Raising a healthy, stable family sometimes requires moving to a new state. And the reasons for moving are often similar: career transitions, better schools, financial challenges or a general desire to change settings. Wants and needs don’t always align in a particular state, though. For instance, a state might offer a low income-tax rate but have a subpar education system. However, families do not need to make these kinds of tradeoffs. They can avoid such problems by knowing which states offer the best combination of qualities that matter most to parents and their kids.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has made moving difficult at the moment, a vaccine is on the horizon. Hopefully by late 2021, families can start considering moving to a state that will better fit their needs and desires.
To help with the evaluation process, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 52 key indicators of family-friendliness. Our data set ranges from the median annual family income to housing affordability to the unemployment rate.
Best States for Families
|Overall Rank||State||Total Score||‘Family Fun’||‘Health & Safety’||‘Education & Child Care’||‘Affordability’||‘Socio-economics’|
Note: With the exception of “Total Score,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of that state, where a rank of 1 represents the best conditions for that metric category.
Not all states are created equal. Some are more conducive to pleasant family life than others. With those differences in mind, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- What should families consider when choosing a place to set down roots?
- To what degree is a child’s development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the state they live in? How?
- How can authorities make their states more attractive to young families?
- How might Joe Biden's proposals related to child care and paid family leave affect child and family well-being?
- In evaluating the best states for families, what are the top five indicators?
- How do different states compare when it comes to the support offered to single-parent families torn between struggling to find work and taking care of their children?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the best states to raise a family, WalletHub compared the 50 states across five key dimensions: 1) Family Fun, 2) Health & Safety, 3) Education & Child Care, 4) Affordability and 5) Socio-economics.
We evaluated those dimensions using 52 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for family life.
Finally, we determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order the states.
Family Fun – Total Points: 20
- Share of Families with Young Children: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: “Young Children” includes the population aged 0 to 17.
- Number of Attractions: Triple Weight (~10.00 Points)
- Fitness & Recreational Sports Centers per Capita: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Share of Children Aged 0 to 17 Who Live in Neighborhoods with a Park or Playground: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Health & Safety – Total Points: 20
- COVID-19 Weekly Positive Testing Rate: Triple Weight (~2.93 Points)
- COVID-19 Weekly Death Rate: Triple Weight (~2.93 Points)
- Share of Uninsured Children: Full Weight (~0.98 Points)
Note: “Children” includes the population aged 0 to 18.
- Pediatricians per Capita: Full Weight (~0.98 Points)
- Number of Children’s Hospitals per Total Number of Children Aged 0 to 17: Full Weight (~0.98 Points)
- Quality of Public Hospitals: Full Weight (~0.98 Points)
Note: This metric is based on public-hospital ratings from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
- Infant-Mortality Rate: Full Weight (~0.98 Points)
- Life Expectancy at Birth: Full Weight (~0.98 Points)
- Number of Climate Disasters Causing $1 Billion+ in Damages in Past Decades: Full Weight (~0.98 Points)
- Air Pollution: Full Weight (~0.98 Points)
- Water Quality: Full Weight (~0.98 Points)
- Violent Crimes per Capita: Full Weight (~0.98 Points)
- Property Crimes per Capita: Full Weight (~0.98 Points)
- Share of Children Aged 6 to 17 Who Go to Safe Schools: Full Weight (~0.98 Points)
- Safety Ranking of Roads Around School: Half Weight (~0.49 Points)
Note: School safety scores and rankings are based on unsafe driving events detected by the Zendrive platform within school areas.
- Share of Children Aged 0 to 17 Who Live in Supportive Neighborhoods: Full Weight (~0.98 Points)
Note: Supportive neighborhoods are neighborhoods where people help each other out, watch out for each other’s children and know where to go for help in the community.
- Share of Children Aged 0 to 17 Living with Parents Who Have Support: Full Weight (~0.98 Points)
Note: This metric refers to children whose parents have someone to turn to for day-to-day emotional support with parenting or raising children.
Education & Child Care – Total Points: 20
- Quality of Public Schools: Double Weight (~4.00 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “States with the Best & Worst School Systems” ranking.
- Public High School Graduation Rate: Full Weight (~2.00 Points)
- Child Day-Care Services per Capita: Full Weight (~2.00 Points)
- Day-Care Quality: Full Weight (~2.00 Points)
- Child-Care Costs: Full Weight (~2.00 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted for the median family income.
- Parental Leave: Full Weight (~2.00 Points)
Note: This metric is based on parental-leave policy scores from the National Partnership for Women & Families.
- Number of Childcare Workers per Total Number of Children: Full Weight (~2.00 Points)
- Share of Children Aged 6 to 17 Who Participate in School Extracurricular Activities: Full Weight (~2.00 Points)
- Share of Children Aged 6 to 17 Who Participate in Community Service or Volunteer Work: Full Weight (~2.00 Points)
Affordability – Total Points: 20
- Housing Affordability: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated as follows: Housing Costs (accounts for both rental and sale prices) / Median Annual Family Income.
- Median Credit Score: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
- Median Mortgage Debt: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
Note: This metric measures the median amount of mortgage debt per adult, as share of median earnings.
- Median Non-Mortgage Debt: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
Note: This metric measures the median amount of non-mortgage debt per adult, as share of median earnings.
- Share of People Who Save Money for their Children’s College Education: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
- Share of Children Aged 0 to 17 Whose Family Had Problems Paying Medical Bills: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
Note: This metric refers to children whose family had problems paying for the children’s medical or health care bills during the past 12 months.
- Paid Family Leave: Double Weight (~3.64 Points)
- Retirement Access & Participation: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
Note: “Retirement” refers to employer-based plans only.
- Median Annual Family Income: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted for the cost of living.
- Average Annual Family Health Insurance Premium: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
Socio-economics – Total Points: 20
- Separation & Divorce Rate: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Median Duration of Current Marriage: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Share of Two-Parent Families: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Wealth Gap: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Share of Families Living in Poverty: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Share of Families Receiving Food Stamps: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Unemployment Rate: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Underemployment Rate: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Job Security: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated as follows: (Number of Employees in 2019 – Number of Employees in 2018) / Number of Employees in 2018.
- Job Opportunities: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated as follows: Number of Job Openings per Number of Population in Labor Force Minus Unemployed Rate.
- Job Satisfaction Score: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Foreclosure Rate: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics, Child Care Aware of America, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Council for Community and Economic Research, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Partnership for Women & Families, TransUnion, National Conference of State Legislatures, The Pew Charitable Trusts, United Health Foundation, Indeed, U.S. News & World Report, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, National Climatic Data Center, FINRA Investor Education Foundation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Renwood RealtyTrac, Brandwatch, Zendrive, TripAdvisor, The COVID Tracking Project and WalletHub research.