The Best and Worst States for Raising a Family in 2019

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We all want what’s best for our families. When deciding where to live, many of us want amenities, safety, good schools and plenty of wholesome activities.

A recent WalletHub study scored and ranked U.S. states based on what they offer for families. For example, the 49 characteristics that the study considered include housing affordability, unemployment rate, median family salary and safety.

If you’re trying to figure out where to move — or where to avoid — based on what would be good for your family, consider the following best and worst states for families.

No. 10 best state: Nebraska and South Dakota (tie)

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Total score: 57.26 out of 100

Nebraska offers affordable housing, ranking second only to neighboring Iowa, and there are plenty of families with kids. Unfortunately, Nebraska also has the highest child care costs of any state, WalletHub found.

There are plenty of fun things for families to do in cities like Lincoln and Omaha — including the critically acclaimed Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium in Omaha and the Lincoln Children’s Museum — as well as outdoors experiences to enjoy. Another example is the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park in North Platte, which we cite in “The One Attraction You Just Have to Visit in Each State.”

If child care is too expensive for you in Nebraska, consider neighbor to the north South Dakota. It earned the same total score as Nebraska but boasts the second-lowest child care costs in the country. It also ranks No. 7 in the category of health and safety.

Home to the beautiful Black Hills mountain range (with various wintertime skiing and snowboarding resorts) and Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota also offers ample activities for family enjoyment.

No. 9 best state: Rhode Island

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Total score: 57.29

Who wouldn’t love living in a state with colonial charm, modern amenities and access to the ocean?

Rhode Island ranked No. 1 for affordability out of the 50 states and is also well-ranked for health and safety.

No. 8 best state: New Jersey

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Total score: 58.98

New Jersey ranks No. 2 in child care and education and also in affordability. Additionally, the state ranks well in health and safety.

Well-situated on the Eastern Seaboard, New Jersey offers proximity to big-city experiences in New York 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.

No. 7 best state: Wisconsin

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Total score: 59.29

Wisconsin gets respectable scores in all categories, shining especially in the affordability, where it ranked fifth.

There is a lot to love about Wisconsin, especially in the fall when the leaves turn color. There’s access to city amenities in Madison, and several water parks in the Wisconsin Dells. Family adventure awaits.

No. 6 best state: New York

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Total score: 59.81

It’s no surprise that New York ranks No. 2 in the country for family fun (sunny California snagged No. 1). It also ranks reasonably well for health and safety. The main downside is the socioeconomic situation for families, according to the WalletHub study, which ranked New York dead last for median family salary.

However, New York isn’t just the Big Apple. There are plenty of outdoor activities in other parts of the state. With Lake George, the Finger Lakes and Niagara Falls, there are plenty of places to explore when you live in New York state.

No. 5 best state: New Hampshire

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Total score: 60.90

New Hampshire ranks No. 2 in the nation for health and safety, and also ranks well on socioeconomic factors and in the education and child care category. The state is a well-rounded choice for families, with high rankings overall, included the lowest percentage of families living in poverty.

The state does score low in the family fun category, but that can be balanced out by some of the other reasons to live in the state. Plus, if your family values winter activities, the lack of amusement parks can be forgiven.

No. 4 best state: Vermont

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Total score: 61.61

Even though Vermont ranks low for family fun, it has plenty of other benefits that families are likely to enjoy. It’s No. 1 in health and safety, which is no surprise since it has very few violent crimes per capita. Vermont also ranks well in education and child care.

Vermont has a lot to offer when it comes to the outdoors, especially with autumn activities amid the colorful fall foliage in the Green Mountain State. There are also a number of interesting historic sites and access to small-city amenities in Burlington.

No. 3 best state: North Dakota

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Total score: 62.34

North Dakota is one of the best places to raise a family, says WalletHub, after snagging a No. 1 ranking for education and child care, as well as its No. 1 ranking for socioeconomic factors (the state came in fourth for median family salary and affordable housing). North Dakota is also in the top 10 for health and safety and affordability.

