Study: Best Cities to Raise a Family in Louisiana

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Louisiana has a reputation for wild parties, but it also has cities that are fitting places to raise children. Read on to find the 10 best cities to raise a family in Louisiana.

Rife with antebellum charm and the wonders of the bayou, Louisiana offers little ones a taste of history and life that other children in other states just don’t get. And there’s something here for parents too: the cost of living in the Pelican State is well below average and home prices won't break the bank. It might take some time to get used to the slower pace if you're moving here for the first time, but native Louisianans are always quick to make a newcomer feel at home. When you're scouting out places to move your family to, take a look at which cities the CreditDonkey team recommends.

Study Methodology

To complete our study, we began by narrowing down our search to Louisiana cities with a population of 10,000 people or higher. To get our top 10, we ranked each location based on the following data from the U.S. Census Bureau:

  1. Education
  2. Commute Time
  3. Household Type
  4. Residency
  5. Housing Costs

Good schools are a must when you're raising kids and Louisiana's school system has made great strides in improving student achievement in recent years. To measure each city's educational attainment level, we looked at the percentage of people in each city who earned a high school diploma or higher.

One of the most annoying things about moving is having to learn a new route to work. If you're not familiar with the area you may find yourself sitting in gridlock for a substantial part of your day. We know that your time is valuable, so to help you, we looked at the average commute for each city.

Sometimes it can be difficult to get to know the other families in the area and if there aren't many around, new friends may be in short supply. If moving somewhere with plenty of other children is a priority, check out how each city ranks based on the percentage of family households with own children under 18 years old.

Unless you just really like packing and unpacking, you're probably planning to stay put for awhile once you choose a new place to live. To help you find a place where others share your attitude, we looked at the percentage of people in each city who still live in the same house they did one year ago.

Housing prices in Louisiana are all over the map and the size of your paycheck may vary significantly based on where you decide to live. We know that affordability is a top concern when you're raising kids, so we based our rankings in part of the percentage of income you'll spend on average for housing.

10 Best Cities for Families in Louisiana

10. Jennings

  • High School Graduate or Higher: 75.4%
  • Commute Time: 23.1 minutes
  • Households With Children Under 18: 29.8%
  • Residing in Same Home: 83.5%
  • Income Spent on Housing: 16.8%

We included several smaller cities in our study and Jennings is among them, with a population of 10,200 residents. The city sits a few miles north Lake Arthur, roughly halfway between Lake Charles and Lafayette. Jennings made our list because of the number of family households with children and its lower housing costs. The overall cost of living is roughly 18% below the national average, and you won't have to travel far to find the best shopping, dining and family entertainment.

Did You Know: The state's first oil well was drilled here in 1901, earning Jennings the nickname "Cradle of Louisiana Oil."

9. Houma

  • High School Graduate or Higher: 75.9%
  • Commute Time: 22.4 minutes
  • Households With Children Under 18: 30.6%
  • Residing in Same Home: 85.6%
  • Income Spent on Housing: 19%

If you prefer a slightly faster pace but you want to stay close to the great outdoors, there's no better place to settle down than Houma. Located deep in the heart of Bayou Country, the city has become known as something of a tourist spot but it's also an ideal pick for young families. Home prices have increased slightly over the last few years but residents still shell out less than 20% of their income, on average, for housing. If you're feeling adventurous, you always can take the kids out for a swamp tour and go gator-spotting.

Did You Know: Houma's beautiful scenery has been the backdrop for a number of films, including The Apostle and The Butler.

8. Baker

  • High School Graduate or Higher: 82.3%
  • Commute Time: 25.4 minutes
  • Households With Children Under 18: 32.6%
  • Residing in Same Home: 87.9%
  • Income Spent on Housing: 23.4%

Baker, part of the Baton Rouge metro area, is primarily a residential community of nearly 14,000 people. Some of the things we like about this quiet little city include the high population of families with children, the relatively low housing costs and the fact that nearly 90% of residents have lived in the area for at least a year. Perhaps Baker's best feature is its proximity to all of the capital city's family attractions, including the Baton Rouge Zoo and the BREC Greenwood Community Park.

Did You Know: The Baker Buffalo Festival is a child-friendly event that includes a talent show, balloon rides, pony rides and old-fashioned games for kids.

7. Alexandria

  • High School Graduate or Higher: 81.1%
  • Commute Time: 16.7 minutes
  • Households With Children Under 18: 29.8%
  • Residing in Same Home: 83.9%
  • Income Spent on Housing: 25.9%

Alexandria is located along the Red River, in roughly the geographic center of the state. Nearly 50,000 people live here, making the city one of the largest on our list. Despite its size, Alexandria residents have one of the shortest average commutes, clocking in at 16.7 minutes. Roughly a third of family households include at least one child, and the population continues to grow at a steady pace. If you're looking for something fun to do with the kids, be sure to put a visit to the Alexandria Zoological Park or the Kisatchie National Forest on your list.

Did You Know: The reconstructed Edwin Epps House, which was built in part by former slave and noted author Solomon Northup, sits on the Alexandria campus of Louisiana State University.

