New parents have a lot on their minds. Juggling adjusted work and home-life schedules, reordering financial priorities and securing comfortable and functional living spaces for their growing family. When deciding where to plant roots, parents have to make that decision based on the right balance of several important factors, such as family earnings, the breakdown of monthly housing costs and quality-of-life considerations like commuting times to work.
You shouldn’t focus on one single determining factor in the process of selecting a home in Tennessee, but there is one critical first step — being able to afford your property. LendingTree can help with that research, so be sure to check out the latest insights on essentials like minimal mortgage requirements, and be aware of recent mortgage rates. Get to know the mortgage market as you research potential neighborhoods for your family in the Volunteer State.
Ultimately, you and your spouse or partner, if you have one, will be the ultimate judges of what is right for your family, but why not take some insights from people who have looked at Tennessee communities, from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Nashville Basin? Researchers at LendingTree compiled a list of best places for young families in Tennessee, a state where, overall, you can get more value for your dollar than many other states. Overall, you will find that Tennessee communities attract households with children, especially those in the Top 10, and there are many possibilities of finding someplace sweet, no matter what your income level.
• Brentwood is the best place to raise a family in Tennessee, with a final score of 69.8.
• Farragut and South Cleveland take the second and third spots, with final scores of 68.8 and 67.5, respectively.
• On the other end of the list, we found Covington to be the most challenging place for young families in Tennessee, with a final score of 40.9.
• McMinnville and Ripley finished out the bottom three towns on our list, with final scores of 42.8 and 45.2, respectively.
The top 10 cities to live in Tennessee
A suburb of Nashville, Brentwood tops LendingTree’s list with a score of 69.8. Among families with children, the median household income is $185,321 and the median monthly cost of housing is $2,107. Almost half of all households in Brentwood, 47.5%, have children. The town has by far the highest rate of homeownership among families with children in the study at 92.2%. The rate of unemployment for 25- to 44-year-olds is 2% in a town where 0.5% of 16- to 19-year-olds are either not enrolled in high school or have graduated. The average travel time to work is 25.1 minutes.
Households with children are in the minority in Farragut, at 34.1%, so on that metric alone, it doesn’t appear to be a community that attracts families. Nevertheless, the town places second with a score of 68.8, and other winning attributes come into view. Households with children have a median income of $138,032, and the median cost of housing is $1,279. Although households with children are scarcer than they are in Brentwood, the homeownership rate with children is high, at 88.1%. The unemployment rate among 25- to 44-year-olds is 2.8%, and virtually no 16- to 19-year-olds are not in high school.
#3 South Cleveland
Be it ever so humble — relatively — there are few places like South Cleveland to raise a family. It comes in third in the rankings with a score of 67.5. Households with children have a median income of $46,250, and the median monthly cost of housing is $829. On paper, that might make South Cleveland look less tony than other Top 10 Tennessee towns, but it stacks up in other measures of well-being for young families. The town also has a lower percentage of households with children, 43.3%, but a majority of those households, 75.6%, own their homes. Unemployment stands at 4.8%, a little higher than the statewide rate of 3.7% for 2017, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development updated through Feb. 1, 2019. Statistically, all of the town’s 16- to 19-year-olds are enrolled in or graduated from high school. The average travel time to work is 18.4 minutes, so little family time is sacrificed to a long commute.
With a final score of 67.3, Nolensville is located in Middle Tennessee, a region known for its stunning landscapes. The median income of households with families is $127,692, and the median monthly housing cost is $1,918. The homeownership rate for families with children comes in at 87.7%, the unemployment rate is among the state’s lowest, at 1.6%, which is also the metric for 16- to 19-year-olds that are not enrolled in or have graduated from high school. Workers in Nolensville take about 31 minutes to get to work. What makes Nolensville decidedly friendly to young families is that 63% of its households have children, the very highest among all 104 communities that were measured in the ranking.
Arlington, Tennessee comes in fifth with a score of 67.1 and has plenty to offer young families, according to LendingTree’s study. A majority of households there, 60.9%, have children, and among those families, 86.5% own their homes, making for a potentially welcoming environment for young families who settle here. Households with children have a median income of $101,723, and the monthly median cost of housing is $1,657. Arlington certainly has the highest rate of 16- to 19-year-olds who are not enrolled in school or have graduated: 3.1%. On average, Arlington residents commute 29.5 minutes to get to work, rounding out LendingTree’s Top Five.
