Virginia has become increasingly well known as one of the nation’s corporate hubs, and its unemployment rate is the lowest among the southeastern states. It’s no wonder why the Old Dominion’s population growth is 50 percent higher than the national average.
With these trends in mind, NerdWallet wanted to answer this question: What brings so many young families to this state?
Financial stability isn’t the only appeal. And so, as we analyzed the best places for young families in Virginia, we asked a number of questions, including:
Does the city 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 city 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.
Don’t miss our 2015 rankings of this study.
Best cities in Virginia for young families
1. Glen Allen
Henrico County in general is growing quickly, and Glen Allen in particular is home to three Fortune 500 companies. Business is booming here, and all around Richmond, providing the residents of Glen Allen with a healthy job market.
Vienna is home to the Virginians who work in corporate-heavyweight Tysons Corner. More people are flocking here, too, and median home values are up as real estate is booming again in Vienna.
Fairfax has already seen success in the past decade with a growth rate of 46.80%, and it’s continuing to be proactive about economic development. The city plans to expand the downtown area to bring together both the city of Fairfax and the 30,000 students who attend George Mason University.
Salem is by far the most budget-friendly city on the list. Homeownership is affordable, with an average median value of $166,200. Nestled in the hills outside Roanoke, it offers natural beauty, especially in the fall.
5. Bon Air
Originally, Bon Air was a haven for the wealthy of Richmond because of its pleasant climate, great views and convenient access to the city. It’s still populated with upscale, historic Victorian homes, but it’s also become more accessible for young families. While the rest of the greater Richmond area has expanded significantly in the past 10 years, Bon Air’s size has allowed it to maintain a small-town feel.
Nearly a fifth of Burke residents work in public administration, with the nation’s capitol just next door. Washington, D.C., may be more widely known, but there’s plenty to love in Burke, too. It’s a small, planned community, with just 1,700 acres split into five neighborhoods.
Mechanicsville is home to middle-class families, who earn a median annual income of $69,000. The town does its part to help these families thrive. For entrepreneurs, county-sponsored seminars that help young small-business owners set up shop in the area.
Oakton has taken the lead in Northern Virginia’s effort to galvanize the local economy, and the results are showing in its unemployment figures. Small businesses in this city have joined Nova tech startups at a summit to discuss the industry’s role in the global economy.
Six Fortune 500 companies call McLean home, including Capital One, Booz Allen Hamilton and Exelis. Residents, too, are well-off in this city, where median annual incomes are higher and median home values are $800,000. The median salary is $170,933, over three times the national median. McLean’s public schools are excellent as well — with two high schools having been named among the top 10 in the state, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Chesapeake is one of the most highly educated cities in America, with over 27% holding a bachelor’s degree — which is above the national average. High-level job opportunities abound here, too, with a number of Fortune 1000 companies headquartered in the city, including Dollar Tree.
Best cities in Virginia for young families
|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.
This analysis included 82 Virginia cities, towns and villages with populations over 15,000.
Image via iStock.