By one measure, the most attractive school district in the Baltimore region isn't the one that probably comes to mind.

Real estate site Trulia crunched the numbers to see which districts have a lot of elementary-school-age children -- more than the number of kids too young for school -- as a way of identifying "where parents move, and where future parents might move if they follow today's parents' footsteps."

The local winner: not Howard County, despite its reputation as a place where people move for the schools. It's Carroll County. For every child age 4 or younger, the county has nearly 1.3 kids who are 5 to 9 years old, Trulia says. (Nationally, it's basically 1 to 1.)

Queen Anne's is second, with Howard a close third.

Price is probably playing a role. At $410,000, Howard has the most expensive median home prices in the region, according to RealEstate Business Intelligence. Carroll's median is $280,000. And Queen Anne's -- part of the region by the federal definition, since so many residents commute across the Bay Bridge -- has a typical price of $245,000.

"In addition to good schools, attractive school districts tend to have two other things going for them as well: (1) housing affordability – that is, lower price per square foot, and (2) lower population density, which means bigger houses and more parks, yards or other outdoor spaces," Trulia Chief Economist Jed Kolko wrote in a blog post. 

The more affordable places where families flock are generally (like Carroll and Queen Anne's) farther away from the metro core. "To get an attractive school district AND a short commute to downtown, be prepared to pay," Kolko wrote.

Here are Trulia's stats -- the ratio of the elementary crowd to younger kids, plus the price per square foot for homes:

 

School districtRatioPrice per square foot
Carroll County1.27$145
Queen Anne's County1.19$163
Howard County1.18$171
Harford County1.09$132
Anne Arundel County0.99$166
Baltimore County0.99$123
Baltimore City0.86$86

 

It will probably not come as a surprise that the city's ratio is the lowest of the bunch. Baltimore test scores are well below the state as a whole, though some city schools score very well.

That's something to remember about these ratios: The school districts stretch across entire jurisdictions, and there's a lot of variety within -- both in school quality and home prices. (I wrote a story in 2000 about the frenzy to buy within the attendance boundaries of Howard County's Centennial High School. It was housing-bubble-level craziness, pre-bubble.)

Curious to see how local schools stack up on test scores? Find the lists here.

Oh, and though Baltimore's ratio is the lowest in the region, it's not anywhere near the lowest in the country. That distinction goes to Hoboken, N.J., at just under 0.4. (Its price per square foot? A whopping $478, five-and-a-half times higher than Baltimore's.)

Got a housing news tip or experience to share? (Or just want to tell me something?) Email me at jhopkins@baltsun.com.