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The Best Towns in Massachusetts for Raising Kids

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Two-thirds of Massachusetts residents may live and work in the Greater Boston area, but there’s plenty of opportunity for young families beyond that large metro area. Towns across the state boast strong schools and local economies.

Young families continue to thrive here, and with so many options, NerdWallet analyzed a range of data to find the best towns in Massachusetts for raising kids.

NerdWallet’s analysis

We focused on these questions:

Does the town have good public schools? We compiled scores from GreatSchools.org, an organization that provides a school rating, with 10 as the highest. Higher ratings led to a higher score.

Can you afford to live there? We looked at the cost of homeownership, including the median home value as well as monthly homeowner costs such as mortgage payments, real estate taxes, insurance costs, utilities and other bills. Lower costs led to a higher score.

Is the town prosperous? We evaluated the local economy by looking at its median household income and income growth over the past decade. Higher median income and strong growth led to a higher score.

The best towns in Massachusetts for raising kids

1. Longmeadow

Surrounded by large parks and green space, Longmeadow is the epitome of a quaint New England town. Students at Longmeadow High School consistently outperform in their college entrance exams with over 96% of graduates going on to college. The high school’s music program travels nationwide and boasts several Grammy Awards.

2. Wilmington

Since it was settled in 1665, Wilmington has been at the center of U.S. history. In the 1800s, Wilmington was a hop-growing hub and a stop along the Underground Railroad. That history continues today in community gatherings that commemorate the past and nurture future generations at festivities including weeklong Fourth of July events on the town common and a summer concert series. This family-oriented town is about 17 miles northwest of Boston.

3. Winchester

The suburb of Winchester began receiving recognition as a place for families in the early 1970s, and it has held that distinction since. The local public schools, with a 10 at GreatSchools, are among the top in Massachusetts while the town is an easy commute to Boston. When they want to sail, paddle, swim or ice skate, residents head to the Mystic Lakes.

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4. Lexington

While many towns that topped our list have played important roles in U.S. history, Lexington is by far the most well known: It’s the site where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired. Every year, on the first Monday in April, the community commemorates the early days in the struggle for American independence. Lexington also is home to some of the nation’s top-ranked schools.

5. Brookline

Brookline, just southwest of Boston, is the largest town on our list and the most diverse: 30% of the school district’s students live in homes where English is spoken as a second language. Although it’s close to Boston, Brookline has remained an independent town as it moves away from its reputation as a wealthy suburb.

6. Marblehead

This town, just outside Salem, began as a fishing village in the 1600s, but these days it’s better known for its strong academic record. The public schools have a near-perfect score at GreatSchools, and it’s clear why: Students here receive strong support from the community. Marblehead High School’s booster club has showed its commitment to success on the field and off by awarding academic scholarships.

7. Reading

Reading, which is about 15 miles north of Boston, is a place where the adults commute to the big city to work while their kids attend some of the best public schools in the nation. Reading’s schools are strong in academics and in sports. On standardized tests, students at Reading Memorial High School consistently score up to 15% higher than the state average. Meanwhile, the school’s athletes are successful, too, with recent state titles and winning seasons.

8. Needham

Needham is a commuter town near Boston and it’s home to some of the best schools around. The school district organized an exchange program with a district in China, which included a visit overseas by the superintendent and elementary school principal. At the high school, an interdisciplinary program combines academic subjects for a better coordinated approach.

9. Somerset

Somerset, which is about a half-hour drive from Providence, Rhode Island, combines a rural feel and with a solid school district. Students at the newly opened high school have quickly shown the results: 93% of the first graduating class went on to higher education at a four- or two-year college.

10. Milton

This town, just south of Boston, is home to the highest percentage of residents claiming Irish descent and it’s also the birthplace of a member of the Dropkick Murphys Celtic punk band. More than a melting pot, the town is recognized for its schools, which feature a French language-immersion program for first- and second-graders. At the high school, enrollment in AP courses is growing and testing scores have risen even as classrooms fill up.

Best towns in Massachusetts for raising kids

Scroll right to see all data categories.

RankCityNearest big cityGreatSchools ratingMedian home valueMonthly owner costsMedian household incomeIncome change
1999-2011
Score
1LongmeadowSpringfield9$351,500$2,371$100,09232.64%68.74
2WilmingtonBoston7$389,200$2,240$100,86142.76%65.47
3WinchesterBoston10$690,600$3,307$127,66535.74%65.28
4LexingtonBoston9$687,100$3,355$136,61041.09%64.46
5BrooklineBoston9$681,200$3,052$97,25045.78%64.39
6MarbleheadSalem9$569,600$2,745$99,57434.62%63.24
7ReadingBoston9$448,500$2,648$99,13128.64%63.22
8NeedhamBoston9$646,000$3,191$121,08037.47%62.81
9SomersetFall River7$290,500$1,905$69,44934.15%61.84
10MiltonBoston8$483,400$2,845$104,71332.57%59.75

Methodology

Our analysis included 75 cities and towns in Massachusetts. Only places with populations over 15,000 were included.

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

  1. 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 is from the 2011 American Community Survey, a division of the U.S. Census Bureau.
  3. Monthly homeowner costs are from the 2011 American Community Survey.
  4. Median annual household income is from the 2011 American Community Survey.
  5. Income change from 1999 to 2011 is from the U.S. Census Bureau.