Best counties to raise a family in California

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June 3, 2021
Uladzik Kryhin // Shutterstock

Best counties to raise a family in California

Known in other parts of the world as shires, provinces, or territories, the United States’ counties (also known in certain states as boroughs or parishes) date back to the 1600s, when settlers first came to find freedom from British rule. Today, those counties remain, with the 50 states divided into several, each with its own unique makeup.

For people looking to find a home to raise a family in, choosing a county is an important decision. Most families place affordable homes, safe neighborhoods, a quality school system, and family-friendly activities at the top of their wishlists.

Stacker compiled a list of the best counties to raise a family in California using data from Niche. Niche ranks counties based on a variety of factors including cost of living, schools, healthcare, recreation and weather.

The list features counties that boast some of the top schools and fun, family-friendly activities for every season. Keep reading to explore the best counties to raise a family. Maybe you’ll find one that suits your brood.

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#25. Butte County

- Population: 225,817
- Median home value: $271,700 (59% own)
- Median rent: $1,060 (41% rent)
- Median household income: $52,537
- Top public schools: Camptonville Elementary School (A), Inspire School Of Arts And Sciences (A), Pleasant Valley High School (A)
- Top private schools: Paradise Adventist Academy (B+), Chico Christian School (unavailable), Notre Dame School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Chico (B), Durham (B-), Gridley (B-)
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Frank Schulenburg // Wikimedia Commons

#24. Nevada County

- Population: 99,244
- Median home value: $431,000 (74% own)
- Median rent: $1,273 (26% rent)
- Median household income: $66,096
- Top public schools: William & Marian Ghidotti High School (A+), North Tahoe High School (A+), Tahoe Truckee High School (A)
- Top private schools: Sugar Bowl Academy (A+), Forest Lake Christian School (B), Mount St. Mary's Academy (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Truckee (A-), Nevada City (B), Lake of the Pines (B-)
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David Jordan // Wikicommons

#23. Fresno County

- Population: 984,521
- Median home value: $255,000 (53% own)
- Median rent: $998 (47% rent)
- Median household income: $53,969
- Top public schools: University High School (A+), Clovis North High School (A+), Design Science Middle College High School (A)
- Top private schools: San Joaquin Memorial High School (A), Fresno Christian Schools (B+), Immanuel Schools (B-)
- Top places to live: Clovis (A-), Kingsburg (B+), Sunnyside (B+)
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#22. Solano County

- Population: 441,829
- Median home value: $406,900 (61% own)
- Median rent: $1,592 (39% rent)
- Median household income: $81,472
- Top public schools: Dixon Montessori Charter School (A), Benicia High School (A), Kairos Public School Vacaville Academy (A-)
- Top private schools: Vacaville Christian Schools (A), St. Patrick-St. Vincent Catholic High School (A), North Hills Christian School (B+)
- Top places to live: Benicia (B+), Vacaville (B), Fairfield (B-)
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#21. Stanislaus County

- Population: 543,194
- Median home value: $291,600 (58% own)
- Median rent: $1,155 (42% rent)
- Median household income: $60,704
- Top public schools: Whitmore Charter High School (A), Paradise Elementary School (A), Gratton Elementary School (A)
- Top private schools: Central Catholic High School (A), Modesto Christian School (A-), Turlock Christian Schools (A-)
- Top places to live: Turlock (B), Oakdale (B-), Del Rio (B-)
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Ray Bouknight // Wikicommons

#20. Sutter County

- Population: 96,109
- Median home value: $279,400 (58% own)
- Median rent: $1,033 (42% rent)
- Median household income: $59,050
- Top public schools: Nuestro Elementary School (A), Franklin Elementary School (A), Pleasant Grove (A-)
- Top private schools: Faith Christian Schools (A-), St. Isidore Catholic School (unavailable), Adventist Christian School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Yuba City (B-), Live Oak (B-), Rio Oso (B-)
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LPS.1 // Wikicommons

#19. San Joaquin County

- Population: 742,603
- Median home value: $342,100 (57% own)
- Median rent: $1,208 (43% rent)
- Median household income: $64,432
- Top public schools: Middle College High School (A+), Mountain House High School (A), Stockton Unified Early College Academy (A)
- Top private schools: St. Mary's High School (A), Ripon Christian Schools (B+), Lodi Academy (B+)
- Top places to live: Mountain House (A-), Lincoln Village (A-), Woodbridge (B+)
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Basar // Wikicommons

