We all want what’s best for our families. When deciding where to live, many of us look for amenities, safety, good schools and plenty of wholesome activities.
A 2020 WalletHub study scores and ranks U.S. states based on what they offer families. The study looked at 50 characteristics of “family-friendliness,” including housing affordability, unemployment rate, median family salary, health and safety.
If you’re trying to figure out where to move — or avoid — based on what would be good for your family, consider the following best and worst states.
No. 10 best state: Washington
Total score: 56.39
WalletHub gives Washington state points for its low infant mortality rate, ranking it second in the nation. It earns less stellar rankings — though in the top half of the U.S. — for health and safety and for education and child care.
Housing affordability is a problem in the Evergreen State, though. Along with Hawaii, California, New York and Oregon, Washington has some of the least-affordable housing in the country.
No. 9 best state: Connecticut
Total score: 56.76
Connecticut earns second place in the nation on the metric of education and child care. WalletHub ranks the state ninth for health and safety and fifth for affordability.
The Constitution State also has one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the U.S.
No. 8 best state: Nebraska
Total score: 58.02
Nebraska has some of the most affordable housing in the United States, second only to Iowa, WalletHub finds.
Child care costs in the Cornhusker State are high, though. The state ranks 13th for health and safety, and it comes in 12th for education and child care.
No. 7 best state: New Jersey
Total score: 59.12
Well-situated on the Eastern Seaboard, New Jersey offers proximity to big-city experiences in New York City and Philadelphia, as well as a taste of rural life when you get out of the urban areas. And, of course, the Jersey Shore is known for its boardwalks and beaches.
And, get this: New Jersey comes in ahead of all other states on the metric of affordability, which looked at housing costs but also such factors as family income, paid family leave and average insurance premiums.
No. 6 best state: New York
Total score: 60.71
New York City gets all the news, but the state isn’t just the Big Apple. There’s plenty of life, culture and outdoor activities in other parts of the state that support the state’s No. 1 ranking on the metric of family fun.
With Lake George, the Finger Lakes and Niagara Falls, there are many places to explore when you live in New York state.
No. 5 best state: New Hampshire
Total score: 60.94
New Hampshire ranks No. 2 in the nation on the metric of health and safety. It also scores well on rankings for affordability and for education and child care.
The state fares less well in WalletHub’s family fun category, coming in at No. 39.
No. 4 best state: Vermont
Total score: 61.09
Like neighboring New Hampshire, Vermont scores low in the family fun category. That may be because WalletHub awards points for such things as fitness and recreation centers, parks and playgrounds and for having high numbers of young families.
But the Green Mountain State has lots to offer when it comes to the outdoors, especially with autumn activities amid the colorful fall foliage. And it has interesting historic sites and access to small-city amenities in the town of Burlington.
The state ranks second on the study’s metric of health and safety. It is among the top 10 states for affordability and for education and child care, and the state has a low rate of violent crime.
No. 3 best state: North Dakota
Total score: 62.40
North Dakota is one of the best places to raise a family, says WalletHub. Like some other states, it doesn’t get a high score for recreational attractions. But it was ranked first in the nation for education and child care, sixth for health and safety and eighth for affordability.
You might be surprised at the activities available in North Dakota. These include parks, historic sites and museums. Plenty of outdoor activities abound.
No. 2 best state: Massachusetts
Total score: 63.22
From Cape Cod to Boston to the Berkshires, Massachusetts has plenty of activities for everyone in the family, and that’s why the state received high marks, ranking eighth, for the metric of family fun.
As you might expect, Massachusetts is not the most affordable state to live in. But it’s not the worst, at 20th out of the 50 states for affordability. Its high rankings for education and child care and for health and safety might help make up for that.
No. 1 best state: Minnesota
Total score: 63.71
Minnesota’s biggest city, Minneapolis, has been a focus of turmoil this year after the death of George Floyd during an arrest set off protests against police brutality that have roiled the country.
