What are the best Maine towns for young families?

I’m preparing to raise a young family myself, so when I saw the following headline it caught my attention: “The Best Towns in Maine for Young Families.”

Deciding where to raise a family is a rite of passage for young couples (kind of like deciding on whether to get a joint checking account or not). I’m sure the well-organized ones collect and compare relevant data — real estate taxes, school performance, walkability — on impressive Excel spreadsheets. I’m sure others go with their guts.

Well, for the gutsy ones, a national consumer finance and investing website — with the great name of Nerd Wallet — decided to do most of the legwork for you in trying to determine the best place (at least based on certain metrics) in Maine to raise a family.

In order to create the following Top-15 list, Nerd Wallet looked at the following factors that impact young families no matter what state they live in: the academic performance of local schools; median home values; average costs, including for utilities, real estate taxes, fuel and other bills; average household income and income growth over the last decade. Using these various factors, Nerd Wallet created an index allowing for comparisons between municipalities. (For more on the methodology, check out the Nerd Wallet website.)

The Maine town scoring the highest?


Nerd Wallet gave Hampden — a town in Penobscot County of 7,257, according to the 2010 Census — good marks for education. It cited Regional School Unit #22 for a graduation rate of 97.7 percent, and for the fact that more than two thirds of students go on to higher education. The town also had a relatively high household median income, at $81,250.

Second place went to Gorham, which it cited for being “the fastest-growing community in the entire state” and having a low unemployment rate and a high number of cultural events.

The municipalities rounding out the rest of the Top-15 list (from highest-ranking to lowest) were Winthrop, Scarborough, Yarmouth, Topsham, Bangor, Fort Kent, Gardiner, Bar Harbor, Lisbon Falls, Presque Isle, Pittsfield, South Portland and Kittery.

My parents, back when they were a young couple, moved to Maine when I was six years old so my dad could take a job at BIW. He actually traveled to and from Pennsylvania for a while before we actually moved to Maine. I can still remember the discussions they had about what town to settle in. I’m proud to say that, according to Nerd Wallet’s determination, they made a good choice. My hometown of Yarmouth ranks No. 5 on the list.

Going forward, I’m not sure if this list will influence me and my wife’s decision of where to raise our family, but it certainly offers some hard data to what can often be a subjective determination.

For the full list and each municipality’s score, check out Nerd Wallet.

Whit Richardson

About Whit Richardson

Whit Richardson is Business Editor at the Bangor Daily News. He blogs about Maine business, entrepreneurs and the economy.