#18. San Luis Obispo County

- Population: 282,165
- Median home value: $574,000 (62% own)
- Median rent: $1,476 (38% rent)
- Median household income: $73,518
- Top public schools: San Luis Obispo High School (A+), Bellevue-Santa Fe Charter School (A), Templeton High School (A)
- Top private schools: Mission College Preparatory Catholic High School (A), Coastal Christian School (B+), San Luis Obispo Classical Academy (B-)
- Top places to live: San Luis Obispo (A), Pismo Beach (A-), Los Osos (B+)
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DimiTalen // Wikimedia Commons

#17. El Dorado County

- Population: 188,563
- Median home value: $460,900 (76% own)
- Median rent: $1,260 (24% rent)
- Median household income: $83,377
- Top public schools: Oak Ridge High School (A), Miller's Hill (A), Oak Meadow Elementary School (A)
- Top private schools: El Dorado Adventist School (B+), Holy Trinity School (unavailable), Providence Christian School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: El Dorado Hills (A), Camino (B), South Lake Tahoe (B)
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Epolk // Wikimedia Commons

#16. Yolo County

- Population: 217,352
- Median home value: $424,900 (52% own)
- Median rent: $1,324 (48% rent)
- Median household income: $70,228
- Top public schools: Davis Senior High School (A+), Da Vinci Charter Academy (A+), Robert E. Willett Elementary School (A)
- Top private schools: Woodland Christian School (A-), St. James School (unavailable), Our Lady of Grace School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Davis (A+), West Sacramento (B+), Woodland (B-)
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#15. Ventura County

- Population: 847,263
- Median home value: $588,400 (63% own)
- Median rent: $1,776 (37% rent)
- Median household income: $88,131
- Top public schools: Westlake High School (A+), Oak Park High School (A+), Santa Susana High School (A+)
- Top private schools: The Thacher School (A+), Villanova Preparatory School (A+), Besant Hill School of Happy Valley (A+)
- Top places to live: Oak Park (A), Thousand Oaks (A), Moorpark (A-)
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BDS2006 // Wikimedia

#14. Los Angeles County

- Population: 10,081,570
- Median home value: $583,200 (46% own)
- Median rent: $1,460 (54% rent)
- Median household income: $68,044
- Top public schools: California Academy of Mathematics & Science (A+), Palos Verdes Peninsula High School (A+), Whitney High School (A+)
- Top private schools: Harvard-Westlake School (A+), Flintridge Preparatory School (A+), Polytechnic School (A+)
- Top places to live: City Center (A+), Ocean Park (A+), Mid-City (A+)
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Fred Hsu // Wikicommons

#13. Sonoma County

- Population: 499,772
- Median home value: $609,600 (61% own)
- Median rent: $1,621 (39% rent)
- Median household income: $81,018
- Top public schools: Maria Carrillo High School (A), Technology High School (A), Petaluma Accelerated Charter School (A)
- Top private schools: Sonoma Academy (A+), Cardinal Newman High School (A), Rio Lindo Adventist Academy (A)
- Top places to live: Petaluma (B+), Sebastopol (B+), Healdsburg (B+)
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Stan Shebs // Wikicommons

#12. Napa County

- Population: 139,623
- Median home value: $635,900 (64% own)
- Median rent: $1,700 (36% rent)
- Median household income: $88,596
- Top public schools: Saint Helena High School (A), Robert Louis Stevenson Intermediate School (A), Howell Mountain Elementary School (A-)
- Top private schools: Justin-Siena High School (A+), Pacific Union College Preparatory School (A-), Kolbe Academy & Trinity Prep (A-)
- Top places to live: St. Helena (A-), American Canyon (B), Napa (B)
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Pixabay

#11. Santa Barbara County

- Population: 444,829
- Median home value: $577,400 (52% own)
- Median rent: $1,643 (48% rent)
- Median household income: $74,624
- Top public schools: Cold Spring Elementary School (A+), Dos Pueblos Senior High School (A+), Ballard Elementary School (A+)
- Top private schools: Cate School (A+), Midland School (A+), Laguna Blanca School (A+)
- Top places to live: Montecito (A), Mission Canyon (A), Santa Barbara (A-)
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Aaronbrick // Wikicommons

#10. Santa Cruz County

- Population: 273,962
- Median home value: $756,600 (60% own)
- Median rent: $1,717 (40% rent)
- Median household income: $82,234
- Top public schools: Pacific Collegiate Charter School (A+), Happy Valley Elementary School (A), Santa Cruz High School (A)
- Top private schools: Kirby School (A+), Mount Madonna School (A), St. Francis High School - Salesian College Preparatory (A)
- Top places to live: Mount Hermon (A), Aptos (A-), Santa Cruz (A-)
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SD Dirk // Flickr