The state ranks consistently high for health and safety and for education and child care. This WalletHub survey places it 13th for affordability.
There’s plenty to do in Minnesota, also known as “the Land of 10,000 Lakes.” There’s summertime fun in and on the water, and winter activities include hockey, ice fishing and ice carnivals.
No. 10 worst state: Arizona
Total score: 40.78 out of 100
Arizona scores 13th, fairly high, on the metric of family fun. But things go downhill from there. WalletHub ranks the state 48th of the 50 states for education and child care.
The Grand Canyon State earns 48th place, too, on the metric of affordability and a below-average ranking of 35th for health and safety.
No. 9 worst state: Georgia
Total score: 39.42
Georgia ranks poorly in most of the metrics examined by WalletHub, putting the state near the bottom of this 50-state list.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to enjoy in Georgia. The state capital of Atlanta houses a great aquarium and other big-city amenities. And who can dispute the charm of the coastal city of Savannah, with its manicured parks and oak trees draped in Spanish moss?
No. 8 worst state: South Carolina
Total score: 39.25
South Carolina draws tourists to its beautiful beaches and charming cities like Charleston.
But it’s not among the best states in which to raise a family, according to WalletHub. The Palmetto State ranks relatively low across the board on metrics identified as making a place “family-friendly”: family fun, 42nd; affordability, 43rd; health and safety, 39th; and education and child care, 34th.
No. 7 worst state: Oklahoma
Total score: 37.02
Even with the plethora of outdoor activities and interesting things to do, Oklahoma doesn’t rank well in WalletHub’s ranking of places for raising a family.
The state is at the bottom of the pile — 50th — on the metric of health and safety. It also ranks toward the bottom for family fun and for education and child care. It has a low score of 42nd for affordability. All this could mean you’d find it a hard place to give kids a good start.
No. 6 worst state: Arkansas
Total score: 36.98
Arkansas has one of the higher infant mortality rates in the United States. WalletHub ranked it 47th of the 50 states for the metric of education and health care.
It also comes in near the bottom for family fun, and its scores were in the 30s, below the national average, for the metrics of affordability and education and child care.
On the plus side, child care costs here are among the lowest in the country.
No. 5 worst state: Alabama
Total score: 36.78
Alabama has beautiful seashores along the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s hard to compete with the fun to be had at Space Camp in Huntsville.
Still, it scores very low for family fun, a metric that includes such things as organized recreation, recreational facilities and parks.
WalletHub also ranks the state low for health and safety, and for education and child care. It is among the top 20, though, for affordability.
No. 4 worst state: West Virginia
Total score: 36.57
West Virginia is a beautiful state, nestled in the tree-covered Appalachian Mountains.
It has among the lowest median family salaries among the 50 states, though, and a high proportion of families there live in poverty, WalletHub says.
No. 3 worst state: Louisiana
Total score: 36.35
Even though the lively scene of New Orleans and the beauty of the swamps draw tourists to Louisiana each year, the state is not one of the best places to raise a family, WalletHub says.
Louisiana did fairly well on the survey’s metric of family fun. But it ranks 46th for health and safety and 47th for education and child care. And it comes in at 31st among the states for affordability.
No. 2 worst state: Mississippi
Total score: 31.88
Mississippi’s Gulf Coast is lovely, and there are plenty of beautiful things to see in the state.
However, it makes it tough to raise a family when you consider that a high proportion of Mississippi families live in poverty. The state also has a high divorce rate and a high infant mortality rate.
No. 1 worst state: New Mexico
Total score: 30.68
The Land of Enchantment is struggling. WalletHub rated it dead last — 50th among the states — for education and child care.
The divorce rate in the state is high, as is the per-capita rate of violent crime. New Mexico has one of the lowest median family salaries and is among the worst for family poverty.
It’s hard for many folks to afford living there. Child care costs are among the highest in the country and WalletHub ranked only Florida (50th) and Nevada (49th) as less affordable.
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