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North Sioux City Beats Spearfish in Rankings for Young Families… Seriously?

In a sign that someone was drinking too much beer (or not enough Crow Peak Beer), Nerd Wallet lists the ten best towns in South Dakota to for young families and ranks Spearfish only ninth... behind North Sioux City:

4. North Sioux City

North Sioux City is just 10 minutes from downtown Sioux City. Despite its proximity to a major job market, North Sioux City also boasts the lowest median home values of any city in the top 10, at $98,900. The schools are great, too, with Dakota Valley School District students outperforming the state average on STEP in reading and math, at almost every grade level.

...9. Spearfish

Spearfish is in Lawrence County, in western South Dakota. The community is home to Black Hills State University, the third-largest university in the state and one of Spearfish’s largest employers. For fun, residents can enjoy the city’s 17 parks, 14 tennis courts and eight ball fields; for sportsmen, there is the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery [Mike Anderson, "The Best Towns in South Dakota for Young Families," Nerd Wallet, 2013.12.07].

Being just ten minutes from Sioux City lowers the desirability of anything by 25% (or maybe that's just the effect of living near Dan Lederman). Houses are a lot more expensive in Spearfish than North Sioux City. But they are more expensive for a reason: instead of being ten minutes from Sioux City, Spearfish families are ten minutes from Lookout Mountain, Bridal Veil Falls, and Spearfish Canyon.

Nerd Wallet's assessment is based on home values, school data, and income. Here's there full top 15, out of 41 towns over 2,000:

  1. Yankton
  2. Mitchell
  3. Elk Point
  4. North Sioux City
  5. Tea
  6. Watertown
  7. Volga
  8. Harrisburg
  9. Spearfish
  10. Aberdeen
  11. Pierre
  12. Brookings
  13. Milbank
  14. Lennox
  15. Belle Fourche

Pierre beating Brookings is another puzzler. Yes, the walking your kids past the Capitol every day would be a great daily civics lesson, and blogging from the banks of the Missouri during session would be bliss, but the commercial and cultural swirl of SDSU, the Children's Museum, and I-29 offer more opportunity for young families than our politically and geographically strait-jacketed capital.

Commenters, your counter-rankings are welcome! What South Dakota towns would you recommend our young, family-starting readers put at the top of their list?


  1. interested party 2013.12.10

    Yankton makes sense but Hot Springs is missing and Spearditch beats Mitchell hands down. It looks like bunk.

  2. Jessie 2013.12.10

    ok, I'll jump in on behalf of Pierre, which I found a good place to raise my kid. Government is just the local industry and doesn't define the culture for kids around here. We have the Cultural Heritage Center, the National Guard Museum with the fighter jet and tank outside, the Y, a great library, the Boys & Girls Club, plenty of school and non-school sports activities, a great community theater group Pierre Players, the parks by the Missouri and elsewhere in town, winter sledding and summer soccer in Hilger's Gulch, street fairs in the summer, Oahe Days, the Discovery Center, hunting and fishing, the shops at the mall, great pizza and other restaurants (especially the Chinese one downtown) and more I'm probably forgetting. It's not perfect but it isn't defined by the politics here, thank goodness.

  3. Douglas Wiken 2013.12.10

    Gosh, Winner, SD is missing from the list. Not a big surprise. It might be a good place to retire if the city would clear streets and sidewalks of snow and ice. The school more or less sucks with more emphasis on football and Native American culture than makes any sense at all. Winner is also called a grocery desert or whatever the term. Some houses are good bargains. Property taxes are absurd in relation to benefits. Oh, well. They now have spent $200,000 of local and $200,000 of GF&P money on an idiotic bass fishing pond. They wasted over a $1 million on demolishing a pool which could have been fixed with a ten year warranty for about $120,000. Then covered it and added swimming to school courses. But, golly gee there are plastic slides in the new pool. So far however, I have not met any one who decided to move here because of the bass pond or the pool. Maybe a municipal WiFi would have provided more attraction and at least an air of progress.

  4. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.10

    HA! I had to read the list twice to see that good ole Rapid City didn't make it in top 15.

    Rapid City, the city where all its delegates to the state house are Republican and flaunt "family values" at every opportunity, is not even good enough to raise their own children.

  5. Robert Klein 2013.12.10

    We love Brookings housing prices are probably plenty high for young families.

  6. Robert Klein 2013.12.10

    Coulda been a comma after Brookings in previous post

  7. Bill Dithmer 2013.12.10

    Is it my imagination or are ten of those towns within shouting distance of I29?

    Except for Spearfish, and it's going backwards every day, give me the roads less traveled for the best towns to live in.

    Yankton, yes. Great place to spend time, the Meridian Bridge, great local entertainment, and the river.

    Mitchel, like Spearfish to close to I90 to feel to comfortable for me but The Office and Kongo Klub used to make up for that short coming, forty years ago.

