The Wall Street Journal (Aug 28, 2012) reports today that across the country, parents are preparing this week to send their children back to school, spending hundreds of dollars on books, uniforms and cold cuts for brown bag lunches. Another key back-to-school purchase for many families is a new home.
A new analysis of Census data by the real-estate services company Trulia Inc. shows that the quality of schools remains a crucial factor in where parents choose to buy homes. Of course, schools have always been closely tied to real-estate sales, but Trulia’s findings indicate that despite the collapse of the housing market, education is sometimes even more important than factors such as price, commute time and nearby amenities.
Using data from the Commerce Department’s Decennial Census taken in 2010, Trulia compared the ratio of families with children aged 5 to 9 versus families with children aged to 0 to 4. The results showed that the most attractive communities for families with school-aged kids are traditional suburbs like Hillsborough and Saratoga (both in Northern California), Cold Spring Harbor, on New York’s Long Island, and Glencoe, Ill., north of Chicago.
The communities that are least attractive to parents with school-age children – or the districts with the lowest ratios of 5-to-9-year-olds to 0-to-4-year-olds – tended to be densely-populated communities that are popular with young professionals and students, yet have high real estate prices. These include Hoboken, New Jersey — which has only 39 children at elementary school age for every 100 preschool-aged children — Alexandria, Va., and Somerville, Mass.
The 10 school districts on Trulia’s list that were most attractive to parents of school-age kids were ranked, on average, in the 94th percentile of schools, nationally. By comparison, the average percentile ranking of the least attractive school districts was 52.
On a statewide level, differences in quality are even more pronounced. Compared with other schools in the same state, the schools in the top-10 most desirable districts had an average ranking in the 94th percentile; in the least-desirable districts, the average was the 38th percentile.