2018’s Best & Worst States to Raise a Family
Raising a healthy, stable family sometimes requires moving to a new state. And the reasons are often similar: career transitions, better schools, financial challenges or perhaps a general desire to change settings.
But wants and needs don’t always align in a particular state, which might offer, for instance, a low income-tax rate yet subpar education system. Consequently, a family must make unnecessary sacrifices — the kinds that are easily avoided by knowing which states offer the best combination of qualities that matter most to parents and their kids.
To help with the evaluation process, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 42 key indicators of family-friendliness. Our data set ranges from median family salary to housing affordability to unemployment rate. Read on for the complete ranking, relocation advice from our panel of experts and a full description of our methodology.
Best & Worst States to Raise a Family
(1 = Best)
|State||Total Score||‘Family Fun’ Rank||‘Health & Safety’ Rank||‘Education & Child Care’ Rank||‘Affordability’ Rank||‘Socio-economics’ Rank|
Not all states are created equal. Some are more conducive to 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 Trump administration policies related to child care and paid family leave affect child and family well-being?
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 42 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. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), the square root of the population was used to calculate the population size in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across states.
Finally, we determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its total score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Family Fun – Total Points: 20
- Share of Families with Young Children: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
Note: “Young Children” includes the population aged 0 to 17.
- Number of Attractions: Triple Weight (~12.00 Points)
- Fitness & Recreational Sports Centers per Capita*: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
Health & Safety – Total Points: 20
- Share of Uninsured Children: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
Note: “Children” includes the population aged 0 to 17.
- Pediatricians per Capita: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
- Number of Children’s Hospitals per Total Number of Children: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
- Quality of Public Hospitals: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
Note: This metric is based on public-hospital ratings from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
- Infant-Mortality Rate: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
- Life Expectancy at Birth: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
- Number of Climate Disasters Causing $1 Billion+ in Damages in Past Decades: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
- Air Pollution: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
- Water Quality: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
- Violent Crimes per Capita: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
- Property Crimes per Capita: Full Weight (~1.82 Points)
Education & Child Care – Total Points: 20
- Quality of Public Schools: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “States with the Best & Worst School Systems” ranking.
- Public High School Graduation Rate: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
- Child Day-Care Services per Capita: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
- Day-Care Quality: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
- Child-Care Costs: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted for the median family income.
- Parental Leave: Full Weight (~2.86 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 (~2.86 Points)
Affordability – Total Points: 20
- Housing Affordability: Full Weight (~2.22 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 (~2.22 Points)
- Median Mortgage Debt: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
Note: This metric measures the median amount of mortgage debt per adult, as a percentage of median earnings.
- Median Non-Mortgage Debt: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
Note: This metric measures the median amount of non-mortgage debt per adult, as a percentage of median earnings.
- Percentage of People Who Are Setting Aside any Money for their Children’s College Education: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
- Paid Family Leave: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
- Retirement Access & Participation: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
Note: “Retirement” refers to employer-based plans only.
- Median Annual Family Income: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted for the cost of living.
- Average Annual Family Health Insurance Premium: Full Weight (~2.22 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 Below Poverty Level: 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 2016 – Number of Employees in 2015) / Number of Employees in 2015
- 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
- Foreclosure Rate: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Job Satisfaction Score: 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, County Health Rankings, 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 and WalletHub research.
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