Florida. It’s not just for retirees anymore. Increasingly, families with children are moving to the Sunshine State, drawn by job offers, lifestyle, climate, and other factors. But despite Florida’s reputation as a vacation and retirement magnet, the state hasn't necessarily garnered a reputation as a family-friendly place to live. The reason may in part be that people do not know where to look to find those hidden Florida gems that are great places to raise a family.
Location is always important when buying a house, but most people consider it crucial when choosing a home and community for their family and children. And while everyone concurs that quality public schools are an important consideration, schools are only one of six criteria that many parents and demographers agree are key in determining the best towns for families with children.
Dr. Andrew Schiller, a specialist in American demographics and the creator of the NeighborhoodScout search engine for homebuyers, used NeighborhoodScout to analyze government data to identify the communities in Florida that have the best overall combination of attributes parents and researchers repeatedly cite as important in defining the best places for families with children.
His work has produced a list of the top choice towns for families in Florida.
Combining data from the National Center for Education Statistics, The U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the FBI, the U.S. Justice Department, and the Federal Housing Authority, and analyzing every town in the Sunshine State from Pensacola to Key West using NeighborhoodScout, Schiller has been able to reveal some intriguing results.
“We were looking for those very select communities that have both quality public schools and an exceptionally family-friendly environment, not towns that may excel at one or two criteria but are lacking in other ways,” says Schiller. For this research, the criteria used included quality public schools, safety from crime, a high proportion of families with children in the community, many adults with college degrees or even advanced degrees, many families who own their homes, and homes that are predominantly single-family residences, regardless of the setting being urban, suburban, or rural.
Why these criteria? “Homeownership is important because research has shown that it helps keep crime lower, and represents an investment in the location by those living there,” says Schiller. High educational attainment by adults in the community is a good indicator that the populace places a high degree of importance on education, and is well equipped to make key decisions about the future of the community. Many families with children in the town signifies that other families have selected the town as a good place to raise their children, helps to promote a family-friendly environment with good social networks for both children and their parents, and creates a natural constituency for maintaining aspects of the community that are important to families. “Many parents, regardless of the type of dwelling they live in, state that they prefer a single-family home for raising their children, replete with space to play indoors and out, and so this research included the predominance of single-family homes as one of its measures,” says Schiller. Both demographers and parents agree that safety from crime is important for raising children, both because of physical safety, but also to promote trust among members of the community.
Here are NeighborhoodScout’s top 10 best towns for families with children in Florida:
- St. Johns, FL
- Longwood, FL
- Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
- Oviedo, FL
- Winter Springs, FL
- Tallahassee, FL
- Milton, FL
- Fleming Island, FL
- Palm City, FL
- Weston, FL
These top towns range in price, setting and location, from the very expensive to average price relative to Florida, from smaller suburban towns to densely populated areas, and from the Florida Panhandle, to the Jacksonville vicinity to south Florida.
“This special search profile for finding the best places for families with children has been built into a simple-to-use search function on NeighborhoodScout.com,” says Schiller. “Readers can visit NeighborhoodScout.com to find the specific neighborhoods that are best for families with children in their area, and can customize the search to their price range and preferred setting.”
“Educated neighbors” means people 25 and older with college degrees or graduate degrees. “Excellent public schools” means according to NeighborhoodScout’s patented nationally-comparable school quality ratings. “Crime” is all FBI crime index scores - both violent and property - as a rate per 1,000 population for the community. “Owner-occupied” single-family homes mean the town is primarily composed of detached single-family homes owned by their occupants. Data were queried directly with NeighborhoodScout.