Are you looking to raise your family in an area that mirrors Latter-day Saint values and lifestyles? Although some families may have the option to live in Utah, where LDS values are seen everywhere, many do not.
The book "Best Places to Raise an LDS Family" rates and ranks 361 communities according to LDS values and lifestyles. Nearly 100 data sets-mostly from government and nonprofit sources-are broken into seven broad categories: LDS Culture, Education, Crime, Economic Environment, Health, Household Characteristics, and Housing. The data are then weighted according to LDS values (for instance, teen smoking rates are weighted more heavily than cost of a four-bedroom home), and communities are then ranked from best (No. 1) to worst (No. 361) in each category and overall.
It shouldn't be a surprise, then, that the top four communities that most closely align with LDS values and lifestyles are in Utah: Provo-Orem, St. George, Logan and Ogden-Clearfield. Salt Lake City comes in at No. 8.
But what about communities outside of Utah? Here are the top 10 communities to raise an LDS family outside the Beehive State:
1. State College, Pa.
Score: 81.04. Overall Rank: 5.
State College, home of Penn State University, comes in as the number one place to raise an LDS family outside of Utah. State College scores in the Top 100 in six of the seven categories in our list and comes in at No. 2 in crime and No. 9 in economic environment.
2. Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Score: 80.57. Overall Rank: 6.
Idaho Falls has two LDS temples within its U.S. Census Bureau-defined Metropolitan Statistical Area, now that the Rexburg Idaho Temple is in operation. Nationally, Idaho Falls ranks No. 6 in our health category and No. 3 in household characteristics, with only 6.2 percent of births being to single women compared with 35.3 percent nationally.
3. Corvallis, Ore.
Score: 79.09. Overall Rank: 7.
With a metro area population of nearly 89,000, Corvallis has a healthy economic environment, scoring seventh in the nation. Unemployment is at 8 percent for July 2010, nearly one percent lower than it was in July 2009. The employment picture in Corvallis is sunny and bright, and it should be getting even better.
4. Bend, Ore.
Score: 78.88. Overall Rank: 9.
About 120 miles east from Corvallis, Bend has nearly twice the number of residents and a worse-than-average unemployment rate of 13.3 percent in July 2010, half a percentage point better than a year ago. However, Bend's high scores in the education, crime and household characteristics categories make up for its struggling employment situation, making it a sound locale for LDS families.
5. Ames, Iowa.
Score: 77.08. Overall Rank: 10.
Ames has a healthy lifestyle and benefits from statewide bans on indoor smoking, including in private workplaces and commercial daycare centers and prohibitions on cigarette vending machines. It also scores high in the education category, with 93.7 percent of its residents having a high school diploma (compared with 85.8 percent nationwide) and 53.8 percent having a college degree (compared with 33.2 percent nationally).
6. Ithaca, N.Y.
Score: 77.01; Overall Rank: 11.
Contributing to Ithaca's high ranking is its low crime rates, including an overall violent crime rate about one-third that of national averages. Ithaca scores well in the education category as well, with 95.2 percent of residents having graduated high school, and a low student-teacher ratio of 11 to 1.
7. Iowa City, Iowa.
Score: 76.91. Overall Rank: 12.
Returning to the Midwest, Iowa City, known as heaven to fans of the movie "Field of Dreams", is nearly that, scoring second best in the country in our education category and in the Top 50 in three other categories. Of note is the short commute time with more than four out of 10 commutes taking less than 15 minutes.
8. Boise, Idaho.
Score: 76.65. Overall Rank: 13.
The Boise-Nampa area in western Idaho enjoys a lower-than-average rate of births to single women and a higher-than-average rate of children living with both married biological parents at 70.7 percent. Although the median home value of $203,900 is slightly higher than national numbers, the cost of a four-bedroom home comes in at $189,000 — nearly $100,000 lower than the national average.
9. Lynchburg, Va.
Score: 76.63. Overall Rank: 14.
Coming in only a hair behind Boise in composite index score, Lynchburg scores extremely well in the LDS culture category, due largely to its 77.6 positive establishments to every one negative establishment. Its burglary and vehicle theft rates are less than half the national rates, and, at 8.1 percent, unemployment (as of July 2010) is better than the national average.
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10. Harrisonburg, Va.
Score: 75.65. Overall Rank: 15.
Like its neighbor Lynchburg, Va., which is about 100 miles to the south, Harrisonburg has a high ratio of positive to negative establishments (55.8 compared with 20.1 nationally), and it also enjoys very low crime rates. Harrisonburg also has nearly 75 percent of children living with both married, biological parents and only 15.4 percent living with a single mother — compared to 25.5 percent nationwide.
Michael Call, of Civicus Consulting Group and author of "Best Places to Raise an LDS Family," has been studying and working with local governments and nonprofits for nearly 25 years. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana Tech. Leave your own comments and ratings of communities at www.BestLDSPlaces.com