    Pierre, not bad, but if it weren't for the river and that is number one, and some great early SD architecture, it really doesn't show much. I think it needs more low end bars for the political people that spend time there.

    This is a side note here. A couple of years ago I was setting on a bench along the river near Farm Island and a neighbor from Norris walked by with her eight year old. We talked for a while and then her little girl came running up and asked her mom what Pierre meant. Her mom looked down at the grass and sniffed the air turned around watching her kid scrap the bottoms of her shoes and said, "goose crap, lets go home." Nuff Said

    The Blindman

  8. rollin potter 2013.12.10

    Is there a difference between goose crap and political crap???? just kidding!!!!!!!

  9. wyatt 2013.12.10

    belle fouche????

  10. owen reitzel 2013.12.10

    They must not have stopped in Alexandria!!! New industry, a great school, Stace Nelson and a super City Council (ok I'm on the city council).

  11. grudznick 2013.12.10

    Box Elder didn't make the list but Belle Fourche did?

  12. MJL 2013.12.10

    I am actually surprised that my city of Lennox made it in the top 15. The district is very strong, but the city is slow to encourage development.

  13. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.12.10

    BHSU is 3rd largest higher ed?! Back in the day - early 1970s when I was drinking and drugging away for my undergrad - NSC was bigger than BH. Of course there was also Southern, Yankton College, General Beadle, Dakota Wesleyan, and, uh, does Mt. Marty still exist? And what was Dakota State's name? Wasn't it a church affiliated school?

    Oh well.

    For my ranking, Spearfish for a place to have fun.

  14. Donald Pay 2013.12.10

    Here is how the school component was calculated: "This non-profit compares a given school’s standardized test scores to the state average to obtain a rating on a 1 to 10 scale (10 representing the highest score). Higher ratings led to a higher overall score."

    This statistic will be biased against the larger districts (especially Sioux Falls and Rapid City). Because of their large size, these large districts make up a big chunk of the student population tested in South Dakota. Thus, by virtual of statistical artifact, these districts will tend not to deviate as much from the state average.

    The whole idea of comparing schools like this guarantees only one thing: smaller districts will almost always be the worst and the best schools. It just statistical artifact.

  15. Joel R 2013.12.10

    I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure North Sioux City doesn't even have a grocery store. You have to drive into Sioux City for that, but of course, once you get there you don't have to pay sales tax on the food. Maybe that's a wash.

  16. Les 2013.12.11

    The mayor of a city that can't run its own poop downhill wondering about division?

    “It was a bit of a surprise,” Boke said. “There were many misconceptions pulled from the annexation study that were taken out of context and some of the arguments were not accurate, but I believe in our democratic process and I accept the decision of our voters.”

    The mayor called on civic groups to work together for a better Spearfish, despite the setback.

    “As we move into the future still a divided city, it becomes more and more imperative that leadership groups focus on communication, collaboration and ensuring that the decisions made are focused primarily on the benefits to the people we serve,” she said. “While the division continues we must find a way to work together — the people of the city and the people of the valley — the future of Spearfish depends on it.”

    Joe Neeb, city admin doesn't want all the land, just that which borders the city of Spearfish. A recent quote for an IQ analysis on Joe. "

    “There were approximately 1,000 signatures on the petitions, many of which were invalid or unreadable,” Neeb said. “But they had the 403 valid signatures needed.”

  17. Rick 2013.12.11

    You could only choose North Sioux City if you and your family's lifestyle involves living in a van down by the river. It oozes depression.

  18. Bill Dithmer 2013.12.11

    Spearfish is the new Belfast only in South Dakota. All you have to do is substitute valley folks and city folks for catlickers and puplickers, and annexation for religious freedom.

    Les you are right about the cities poop. They are trying to push it up into the hills. Nothing natural about that is there.

    The city of Spearfish might have a bigger foot print now but it's a shadow of its former beautiful self.

    The Blindman

  19. Bill Dithmer 2013.12.11

    Deb I soppose it's progress but I can remember when anyone from eight to eighty could walk down any street in Spearfish at any time of the day or night without having to worry about who was there.

    Lets face it the Valley hasnt escaped the push either. Where there used to be nothing but a big garden south of Garhart on the east side of the road, now its nothing but houses. Those people would not only ask how your mom was but insist that you take home more then you bought just because you lived a hundred and fifty miles away.

    The valley used to be kind of rural, now it is officially the burbs.

    The Blindman

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.12.11

    MJL, your teaching and coaching by itself probably boosted Lennox from the bottom half to #15. Well done!

  21. Richard Schriever 2013.12.11

    Given the criteria of the study - and Lennox' place - as pointed out by Mr. Pay - statistical quirks favor smaller schools. Then proximity to SF job market pushes salaries up, while aging infrastructure and considerations of commute times lowers home values. This study is structured to result in favoring of small city and suburban life. Reminds me of how companies commission JD Power to "create" surveys that end up listing them at the top of some rating. "Nerd Wallet" commissioned by the "suburban league"?

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