Somerville One of America's 'Least Attractive School Districts,' Says Real Estate Blog

According to Census data analyzed by Trulia, a real estate site, Somerville joins Cambridge and Watertown on the list of school districts that seem to lose families before kids enter elementary school.

Somerville, Cambridge and Watertown have something in common: They're among the "least attractive school districts" in America, according to Trulia, a real estate website.

The Trulia Trends blog looked at Census data from 2010 for school districts across the county. It compared the number of pre-schoolers (kids aged 0-4) to the number of elementary school-aged kids (ages 5 to 9).

School districts with more elementary school-aged kids than pre-schoolers were deemed to be "attractive" school districts—the blog surmised families with kids were moving into those districts.

Districts with more pre-schoolers than elementary school kids were deemed less attractive—the Census data indicated families with young kids seemed to be moving out before they entered elementary school.

The country's most attractive school district, Saratoga Union Elementary School District in California, for instance, had 2.38 elementary school kids for every 1 pre-schooler.

Somerville, on the other hand, had 0.67 elementary school kids for every 1 pre-schooler (or 67 for every 100, so we're not pretending to chop kids in two).

Watertown had the same ratio Somerville, and Cambridge was nearly the same, with 68 elementary-school kids for every 100 pre-schoolers.

The "least attractive" school district in the country, Hoboken, N.J. had a ratio of 39 elementary school kids per 100 pre-schoolers.

Here's Trulia's list of the "America's least attractive school districts":


School District


Price per SQFT

Metro area

Hoboken City School District, NJ



New York

Orchard Elementary School District, CA



SF Bay Area

Edgewater Borough School District, NJ



New York

Alexandria City Public Schools, VA



Washington, DC

Palisades Park Borough School District, NJ



New York

Watertown School District, MA




Somerville School District, MA




Sunnyvale Elementary School District, CA



SF Bay Area

Maplewood-Richmond Heights School District, MO



Saint Louis

Cambridge School District, MA





Don't confuse "least attractive" with "bad"

Before sending an angry letter to Trulia, it would be wise to remember that "least attractive" doesn't necessarily mean "worse." Rather, it's just an observation of population trends from the Census.

Trulia noted a few things about the trends. "Attractive" school districts had some things in common, including housing affordability and low population density.

Somerville's housing prices are relatively high, and it's the densest city in New England. In Cambridge, which shares some of the trends with Somerville, housing prices are even higher.

"Many great university towns have low ratios of school-age to pre-school-age kids, including Cambridge and Berkeley," the Trulia blog notes.

Meanwhile, the city of Somerville has reported rising enrollment in the school district, driven mostly by elementary school-aged kids, according Somerville's mayor, who talked about the trend when presenting they city budget in June.

As Trulia notes, "Since the Census is a snapshot in time, we can’t track individual families to see whether and when they actually moved to a different school district, but the ratio does reveal their overall movement patterns."

You can read the post here. It includes links to the full list of school districts across the country.

Warren Dew September 28, 2012 at 05:16 AM
Somerville only offers pre-school to privileged "underprivileged" parents.
Warren Dew September 28, 2012 at 05:22 AM
The housing stock argument is specious. Obviously families with preschoolers that already live in Somerville already have a place to live here. If anything, it's the emphasis on "low income" housing that pushes us towards fleeing for the suburbs, where we'll only have to pay for ourselves and not for others as well.
Warren Dew September 28, 2012 at 05:28 AM
We have a four year old in the family and are seriously considering moving as well. It's not just schools; with young kids, families become more dependent on automobiles (and minivans) for transportation, and the current prejudice against cars and in favor of bikes in Somerville and the surrounding areas is making my family feel very unwelcome. We could move to the suburbs, get better schools, cheaper housing, and it's looking like the commute would soon be shorter too, with all the traffic lights going up and lengthening commutes in the area. The only reason we're not already house hunting is because we're in the west somerville elementary district, and that seems to be one of the few schools in the city which tests reasonably well.
Warren Dew September 28, 2012 at 05:30 AM
Thanks for the tip. Must look into Brookline.
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