#6 Forest Hills
It is a bedroom community and suburb of Nashville with a tiny population of just 5,040, according to the Forest Hills Website. Do not call Forest Hills a hamlet, though; it is officially a city. In any case, the community placed in the Top 10 with a score of 67.0. In this decidedly affluent community, the median household income of families with children is $228,693, and monthly median housing costs are $2,449. Just 32.4% of households have children, but the homeownership rate of families with children is very high — 97.4%. The unemployment rate among 25- to 44-year-olds is 4.6%, a full percentage point higher than the statewide number. Forest Hills residents who do work, however, have an average travel time of 21.5 minutes.
About 23 miles east of the Mississippi River, the Memphis suburb of Lakeland offers young families several attractive reasons to set down roots. It makes the listing with a score of 66.7. The median household income for families with children is $110,853, with monthly median housing costs of $1,485. A slight minority of households in Lakeland has children: 45.2%. Among families with children, 86.4% own their homes. The unemployment rate in Lakeland is just 2.2%, and the average commute is 26.6 minutes. Statistically speaking, none of the 16- to 19-year-olds in Lakeland are not enrolled in, or already graduated from, high school.
#8 Signal Mountain
With a score of 66.3, Signal Mountain makes the list with as much reputed natural beauty as quality-of-life measures. It rests on an elevation above the Tennessee River gorge, and it is a suburb of Chattanooga, according to the city’s website. Only 38.3% of households in Signal Mountain have children, but of that small amount, a high proportion, 85.2%, own their homes. Statistically, none of the 16- to 19-year-olds in the community are not in or have graduated from high school. Among 25- to 44-year-olds, 4.7% are unemployed. Workers from Signal Mountain have an average travel time of 24.2 minutes.
Another suburb of Memphis, Germantown makes it safely into the Top 10 with a score of 65.3. An affluent community, the median household income of families with children is $134,340, and the median monthly cost of housing runs at about $1,605. Only 31.6% of households in Germantown have children, but an overwhelming majority of that group, 85%, owns their homes. Statistically, none of the 16- to 19-year-olds in Germantown are not enrolled in, or have graduated from, high school. Professionals in Germantown commute about 21.8 minutes to work.
Located 19 miles east of the Tennessee River, Collegedale is a suburb of Chattanooga and makes it into the Top 10 with a score of 65.2. It is another town where families are relatively scarce, with just 24% of households there having children. The town had a 68.1% homeownership rate among families with children. The median household income of families with children amounts to $85,948, and the monthly median housing costs are $889. Unemployment in the town stands at 0.4%. Statistically none of the 16- to 19-year-olds in the town are not enrolled in or have graduated from high school. The average travel time to work was 18.5 minutes.
Understanding the rankings
We chose seven indicators to rank cities and towns with above 5,000 people in the state for how good they are for young families, which were then scored to create an overall ranking of the best places for young families. The seven indicators we used are:
• Median family income: Money isn’t everything, but a place with high family incomes suggests a place with good job opportunities and a community with more resources.
• Median monthly housing costs for all households: For families already dealing with new childcare expenses, reasonably affordable housing is important.
• Homeownership rate of families with children: This indicates were homeownership is both more common and perhaps importantly for a family looking to buy, more practical.
• Unemployment rate of 25-44 year olds: This indicates where the job market is healthy and suggest a higher quality of life, locally. We focus on 25- to 44-year-olds in particular to capture the most common ages for parents of young families.
• Percentage of 16-19 year olds not enrolled or graduated from high school: To estimate high school graduation rates and therefore school quality, we calculated the percentage of older teenagers who were not in high school yet had no high school degree. This number is not the actual high school dropout rate, but is well-correlated.
• Average commute time: Shorter commutes mean less stressed workers who have more time to spend with their families.
• Percentage of households that have children: A community with more children means that other families have already decided it’s attractive. It also usually means more educational and recreational activities suitable for children and their parents and that residents are concerned about policies that benefit families with kids.
Analysts used data from the 2017 5-Year American Community Survey by the U.S. Census. Each of the seven metrics was given a value according to its relative location between the highest and lowest values. The values were then summed and divided by seven for an equal weighting. The analysis was limited to Census-designated places with populations of at least 5,000.
Compliments of Donna Mitchell