You might be surprised at the activities available in North Dakota as well. There are a number of parks, historic sites and museums. And, of course, plenty of outdoor activities abound.

No. 2 best state: Massachusetts

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Total score: 63.58

From Cape Cod to Boston, there’s plenty for everyone to enjoy in Massachusetts — and that’s why the state has a high ranking for family fun.

As you might expect, Massachusetts is not the most affordable state to live in, but its high rankings for education and child care and for health and safety (third out of 50 on both categories) might make up for that.

No. 1 best state: Minnesota

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Total score: 65.32

Nestled in the upper Midwest, Minnesota has plenty to offer growing families. It has the highest median family salary adjusted for cost of living, and ranks well for health and safety. The state is also in the top 10 for education and child care.

There’s also plenty to do in Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and enjoying water-based activities in summertime is just the start (not to mention abundant winter activities such as hockey, ice fishing and winter ice carnivals). There are professional sports teams and big-time shopping at the Mall of America. Minneapolis is considered a clean and friendly city, known for its parks and lakes, and home to many cultural landmarks like the Walker Art Center. Also the home of the late musical artist Prince, the city also has a lively nightlife scene. It’s no surprise that Minnesota ranks No. 13 for family fun.

If you’re looking for the right combination of affordability, safety, education and things to do, Minnesota might be worth a look.

No. 10 worst state: Georgia

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Total score: 40.84 out of 100

Georgia ranks poorly in most of the metrics used by WalletHub, so it’s no surprise that the state is near the bottom of the 50-state list.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to enjoy about the state. Atlanta houses a great aquarium and plenty of other big-city amenities, and no one can dispute the charm of Savannah.

No. 9 worst state: Oklahoma

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Total score: 39.73

Even with the plethora of outdoor activities and interesting things to do, Oklahoma doesn’t rank highly in terms of places to raise a family.

The state’s 48th-place ranking for health and safety and its low rankings for family fun and for education and child care could mean you’d find it a hard place to give kids a good start.

No. 8 worst state: South Carolina

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Total score: 39.32

Even though South Carolina draws tourists to its beautiful beaches and charming cities like Charleston, it’s not among the best states in which to raise a family, according to WalletHub. It ranked relatively low across the board in the metrics identified as making a place “family friendly.”

No. 7 worst state: Arkansas

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Total score: 38.89

Arkansas has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, which is one of the reasons it’s near the bottom of WalletHub’s rankings.

No. 6 worst state: Nevada

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Total score: 38.56

Las Vegas probably goes a long way toward Nevada’s high ranking for family fun — but you might not want to live there.

In other categories, Nevada ranks near the bottom, including being dead last in affordability and in education and child care.

No. 5 worst state: Alabama

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Total score: 37.67

Alabama has some beautiful shores along the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s hard to compete with the fun to be had at Space Camp in Huntsville.

However, Alabama has the highest infant mortality rate in the country, as well as a high percentage of families living in poverty.

No. 4 worst state: West Virginia

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Total score: 37.05

West Virginia is beautiful, no doubt. But it also includes the lowest number of families with young kids and ranks No. 50 in the family fun category.

No. 3 worst state: Louisiana

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Total score: 36.14

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 found.

With a high infant mortality rate, a high percentage of families in poverty and a high rate of violent crimes per capita, Louisiana can be a tough state to make it in.

No. 2 worst state: Mississippi

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Total score: 32.40

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 Mississippi has the highest percentage of families in poverty, a high divorce rate and a high infant mortality rate.

No. 1 worst state: New Mexico

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Total score: 31.69

The Land of Enchantment might not be the most enchanting place to raise a family. Tourists might flock to the unique and beautiful landscape, but living in New Mexico presents its own challenges.

New Mexico ranks near the bottom in all the metrics used by WalletHub. Additionally, New Mexico is tied with Alaska and Tennessee for the highest per-capita rate of violent crime. Additionally, New Mexico has a high divorce rate and a median family salary that is close to the bottom of the pack.

What do you consider the best or worst state in which to raise a family? Let us know why by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

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