Ready to have a baby?
I hope your wallet is ready too because the cost of raising a child in the United States is $233,610.
But that cost — and the opportunities your child will have — can vary depending on where you live.
“While we like to tie success (and failure) in America to individual choices, we must recognize that place matters,” sociology professor M. Bess Vincent told WalletHub. “One’s geographical place determines a myriad of life chances.”
So where are the best places to raise a family? Or more broadly, the best states? A recent WalletHub study provided the results — and they might surprise you.
10 best places to raise a family in the U.S.
To determine the best places to raise a family, WalletHub analyzed the 50 states and the District of Columbia across the following five dimensions:
- Family fun: attractions, weather, commute time, families with kids, etc.
- Health and safety: pollution, water quality, crime rate, infant mortality rate, etc.
- Education and childcare: school quality, parental leave policies, child care cost, etc.
- Affordability: housing costs versus income, credit scores, median incomes, etc.
- Socioeconomics: unemployment and divorce rates, wealth gap, job opportunities, etc.
It then used that data to determine the best and worst states to raise a family. Check out the results in the interactive map below.
Want to learn more about the best places to raise a family? Here’s some info on the top 10 states.
1. North Dakota
Can you believe this state was first on the list? I’ve met only two North Dakota natives in my life — maybe because they all stay there and never leave.
Some reasons they might want to stick with their home state: According to the study, it had the third-most affordable housing costs (median home value of $201,500) and the second-lowest divorce rates.
2. New Hampshire
This beautiful state is ideal for outdoorsy families. You’ll have hiking, skiing, and swimming at your doorstep.
New Hampshire also ranked No. 1 on the list for having the lowest percentage of families living below the poverty line.
For the third consecutive year, farmers across Vermont will open their barn doors and garden gates to welcome the public for a behind-the-scenes look at Vermont’s vibrant working landscapes. Vermont Open Farm Week 2017 will be held Monday, August 14, through Sunday, August 20, at dozens of farms in Vermont. Open Farm Week is a celebration of Vermont farms offering visitors a backstage pass to learn more about local food origins, authentic agritourism experiences, and the chance to build relationships with local farmers. Activities vary and may include milking cows and goats, harvesting vegetables, collecting eggs, tasting farm fresh food, scavenger hunts, hayrides, farm dinners, and live music.
When I think of raising my family, I often picture a farmhouse in Vermont. It’s similar to where I grew up in central New York state but somehow more idyllic.
With the Green Mountains and the unrivaled Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, it’s no wonder Vermont ranked third on this list. Its lowest violent crime rate per capita is also worth noting since the state has only 624,000 people.
I know a lot of Minnesotans, and they’re some of the nicest people I’ve met. So I guess it makes sense that this state had the fourth-lowest divorce rate on the list.
Not only does Minnesota have tons of parks and wilderness, but it was the second-most affordable state on the list as well. Plus, Minneapolis and St. Paul are two of the best cities to raise a family in the country.
The average value of a house in the Cornhusker State: only $150,550. That made it No. 2 on the list for most affordable housing. And that’s true even in the state capital of Lincoln!
Overall, it came in fifth for both the “affordability” and “family fun” categories. This state offers an abundance of opportunities for outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, boating, and hunting.
I always thought of Massachusetts as an expensive place to raise a family, but perhaps that’s only in the suburbs of Boston.
It came in 10th for affordability but ranked No. 2 in the health and safety category, most likely thanks to its statewide health care system and eight weeks of (unpaid) parental leave — for both new moms and new dads.
7. New Jersey
The first of the tri-state area to crack the top 10 (there’s another at No. 9) and the state everyone loves to hate.
Although it had some of the least affordable housing (median home value of $305,400), New Jersey came in first for education and child care. And given its relatively high median income, it was still No. 7 for affordability.
What’s more, Jersey had the third-lowest divorce rate in the country. That’s a bit surprising considering it’s home to Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore!
Although you might not have guessed it, Des Moines is a hopping city — just ask Becky Pospisal, who started a thriving “sip and string” art business there.
It also ranked first for most affordable housing, with a median home value of $125,000. Compare that to the District of Columbia (D.C.), which had the least affordable housing and a median home value more than four times greater: $551,400.
My birth state of Connecticut came in third for health and safety and fourth for both education/child care and affordability.
Snuggled just above New York City, this state affords easy access to the waters of the Atlantic, the wilderness of Vermont and New Hampshire, the excitement of the Big Apple, and, of course, beautiful scenery of its own.
10. South Dakota
Hi fellow South Dakota fans. I’m @jonathan_irish, a National Geographic photographer who traveled to all 59 U.S. National Parks last year in celebration of the centennial of the park service. Over the next few days I’ll be taking over the South Dakota Instagram feed to share some of my favorite shots I took in this beautiful state. First up, Wind Cave NP. Wind Cave National Park is one of those parks with two personalities: one above and one below ground. Below ground you’ll find a network of lovely caves to explore, full of a very interesting and rare cave formation called boxwork. Above ground is a world of rolling prairie lands, beautiful skies, and beasts like this guy roaming free. Two different worlds, each unique, in one national park. #HiFromSD #MyGreatPlace #thegreat8 #OnAssignment
Another Dakota to round out the list!
This southern counterpart ranked No. 1 for family fun, boasting lots of families with young children, sports centers and arcades, and other attractions.
It also had the lowest average commute time of all the states: 16.7 minutes, nearly nine minutes less than the national average of 25.4. (That’s a savings of almost 20 minutes per day!)
Should you move to a new state to raise a family?
When you’re deciding where to start a family, a list isn’t going to give you all the answers. Here are a few more factors you should consider.
1. Proximity to friends and relatives
I’ve never lived close to home, but if I were going to raise a family, I’d head that way. By all accounts, it’s much easier to manage kids, a career, and a relationship if you have support from your loved ones.
That’s especially true if you live in one of the states with the highest costs of child care (adjusted for median family income): Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Nevada, New York, and D.C.
The Washington Post reported that in D.C., the worst of the bunch, “a year of infant care in a day care center costs $22,631, which is more than three times what it costs for a year at a public college in the city.” That would eat up approximately 14 percent of the average married family’s income, according to The Washington Post.
2. Cost of living and job opportunities
It amazes me how much cost of living varies across the U.S. What’ll buy you a mansion in one place will barely get you a studio in another!
That being said, cost of living doesn’t matter much if you can’t find a job. So before you move anywhere, do your research. Look into home prices using Zillow and Trulia and into potential salaries using PayScale and Glassdoor.
You also should check out Bankrate’s cost of living calculator, which lets you see how much you’d need to earn to have the same lifestyle in another place.
Let’s say you earn $50,000 in San Diego, California, and are considering moving to Fargo, North Dakota. Since cost of living in Fargo is 31.56 percent lower, you’d need a $34,219 salary to maintain the same lifestyle.
3. Quality of life
All that said, quality of life might be the most important factor. Is this a place you want your kids to grow up? Will you have a community? Do you like the schools?
And don’t forget about distance to work, as the average American spends an entire year of their life commuting. So even if you earn less money and have fewer cultural activities, more time with your family might be worth it.
For example, if you go from a two-hour round-trip commute each day to a 30-minute one, you’ll save 375 hours — or more than two weeks — of time in the car each year.
Curious what commute times are like near you? Check out the interactive map below.
Moving to a new state to start your family can seem like a daunting prospect. But if it’ll result in better opportunities and a more fulfilling lifestyle for your new brood, it might be worth it.
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