North Carolina used to be most known to the rest of the country for three big exports: barbecue, college basketball and tobacco.
The hoops and smoked-meat traditions are alive and well, but tobacco is no longer the economic king it once was. Communities that once hosted the world’s biggest tobacco producers now are home to technology, life sciences and financial services companies. And tobacco warehouses have given way to condos and other housing.
With its temperate climate, strong educational institutions and relatively affordable housing, the shift from old economy to new has made the state an attractive destination for young families.
Factors for families to consider
NerdWallet identified the communities in North Carolina that offer young families the best combination of quality schools, jobs with good income opportunities, friendly neighbors and affordable living. Here’s what we looked at:
Home affordability. We looked at median home values and selected monthly homeowner costs.
Growth and prosperity. We evaluated past and current family incomes to gauge prosperity and prospects for economic growth.
Quality of schools. We incorporated ratings from GreatSchools, a nonprofit school-ratings site, to help determine the quality of the local schools.
Family friendliness. We examined the percentage of families with children in school and the poverty rate for families with young children to learn if a community is a positive environment for children.
NerdWallet analyzed 145 places in North Carolina — cities, towns, villages and census-designated places — with data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Only places with over 5,000 residents were analyzed. To see the full data set, click here.
Top places are near big employers. The Charlotte area is the headquarters for the country’s third-largest bank, Bank of America, while other big employers such as Wells Fargo, the Carolinas Healthcare System and American Airlines also have offices there. Similarly, the region around Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill — known as the Triangle — hosts technology and life-sciences companies such as IBM, Cisco Systems and GlaxoSmithKline. It also is home to three big universities, North Carolina State, Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill. Eight of our top 10 picks are in these two regions.
Family incomes are strong. The median family income in eight of the top 10 places ranked among the upper quarter of the places in our analysis — over $73,625 a year. Median incomes in the other two places were both above $70,000.
Best options are small- and midsize suburbs. All of the top places in our analysis were within 30 miles of a major city and under 40,000 people, allowing residents access to an urban center while also having the option to avoid it, too. Unsurprisingly, the populations of all top 10 places have grown quickly.
Best places for young families in North Carolina
#12 Mooresville, NC.