6. Gonzales

  • High School Graduate or Higher: 87.7%
  • Commute Time: 23.2 minutes
  • Households With Children Under 18: 30.9%
  • Residing in Same Home: 84.4%
  • Income Spent on Housing: 23.2%

Less than 25 miles to the southeast of Baton Rouge, Gonzales is the smallest city in our study, with a population of just over 10,000 people. The city is well educated overall and nearly 90% of adults earned a high school diploma or higher. The cost of living is almost 10% below the national average but if you're looking to buy a home, you'll need to move quickly. According to Zillow, home prices have increased by nearly 4% over the last year and they're expected to rise even higher.

Did You Know: Gonzales is nicknamed the "Jambalaya Capital of the World" in honor of the rich flavors both its people and its food bring to the table.

5. DeRidder

  • High School Graduate or Higher: 85.8%
  • Commute Time: 21.6 minutes
  • Households With Children Under 18: 32%
  • Residing in Same Home: 77.5%
  • Income Spent on Housing: 19.1%

As small towns go, DeRidder is exactly what you'd expect: safe neighborhoods, good schools and friendly people, which are just a few of the reasons why we chose it to fill our number five spot. This city of close to 11,000 residents sits roughly 50 miles north of Lake Charles, near the Louisiana-Texas border. The drive to work won't take long and housing costs are fairly reasonable, based on the median income of $42,000.

Did You Know: Mennonites first settled in the DeRidder area in the early 1700s and there's still a sizable community active here today.

4. Bossier City

  • High School Graduate or Higher: 88.3%
  • Commute Time: 17.6 minutes
  • Households With Children Under 18: 30.7%
  • Residing in Same Home: 80.8%
  • Income Spent on Housing: 20.9%

Just across the Red River from Shreveport, Bossier City is an up-and-coming area that boasts a steadily growing population. Nearly 65,000 people call the city home, and its low cost of living paired with a bustling economy continue to draw new people in. You'll be glad to know that just over 30% of family households include children under 18, and the area schools are some of the best around. Sci-Port is a great place to go if your kids want to get in touch with their inner scientist but if you're looking for some grownup fun, there are several casinos on the other side of the river.

Did You Know: Bossier City is home to the Barksdale Air Force Base and the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum.

3. Sulphur

  • High School Graduate or Higher: 83.7%
  • Commute Time: 15.3 minutes
  • Households With Children Under 18: 32.9%
  • Residing in Same Home: 80.1%
  • Income Spent on Housing: 18.3%

Sulphur nabs the number three spot in our rankings because of its brief 15-minute average commute. But that's not the only reason families prefer living here. The city, located just 10 miles west of Lake Charles, is vastly different when it comes to housing prices, median incomes and the number of other families in the area. You'll pay less for just about everything here and you're still close to all the amenities the metro area has to offer.

Did You Know: Sulphur got its start when Dr. Herman Frasch developed a new method for tapping the city's underground sulfur reserves.

2. Zachary

  • High School Graduate or Higher: 92.3%
  • Commute Time: 25.9 minutes
  • Households With Children Under 18: 42.5%
  • Residing in Same Home: 86%
  • Income Spent on Housing: 20%

Zachary is one of Baton Rouge's more well-to-do suburbs, with residents earning a median income of over $65,000. Home prices are among the highest of any city on our list but residents still spend on average just one-fifth of their pay on housing. Zachary also scores the best rating when it comes to the number of children, with nearly 43% of family households having at least one child under 18. The drive to work may take a little longer but it's a small price to pay if you want to live in one of the area's most desirable communities.

Did You Know: The Zachary Independent School District has ranked first in the state for the past nine years.

1. Central

  • High School Graduate or Higher: 92.9%
  • Commute Time: 28.5 minutes
  • Households With Children Under 18: 28.6%
  • Residing in Same Home: 91.4%
  • Income Spent on Housing: 15.6%

Central edged out the competition because of its high marks for education, residency and housing costs. Residents take home the biggest paycheck out of all 10 cities, with a median income of nearly $67,000. Central also holds the distinction of being Louisiana's youngest city, having only been incorporated in 2005. Despite its relative newness, the city still has a sizable population, including a number of residents who commute to nearby Baton Rouge.

Did You Know: The annual "Cooking in Central" event raises money that's donated to the city's various public, private and parochial schools.

The better known cities of Louisiana give you access to some of the best restaurants in the country (the French Quarter of New Orleans), plentiful job opportunities relative to the rest of the state (Baton Rouge), and an active nightlife (Shreveport). But when “family-friendly” is what you’re after in your search for a southern place to call home, you need to take multiple metrics into account. That’s why our list of the best cities to raise a family in Louisiana is worth a close look.

The Top 20 Cities for Families in Louisiana

RankCity% High School Graduate or HigherAverage Commute TimeHousehold with ChildrenResiding in Same House Last YearIncome Spent on Housing
4Bossier City88.3%17.630.7%80.8%20.9%
18New Iberia75.9%2129.%83.7%20.6%
19Lake Charles83.7%17.327.5%76.9%22.8%
20West Monroe87.3%1923.3%82.4%23.2%

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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