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The Best Towns in South Carolina for Young Families

Sept. 10, 2013
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Tourists may come to South Carolina for the Southern cooking, fresh produce and ocean views, but young families stay for more.

With that in mind, NerdWallet focused on the following questions in our analysis of cities and towns 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 average 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 average household income and income growth over the last decade. Higher income and greater growth led to a higher overall score.

The best towns in South Carolina for young families

1. Fort Mill

Fort Mill is just off 77, connecting the city both to banking industry hub Charlotte to the north and Rock Hill to the south. On top of its access to industry, Fort Mill boasts great recreational areas for young families. In particular, the Anne Springs Close Greenway offers more than 2,100 acres of green space.

2. Clemson

Clemson is a big university town and home to the Clemson Tigers, whose football team has been ACC Champion on and off for the last six decades. The university maintains a relationship with the larger community, too, sending its students to the local elementary school for a professional development program. That school, Clemson Elementary, has been rated “Excellent” by the state for improvement and performance overall.

3. Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant has seen tremendous development in the last several years. It claims the most expensive homes on the list but also the highest income. Schools are top-notch here, too. Wando High School saw 91% of its class of 2012 go on to college. Collectively, that class also earned $16.47 million in scholarship money.

4. Greer

Greer is a great place for lovers of the outdoors. It is located two hours from the Blue Ridge Mountains, and to the north are Lake Robinson and Lake Cunningham. City Park boasts an outdoor amphitheater, trails, picnic areas and a fountain. Every Fourth of July, the park lights up for Freedom Blast, which brings families to the center of the city for music and fireworks.

5. Summerville

Earlier this year, Ashley Ridge High School was recognized as one of the five best in the state; it won a Palmetto’s Finest Award, which includes a rigorous application process consisting of a self-evaluation, a peer review and an on-site visit to find the schools with the highest student achievement and best professional-learning community.

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6. Hanahan

Hanahan offers easy access to downtown Charleston and great schools. Hanahan Elementary, for example, has earned Palmetto Gold and Silver Awards for several consecutive years. Fifteen of the school’s teachers have National Board Certification. Teachers can earn this designation after an intensive review process, which asks them to submit a video of their teaching in the classroom.

7. Goose Creek

Goose Creek has a lot to brag about in terms of education. Howe Hall AIMS, an elementary and magnet school, serves students with a poverty level of 46%. Despite the lack of financial support for some, the school still excels; in 2010, it earned the prestigious National Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education.

8. Simpsonville

Simpsonville is along I-385, just a few miles southeast of Greenville. A local elementary school, Oakview, has been recognized numerous times for its excellence. It has won a National Blue Ribbon twice, and the staff includes fourteen National Board Certified teachers.

9. Charleston

Charleston’s historic downtown is among the most elegant in the nation. It maintains the city’s antebellum architecture and features cobblestone streets trodden by horse-drawn carriages. The economy, by contrast, is entirely modern, and it has been adding jobs to the city at a tremendous rate since the early aughts. Engineering, in particular, has seen growth with companies like Boeing establishing offices here in the last several years.

10. Lexington

Lexington is just outside Columbia and a few miles south of Lake Murray, where residents fish and boat. Top employers in the town include the county government and local school district. Midway Elementary has won Palmetto Gold and Silver Awards for 11 consecutive years. These awards recognize both student achievement and teacher performance, and they are even evaluated with in-person visits.

The best towns in South Carolina for young families

Scroll right to see all data categories.

RankCityNearest big cityGreatSchools ratingMedian home valueMonthly owner costsMedian household incomeGrowth,'99-'11Overall score for young families
1Fort MillRock Hill, Charlotte, NC9$176,700$1,440$68,25052.9%77.5
2ClemsonGreenville, Anderson10$191,400$1,170$35,98333.8%74.4
3Mount PleasantCharleston9$355,200$2,065$76,68825.6%65.4
4GreerGreenville, Spartanburg8$138,600$1,215$42,45428.1%64.9
7Goose CreekCharleston7$172,200$1,415$61,52434.0%62.5


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.
  2. Median home value from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey.
  3. Monthly homeowner costs from the 2011 ACS.
  4. Median household income from the 2011 ACS.
  5. Income change from 1999 to 2011 from census data.

This study included 50 South Carolina cities and towns with populations over 10,000.

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