The Best and Worst States for Raising a Family in 2021

NDAB Creativity / Shutterstock.com

When deciding where to live, many of us look for amenities, safety, good schools and plenty of wholesome activities.

The pandemic has put a lot of plans on hold but the advent of vaccines offers hope that, by year’s end, it may be easier to move out of state for a job or a better life.

A WalletHub study scores each U.S. state for 2021 based on what it offers families. The analytics company ranks the states on 52 characteristics of “family-friendliness” in five categories: family fun, health and safety, education and child care, affordability, and socio-economics. A state’s “total score” is based on 100 possible points.

If you are considering where to move — or to avoid — this study of best and worst states can be helpful. Here are the five best states for families and the five worst, according to WalletHub’s research.

No. 5 best state: Vermont

Syed Bilal Javaid / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 59.16

Vermont ranks No. 1 in the country for health and safety, WalletHub’s survey finds. In part, that reflects the state’s low rate of violent crime. Vermont also makes a strong showing for the quality of its education and child care.

The state scores poorly, though, in WalletHub’s “family fun” category. Perhaps that’s because the survey awards points for urban amenities like fitness and recreation centers, parks, and playgrounds. It also awards points to states with a large share of families with young children.

One strike against Vermont: It ranks 27th for affordability, in the bottom half of the nation.

No. 4 best state: New York

Onondaga Park in Syracuse, New York
Mahmoud Masad / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 59.80

New York is renowned for the expensive metropolis of New York City. But it is a big state, with many cities, suburbs and small towns that make attractive homes for families. WalletHub puts the state at No. 5 in the nation for affordability.

New York ranks second in this survey for “family fun,” a category that recognizes the share of families with young children, family-oriented attractions, fitness and recreational sports centers, and parks and playgrounds.

No. 3 best state: North Dakota

North Dakota
Olga Enger / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 60.10

Among North Dakota’s assets in this survey are its record of health and safety and the strength of its education and child care.

It scores 14th in the nation for affordability and third both for median family income and affordable housing. It tops the nation for what WalletHub calls socioeconomics, including poverty, unemployment, divorce, foreclosures, job security, work opportunities, and more. North Dakota has one of the lowest proportions of families in poverty.

No. 2 best state: Minnesota

Mitch Boeck / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 60.57

Minnesota’s biggest city, Minneapolis, was the focus of local and national protests in 2020, after the death of George Floyd, a man killed by police during an arrest.

The state ranks high for health and safety and for education and child care. Socioeconomics and affordability are other strengths. The survey finds that Minnesota has the highest median family income. It ranks No. 2 (after New Hampshire) for its low percentage of families in poverty.

No. 1 best state: Massachusetts

Lighthouse in Massachusetts
Newcastle / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 60.88

Massachusetts gets the nod from WalletHub for being best for families, and the state has family activities in abundance, from Cape Cod and Boston to the Berkshire Mountains.

The state scores third for education and child care, and infant mortality is low. It ranks ninth and 10th for family fun and for health and safety, respectively, and sixth for affordability.

No. 5 worst state: Oklahoma

Svineyard / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 34.49

Oklahoma is among the five worst states in this lineup, due particularly to low rankings for health and safety (48th) and education and child care (45th).

The state comes in at No. 40 for affordability and is No. 37 for socioeconomic factors like divorce, poverty, foreclosures and job security.

No. 4 worst state: Louisiana

Louisiana
jaimie tuchman / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 33.83

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 finds.

Louisiana ranks 50th — dead last — for socioeconomic factors, 47th in the nation for education and child care, and 43rd for health and safety.

It is No. 32 when it comes to affordability, and does fairly well, at No. 19, in the family fun category.

No. 3 worst state: West Virginia

Malachi Jacobs / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 33.83

West Virginia is a beautiful state, nestled in the tree-covered Appalachian Mountains.

It ranks last among the states for family fun and 41st for education and child care. It has the lowest proportion among all the states of families with young children, and it also a high infant mortality rate.

It has among the lowest median family salaries among the states and a high proportion of families who live in poverty, according to WalletHub.

No. 2 worst state: Mississippi

Realest Nature / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 29.70

Mississippi’s Gulf Coast is lovely, and there are plenty of beautiful things to see in the state.

However, it’s tough to raise a family there: The state has the highest proportion of families living in poverty, and it also has the highest rate of infant mortality among the states. On the bright side, child care costs are low.

No. 1 worst state: New Mexico

Sarmiento Photography / Shutterstock.com

Total score: 28.95

The Land of Enchantment is struggling. WalletHub rates it dead last — 50th among the states — as a place for families. The state has among the lowest median family incomes and ties with Alaska for the worst per capita rate of violent crime. Separation and divorce rates are high, and WalletHub ranks it last in the nation for education and child care. The divorce rate in the state is high, as is the per-capita rate of violent crime. New Mexico ranks low for its median family salary and high for family poverty.

Child care costs there are among the highest in the country, and WalletHub ranks New Mexico 45th for affordability. Only Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, and Montana are less affordable for families.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
Top 5 Activities That People Dream of Doing in Retirement
Top 5 Activities That People Dream of Doing in Retirement

No. 1 isn’t visiting grandkids, and No. 4 might surprise you.

The 3 Biggest Regrets of Retirees — and How to Avoid Them
The 3 Biggest Regrets of Retirees — and How to Avoid Them

Rescuing a retirement from regret starts with these steps well before it’s time to quit working.

7 Surprising Benefits of Staying Fit in Retirement
7 Surprising Benefits of Staying Fit in Retirement

Improving your overall physical health is just one reason to stay active after 50.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

How to Buy a Refrigerator, Step by Step
How to Buy a Refrigerator, Step by Step

Here’s how I got the perfect appliance at the perfect price.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

Why Your Next Stimulus Check Might Be Bigger Than You Expect
Why Your Next Stimulus Check Might Be Bigger Than You Expect

Your third coronavirus payment will be the biggest yet — and possibly even bigger than you realize.

9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco
9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco

Are you missing out on serious savings at your favorite warehouse club?

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles
The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles

One automaker takes half the spots on a list of the longest-lasting vehicles.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.
This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.

This brand’s vehicles are least likely to give drivers repair headaches, according to J.D. Power.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best
Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best

One brand takes five of the top honors, while another ranks highest in three categories.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.