#9. San Diego County

- Population: 3,316,073
- Median home value: $563,700 (53% own)
- Median rent: $1,658 (47% rent)
- Median household income: $78,980
- Top public schools: Canyon Crest Academy (A+), Torrey Pines High School (A+), Westview High School (A+)
- Top private schools: The Bishop's School (A+), Francis Parker School (A+), Pacific Ridge School (A+)
- Top places to live: Torrey Pines (A+), Torrey Hills (A+), Solana Beach (A+)
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Doug Olson // Wikimedia Commons

#8. Placer County

- Population: 385,512
- Median home value: $471,500 (72% own)
- Median rent: $1,542 (28% rent)
- Median household income: $89,691
- Top public schools: Granite Bay High School (A+), Rocklin High School (A), Rocklin Academy Turnstone (A)
- Top private schools: Lake Tahoe Preparatory School (A), Weimar Academy (B+), Tahoe Expedition Academy (B+)
- Top places to live: Olympus Pointe (A), Johnson Ranch (A), Granite Bay (A)
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#7. Sacramento County

- Population: 1,524,553
- Median home value: $351,900 (56% own)
- Median rent: $1,252 (44% rent)
- Median household income: $67,151
- Top public schools: Folsom High School (A+), West Campus (A+), Mira Loma High School (A+)
- Top private schools: Sacramento Country Day School (A+), Jesuit High School (A+), St. Francis High School (A+)
- Top places to live: Broadstone (A+), Lexington Hills/The Parkway (A+), Boulevard Park (A+)
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MARELBU // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Contra Costa County

- Population: 1,142,251
- Median home value: $625,800 (66% own)
- Median rent: $1,819 (34% rent)
- Median household income: $99,716
- Top public schools: Campolindo High School (A+), Dougherty Valley High School (A+), Miramonte High School (A+)
- Top private schools: The Athenian School (A+), Bentley School (A+), Carondelet High School (A+)
- Top places to live: Moraga (A+), San Ramon (A+), Twin Creeks (A+)
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Craig Howell // Wikimedia Commons

#5. San Mateo County

- Population: 767,423
- Median home value: $1,089,400 (60% own)
- Median rent: $2,316 (40% rent)
- Median household income: $122,641
- Top public schools: Aragon High School (A+), Mills High School (A+), Burlingame High School (A+)
- Top private schools: Crystal Springs Uplands School (A+), The Nueva School (A+), Menlo School (A+)
- Top places to live: Burlingame (A+), Foster City (A+), San Carlos (A+)
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Kglavin // Wikimedia Commons

#4. Marin County

- Population: 259,943
- Median home value: $995,800 (64% own)
- Median rent: $2,069 (36% rent)
- Median household income: $115,246
- Top public schools: Redwood High School (A+), Tamalpais High School (A+), Sir Francis Drake High School (A+)
- Top private schools: The Branson School (A+), Marin Academy (A+), San Domenico School (A+)
- Top places to live: San Anselmo (A+), Corte Madera (A+), Larkspur (A+)
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Hollywood // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Orange County

- Population: 3,168,044
- Median home value: $679,300 (57% own)
- Median rent: $1,854 (43% rent)
- Median household income: $90,234
- Top public schools: Troy High School (A+), Orange County School of the Arts (A+), University High School (A+)
- Top private schools: Sage Hill School (A+), TVT Community Day School (A+), St. Margaret's Episcopal School (A+)
- Top places to live: Turtle Rock (A+), Westpark II (A+), South Irvine (A+)
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Jennifer Williams // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Alameda County

- Population: 1,656,754
- Median home value: $769,300 (54% own)
- Median rent: $1,797 (46% rent)
- Median household income: $99,406
- Top public schools: Amador Valley High School (A+), Foothill High School (A+), Piedmont High School (A+)
- Top private schools: The College Preparatory School (A+), Head-Royce School (A+), The Quarry Lane School (A+)
- Top places to live: North Berkeley (A+), Las Positas Gardens (A+), Central Berkeley (A+)
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Uladzik Kryhin // Shutterstock

#1. Santa Clara County

- Population: 1,927,470
- Median home value: $984,000 (56% own)
- Median rent: $2,268 (44% rent)
- Median household income: $124,055
- Top public schools: Henry M. Gunn High School (A+), Saratoga High School (A+), Palo Alto High School (A+)
- Top private schools: Castilleja School (A+), The Harker School (A+), BASIS Independent Silicon Valley (A+)
- Top places to live: Ventura (A+), University South (A+), Old Palo Alto (A+)

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