While no community is perfect, certain features such as proximity to a temple and the ratio of positive establishments to negative establishments can be appealing to Latter-day Saint families.
The book "Best Places to Raise an LDS Family" rates and ranks 361 U.S. Census Bureau-defined Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) based on nearly 100 sets of data, including factors such as proximity to temples and the nature of local establishments.
The data is divided into seven broad categories: LDS culture, education, crime, economic environment, health, household characteristics and housing. The result is a final rating and rank of each of the MSAs.
Based on this data, here are the top 10 communities to raise a family in the Southwestern U.S. (Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma):
1. Sherman-Denison, Texas (National rank: 105)
Coming in as the best metropolitan area to raise an LDS family in the Southwestern U.S. is the Sherman-Denison area. With a population of nearly 550,000, the Sherman MSA has a low median home value at $96,800 compared with $187,045 nationally. Yet family income is on par with the rest of the nation. The average age of owner-occupied homes is the same as the national average, so you won't be stuck with a home requiring a lot of maintenance. Educational attainment is average, but crime, particularly violent crime, is well below national norms. The Sherman-Denison area is also located about an hour's drive from the Dallas Texas Temple.
2. Midland, Texas (National rank: 123)
Significantly smaller than the Sherman-Denison MSA, Midland and the surrounding area have about 130,000 residents and score well in the household characteristics category. Two-adult households with children headed by unmarried partners are at only 2.3 percent (compared with 7 percent nationally), and the area does exceptionally well with new mothers who are stay-at-home moms. Crime rates in Midland are about the same as the national averages of all MSAs, but unemployment rates have been consistently below the national rate. As of September, unemployment in Midland was only 5.1 percent.
3. Austin, Texas (National rank: 133)
The capital of the Lone Star State comes in at No. 3 in this list, performing well in the housing category. Although median home values for all homes and median values for larger homes are about the same as the national numbers, Austin scores bonus points for having newer homes. The average owner-occupied home in the Austin metro area was built in 1991, compared with 1976 nationally. Home values have been increasing with 5.7 percent appreciation in owner-occupied home values between 2005 and 2010.
4. Tyler, Texas (National rank: 139)
The Tyler area scores No. 17 nationally in the LDS culture category due largely to the large ratio of positive to negative establishments (44.7 to 1 compared with 20.1 to 1 nationally). Tylers median home value of $119,000 compared with a national figure of $187,000 also factors into the areas appeal to Latter-day Saint families.
5. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas (National rank: 149)
The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex rounds out the list of top five with its proximity to the Dallas Texas Temple and lower-than-average median home values ($148,600) contributing to its ranking. At 7.9 percent, unemployment is below the national rate, while family income is higher than national average with about 45 percent of families earning more than $75,000 annually compared with 38 percent nationally.
6. Abilene, Texas (National rank: 172)
Abilene scores well in the LDS culture category with above-average 23.9 positive establishments to every one negative establishment. The area also enjoys considerably shorter commute times than other areas, allowing for more time with family. More than 53 percent of commutes are less than 15 minutes, compared with only 34 percent nationally.
7. Prescott, Ariz. (National rank: 173)
About two hours north of Phoenix, Prescott has higher-than-average home values at $251,300 compared with $187,045 nationally, but the homes are considerably newer. The average home was built in 1992 compared with 1976 nationally. Violent crime rates are about 20 percent lower than national averages, and property crime is about 30 percent lower. Nearly 37 percent of mothers stay at home compared with about 28 percent nationally.
8. Killeen-Fort Hood, Texas (National rank: 178)
About halfway between Dallas and San Antonio, the Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood area has low home values, better-than-average commute times, and low unemployment, 7.5 percent as of September 2010. The area also has a high rate of stay-at-home mothers at 40.4 percent, and a low rate of births to single women at 28.5 percent compared with 35.3 percent nationally.
9. Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz. (National rank: 183)
With two temples and one under construction (the Gilbert temple), the Phoenix-Mesa metro area is ideal for many Latter-day Saints. Ranking slightly above national norms in educational attainment, about 60 percent of the area's adults have some college education. However, only 34.3 percent have degrees compared with 33.2 percent nationally.
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10. Oklahoma City, Okla. (National rank: 206)
Oklahoma City has terrific home values with the median price of all owner-occupied homes coming in at $122,300 compared with $187,045 nationally. The median price of a four-bedroom home is $214,900 compared with $288,846 nationwide. Oklahoma City also scores very well in the household characteristics category with 37.1 percent of mothers who stay at home compared with 27.9 percent nationally. Only 11.5 percent of births are to single women, while the national number is 35.3 percent