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raise a family in the northeast

The total cost of raising a child through age 17 is nearly $234,000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s a whopping price tag for your bundle of joy. And the expense of having a family explains, in part, the downturn in the American fertility rate and why the average American woman now has just 1.8 children, a figure far below “replacement level.” But especially in the Northeast, which is checkered with pricey cities, it’s possible for parents to be strategic about where they settle to make sure they’re saving ample money and getting more bang for their buck from the local school system. Of course, some locales more than others are conducive to raising a family given their abundant employment opportunities, low housing costs and investment in children’s education.

Below, we look at data to rank the best cities to raise a family in the Northeast. Specifically, we analyze data using the following 10 metrics: housing costs as a percent of income, the annual cost of childcare, percent of residents under the age of 19, average math proficiency, average reading proficiency, high school graduation rate, poverty rate, unemployment rate, crime rate and average spending per pupil.

Key Findings

  • Mixed results for Massachusetts – If you scan the top 10, you may assume Massachusetts is one of the better states in the Northeast to raise a family. But it all depends on which particular part of the Bay State you choose. Massachusetts, indeed, has two cities in the top 10 but also two cities in the bottom 10.
  • New Jersey scores well –  The Garden State has four cities in the top 10 and only one city in the bottom 10.

raise a family in the northeast

1. Toms River, New Jersey

If you are raising a family in the Northeast, you can’t beat Toms River, New Jersey, according to our data. This city offers plenty of economic opportunities to parents. It has the third-lowest unemployment rate and poverty rate. Crime here is fairly low as well: Toms River sees about 1,510 crimes per 100,000 residents, the sixth-lowest rate in the study.

2. Newton, Massachusetts

Newton has the lowest crime rate in the study, a point any family would find appealing. According to the latest data, this city saw fewer than 700 crimes per 100,000 residents. The local schools here are also some of the best in the Northeast. They help Newton hold the place of highest math proficiency rate and 11th highest in reading proficiency. Incomes here are also high relative to housing costs. The average household can dedicate less than one-fifth of its income to pay for the average home.

3. Framingham, Massachusetts

Framingham lies just two towns west of Newton. And like in Newton, housing costs here comprise a relatively low percent of income. What’s more, crime is a rarity. Framingham ranks in the top five in both of those metrics. Framingham also has a substantial population of young residents, with 28.7% of residents under the age of 19.

4. Clifton, New Jersey

Data from the Department of Education and the Census Bureau shows that Clifton is a good place to raise a family. The local school system provides excellent support for children here. In fact, the metro area in which Clifton is located has the highest spending per pupil in this study. Clifton also has an unemployment rate of 3.9% – a good sign of the economic opportunities available to residents.

5. Bayonne, New Jersey

The schools around Bayonne have a high school graduation rate of 90.6% on average, a top-10 rate. Crime is also not a big threat for families living in Bayonne. Only three other cities in this study have lower crime rates than Bayonne. Relative to the rest of the Northeast, childcare costs in New Jersey are fairly low. The cost of raising a child in New Jersey is roughly $8,000 less than it is in Massachusetts.

6. Brentwood, New York

Brentwood is the first city in New York to appear in the top 10. A young population and a high average high school graduation rate buoy this city’s ranking. In both of those metrics, Brentwood nabs a top-20 spot. Poverty in this city is also relatively uncommon. Brentwood has the 10th-lowest poverty rate in the study.

7. Jersey City, New Jersey

Jersey City is a good place to raise a family. This city has easy access to New York City and the attendant job opportunities. But high demand for this proximity drives up prices in Jersey City. Adjusted for income, Jersey City costs about average for a Northeastern city. Jersey City also ranks in the top 20 for poverty rate and unemployment rate.

7. New Rochelle, New York

Located in Westchester County, New Rochelle is tied for seventh place. The main reasons that families would favor it as a place to live are the low crime and poverty figures. By both metrics, New Rochelle ranks in the top 10. The metro area around New Rochelle also spends a lot on its pupils. The average student received $23,600 in funding in 2016.

9. Yonkers, New York

About eight miles west of New Rochelle (and just beneath it in this study) is Yonkers, New York. Families appreciate that Yonkers has a low crime rate. According to the latest FBI data, there were just 1,406 crimes per 100,000 residents in Yonkers. More than 90% of its students graduate from high school as well, which is a top-10 rate. One concern about this location may be its cost of living: Yonkers ranks below average in housing costs as a percent of income for the median household.

10. Nashua, New Hampshire

Nashua is an affordable place to raise a family. In both of our cost-of-living metrics, Nashua ranks in the top 10. Specifically, the median Nashua home costs just 23% of income for the average household. In New Hampshire, the annual cost of childcare is relatively low as well, totaling $12,487 per child. Nashua is more than just affordable, though. It ranks in the top 10 for low crime and poverty rates as well.

raise a family in the northeast

Data Methodology

In order to rank the best cities to raise a family in the Northeast, we looked at data on 59 cities. We compared them across the following 10 metrics:

  • Housing cost as a percent of income. This is the median housing cost as a percent of the median household income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Annual cost of full-time center-based child care for infants. Data comes from Child Care Aware of America and is from 2017.
  • Percent of residents under the age of 19. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Average proficiency in math. This is the average percent of students across schools who are proficient in math. Data comes from the U.S. Department of Education EDFacts for the 2016-2017 school year and is measured for metro area.
  • Average proficiency in reading. This is the average percent of students across schools who are proficient in reading. Data comes from the U.S. Department of Education EDFacts for the 2016-2017 school year and is measured for metro area.
  • High school graduation rate. This is the average percentage of students across schools who graduate from high school. Data comes from the U.S. Department of Education EDFacts for the 2016-2017 school year and is measured by metro area.
  • Poverty rate. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Unemployment rate. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Crime rate per 100,000 residents. This is the combined property and violent crime rates per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI’s 2017 Uniform Crime Reporting Program.
  • Average spending per student. This is the average spending per student. Data is measured at the metro area level and comes from the Census Bureau’s 2016 Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finance report.

First we ranked each city in each metric. Next we found each city’s average ranking and gave full weight to all metrics except reading proficiency, math proficiency, graduation rate and average spending per pupil. Using this average ranking, we created our final score. The city with the best average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the worst average ranking received a 0.

Tips for Managing your Savings

  • Don’t go overboard on the home – Don’t be tempted into overdoing it on a dream family home with an expensive mortgage. It may be enticing to buy a home with all the space and amenities you want for your children, but that can come at the cost of your financial health. If you find yourself struggling to make payments on your home, you may also be unable to help pay for your child’s college costs or your own retirement.
  • Get financial planning help – As you take on the pleasures and costs of raising a family, it is important that you be smart with your investments. In order to make sure you and your family live a financially secure life, it is probably a good idea to get the help of a financial advisor. If you are not sure where to find a financial advisor, check out SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/stresstensor

Derek Miller, CEPF® Derek Miller is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh where he studied economics. He is passionate about using data to help people make better financial decisions. Derek is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®) and a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. He is a data journalist whose expertise is in finding the stories within the numbers. Derek's writing has been featured on Yahoo, AOL, and Huffington Post. He believes the biggest financial mistake people make is waiting too late to save for retirement and missing out on the wonders of compounding interest. Derek lives in Brooklyn.
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