There’s more to New York than New York City, and when it comes to jobs there’s more to New York City than just Wall Street. The securities industry has accounted for only 1% of jobs added in the city’s private sector in the past five years, compared with 10% in the 1990s, according to a New York Times story. Recent job growth has ranged from places such as hotels and restaurants to “fast-growing and well-paying Internet companies like Google, Facebook and BuzzFeed,” the Times reported.
That diversification has had spillover effects throughout the state. Start-Up NY, a government program to attract business, touts New York as the national leader in solar and wind energy technology development, and among the leaders in making specialized components for advanced industries such as telecommunications and aerospace.
What does this healthy and growing economy mean for young families in New York? In many areas of the state, not only has the local job market recovered, but it also has expanded with new high-skilled and high-paying jobs.
When NerdWallet crunched the data to find the best cities for young families in New York, we found excellent places with great schools and recent economic growth in family friendly communities across the Empire State.
Relative affordability. The average median home price in the top 10 cities is $332,460, which is slightly above the statewide average of $316,225, although our top three cities came in well below that figure. Residents can find plenty of value for their housing dollar, including excellent schools and some of the more family-oriented communities in the state.
Top-notch schools. The average GreatSchools.org rating of the cities in the top 10 is 8.7 out of 10, which is significantly higher than the statewide average of 6.4, so families can find communities with excellent schools in many places in the state.
Long Island towns. Six of the top 10 cities are on Long Island, where families can find a home in an excellent community within commute distance to New York City.
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 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.
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NerdWallet crunched the data for 158 places in New York — cities, towns and census-designated places. Only places with over 10,000 residents were analyzed. To see the full data set, click here.
Best cities for young families in New York
This hamlet takes the top spot because of its blend of affordability and excellent schools. Endwell, which is outside Binghamton along the scenic Susquehanna River, earned a GreatSchools score of 8 out of 10, and a median family spends about 20% of their income on select monthly homeowner costs (including mortgage, insurance, fuel), the lowest mark in the top 10.
The smallest town in the top 10, Lancaster outperforms for its size. This town of 10,325 scored a 9 at GreatSchools, which is tied for the highest mark in New York, and it has a median home value of $114,800, making it one of the most affordable places in the state. Young families will love exploring Como Lake Park and its kid-friendly trails and green spaces.
Much like its Erie County neighbor Lancaster, Kenmore is another smaller town — technically a village — that blends excellent schools (an 8 at GreatSchools) and affordability: median home values are $105,300. Residents will not only find plenty of recreational opportunities on the Niagara River, but they also will have access to quality job opportunities, especially in the region’s science and technology industries. The nearby Riverview Solar Technology Park has attracted a number of technology companies to its solar-powered office park campus, including FedEx Trade Networks and Unifrax.
- Saratoga Springs
Saratoga Springs may best be known as the home of the Saratoga Race Course, one of the oldest sporting venues in the U.S., but young families will take notice of other features that make it an attractive option. The city earned a GreatSchools rating of 9, and residents have seen median family incomes grow 59% since 1999, the second-best mark in the top 10.
- Stony Brook
The top Long Island spot in our list, this North Shore hamlet has leveraged its recent economic growth and quality schools to become a premier destination for young families. Stony Brook schools earned a 9 from GreatSchools, and a median family has seen its income grow 60% since 1999, the best mark in the top 10. Stony Brook is also home to the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages, which is a Smithsonian Institution affiliate.
- Massapequa Park
The second-highest scoring place in Long Island, Massapequa Park provides an excellent setting for young families. The village’s schools earned a 9 out of 10 from GreatSchools, and 34% of households are families with at least one child under 18, the second-highest proportion in the top 10. Its location also allows residents to tap into the nearly unlimited cultural and economic opportunities of New York City, since a trip on the Long Island Railroad into Midtown Manhattan takes less than an hour.
With over a third of households having at least one child and a school system that earned a 9 from GreatSchools, Wantagh provides a close-knit, family friendly community, but with quick access to the economic and cultural amenities of the city. Young families will especially love the easy escape during hot summer days to Jones Beach, which is only seven miles from the center of town.
Commack is long established as a favorite destination for young families. This Long Island community has the highest proportion of young families as a percent of the population (37.90%) among the top cities, and it also has strong schools that scored a 9 at GreatSchools — tying for the best mark in the state. With its location only a short distance from Sunken Meadow State Park and Caleb Smith State Park, residents can hit the trails or the beach in some of Long Island’s best recreation areas.
Like its Suffolk County neighbors on this list, Holtsville is another Long Island community with a high proportion of families with children (34.4% of households) and excellent schools (8 at GreatSchools). However, Holtsville provides the most affordability of any of the Long Island places on our list, with a median home value of $348,800. The combination of affordability and excellent amenities should ensure Holtsville will continue to attract young families.
This sixth Long Island town in the top 10 hasn’t been forgotten by young families: over a third of households are families with children. The popularity of Bellmore isn’t surprising — especially considering the schools earned a 9 at GreatSchools and the premier South Shore location provides access to some of Long Island’s best recreational opportunities, such as Jones Beach and the Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve.
On the map below, click on an icon to see more details about each place on the top 10 list.
Best cities for young families in New York
All data are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 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.