 $542,800 57.73% $158,491 36.60% 59.38
34 Jacksonville 7 $129,300 110.68% $49,986 15.00% 59.06
35 Pleasant Grove 6 $150,400 29.70% $68,451 20.20% 58.90
36 Chickasaw 9 $84,700 18.28% $31,979 13.60% 58.86
37 Northport 6 $161,500 73.36% $69,701 19.70% 58.77
38 Opp 6 $79,600 77.59% $47,419 14.60% 58.56
39 Scottsboro 6 $122,000 56.50% $51,102 18.00% 58.45
40 Athens 6 $139,900 70.00% $57,767 18.10% 58.35
41 Ozark 6 $102,000 104.34% $59,933 13.70% 58.21
42 Jasper 7 $140,300 62.13% $53,575 17.80% 58.12
43 Wetumpka 7 $139,000 32.40% $47,050 15.30% 57.85
44 Lincoln 6 $120,700 58.94% $54,125 15.30% 57.44
45 Leeds 5 $137,700 55.74% $58,277 19.60% 57.32
46 Demopolis 6 $138,500 91.48% $50,706 17.10% 56.92
47 Pell City 7 $157,700 36.48% $50,839 18.20% 56.78
48 Florence 7 $117,800 79.71% $50,911 12.60% 56.68
49 Cullman 7 $126,800 65.55% $48,280 14.50% 56.62
50 Decatur 6 $120,400 42.16% $52,874 14.30% 55.94
51 Alexander City 6 $101,200 36.12% $39,894 16.30% 55.72
52 Hueytown 5 $114,500 35.65% $55,923 18.60% 55.68
53 Roanoke 6 $87,800 43.34% $38,625 14.30% 55.61
54 Orange Beach 8 $237,200 63.41% $66,250 18.40% 55.52
55 Andalusia 7 $90,400 44.06% $38,688 12.30% 55.50
56 Dothan 6 $138,000 51.51% $53,030 16.20% 55.36
57 Tuscumbia 6 $92,600 84.10% $51,167 13.70% 55.18
58 Russellville 5 $90,100 56.03% $39,526 18.60% 55.12
59 Guntersville 8 $163,700 71.68% $51,302 15.50% 54.70
60 Huntsville 6 $158,400 61.22% $66,220 14.30% 54.53
61 Theodore 5 $116,300 28.02% $43,206 20.20% 54.27
62 Valley 5 $79,400 36.27% $42,782 14.00% 54.17
63 Sylacauga 6 $120,600 41.76% $41,867 15.20% 53.46
64 Daleville 6 $92,500 39.00% $47,917 12.60% 53.29
65 Brewton 8 $95,300 0.37% $34,359 13.70% 53.02
66 Jackson 4 $90,000 77.58% $61,810 14.00% 52.88
67 Irondale 5 $129,000 30.54% $60,315 10.30% 52.49
68 Opelika 6 $140,900 53.76% $51,351 13.20% 52.21
69 Montevallo 5 $161,500 114.88% $65,625 11.70% 52.05
70 Gulf Shores 7 $198,400 28.32% $53,671 16.60% 51.96
71 Fultondale 5 $128,000 77.56% $67,482 13.40% 51.82
72 Sheffield 5 $83,600 63.91% $43,721 11.90% 51.18
73 Foley 6 $162,600 64.05% $51,834 12.90% 51.17
74 Mobile 6 $124,300 53.20% $48,175 12.50% 51.13
75 Tuscaloosa 5 $163,500 92.09% $53,268 13.40% 50.72
76 Eufaula 4 $125,500 77.63% $49,576 16.00% 50.64
77 Phenix City 4 $116,200 57.19% $42,001 15.80% 50.21
78 Attalla 5 $63,400 40.13% $38,457 15.90% 50.13
79 Bay Minette 5 $112,100 69.24% $46,078 12.90% 49.37
80 Montgomery 4 $119,200 52.79% $54,434 14.20% 49.15
81 Gadsden 4 $71,200 41.42% $35,105 10.60% 47.99
82 Midfield 3 $77,100 46.59% $45,996 13.10% 47.03
83 Anniston 6 $92,600 63.43% $44,754 7.20% 46.96
84 Atmore 3 $91,000 59.52% $36,477 14.90% 46.88
85 Tarrant 4 $73,900 16.32% $34,175 5.60% 46.22
86 Tuskegee 3 $80,000 115.53% $40,712 8.40% 46.08
87 Lanett 4 $77,900 9.84% $28,775 7.50% 46.07
88 Bessemer 4 $88,500 62.55% $37,494 10.30% 46.07
89 Birmingham 4 $85,800 42.39% $38,069 7.50% 44.82
90 Prichard 4 $66,400 55.72% $30,434 7.60% 44.70
91 Talladega 3 $82,000 14.43% $33,892 10.20% 43.58
92 Greenville 3 $100,000 61.26% $35,648 7.50% 43.48
93 Fairfield 3 $93,100 45.60% $40,542 4.30% 43.38
94 Childersburg 5 $119,300 28.72% $30,806 10.10% 41.06
95 Monroeville 3 $91,100 25.14% $35,326 10.20% 41.01
96 Selma 3 $83,900 44.31% $30,681 6.00% 40.49

 

NerdWallet crunched the data for 96 places in Alabama — cities, towns and census-designated places. Only places with over 5,000 residents were analyzed, but 18 places were excluded because they lacked complete school data or 1999 income data.

Methodology

All data are from the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. 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.

Growth and prosperity. Growth and prosperity are 20% of the total score. The two metrics involved were growth in family income from 1999 to 2013, and median family income in 2013. Both were weighted equally and positively.

Family friendliness. To measure if an area is a good place for families, which is 30% of our total score, we looked at the percentage of married couples with at least one child under age 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 ranking from 1 to 10 for the quality of schools. Education is 20% of the total score.


Auburn University campus in Auburn, Alabama, image via iStock.