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10 Best States to Raise A Family 2021

Cost of living, health care, rate of violent crimes and six other factors went into this year's ranking of the 10 best states to raise a family.
By Richard Barrington | MoneyRates.com Senior Financial Analyst, CFA

best-states-for-raising-children

The decision of where to raise a family is something plenty of parents fret about every year.

This year, the pandemic made it very clear how important location is to a family's present-day safety and happiness, to their ability to get a quality education, and to the need for broadband that supports job markets and remote learning.

As a result, families in virtually every state in America reconsidered where they live in 2020.

To help parents make their decisions objectively, MoneyRates.com examined nine different factors to identify the best states to live in if you're trying to raise a family. The study revealed not only how the pandemic increased the challenges of raising a family, but also that stark regional differences exist.

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Top Ten States to Raise a Family

  1. New Jersey
  2. (tie) Massachusetts
  3. (tie) Utah
  4. Connecticut
  5. New Hampshire
  6. Wyoming
  7. (tie) Florida
  8. (tie) Wisconsin
  9. Ohio
  10. New York

How Raising a Family Changed Due to COVID-19

Good parenting is a big determinant of children's success, but these are some of the new considerations parents face because of the pandemic:

  • With in-person classroom programs being curtailed in many cases, the availability of daycare is even more important than ever.
  • Quality of healthcare has been severely tested by the pandemic, and it will be tested again by the rollout of vaccinations against the coronavirus.
  • Neighborhood amenities such as parks and sidewalks give families options for outdoor activities at a time when many formal recreational programs have been suspended.
  • Broadband connectivity is no longer a luxury. In many parts of the country, it has been essential to allowing schools to continue.

Comparing Conditions for Raising a Family - How Big Are the Differences?

Comparing Conditions for Raising a FamilyOne thing this study highlights is just how large the contrasts between states can be when it comes to conditions for raising children.

It turns out where you live can make a big difference in how much help you get. Here are some examples:

  • Cost of living

    The cost of living in Hawaii is more than twice as high as in 20 other states - an important consideration when it comes to taking on the expense of raising a family.

  • Academic performance

    Average academic performance across three subject areas - math, reading and science - is about 10% higher in Massachusetts than in Alabama

  • Student checking accounts

    A sampling of 100 banks found Florida and New York each have a dozen choices of banks offering special checking accounts for youngsters, while none were found in Hawaii and there was just one in three other states.

  • Cost of college

    The cost of college is a third as much in Wyoming, which is the best state for college affordability, as it is in Vermont, which has the most expensive average public college tuition.

  • Crime rates

    The violent crime rate in Maine is less than one-seventh that of Alaska and New Mexico.

  • Daycare options

    Relative to the number of children in the state under 10 years old, Delaware has over four times as many daycare workers as Utah.

  • Overall health

    Parents in Vermont are over 10% more likely to report their children being in excellent or very good health than parents in Mississippi.

  • Quantity/quality of public spaces

    Neighborhoods in Colorado are over three times more likely as those in Mississippi to have amenities such as parks, sidewalks, libraries and recreation centers.

  • Broadband infrastructure

    Households in Utah and Washington State are over 20% more likely to have broadband than those in Mississippi and five other states.

Methodology and Sources

Here is a description of the nine factors that went into determining the best states for raising children:

  1. Academic performance

    Test scores in grade 8 math, reading and science from the National Assessment of Educational Progress were combined for this ranking.

  2. Availability of youth/student checking accounts

    These rankings were based on an analysis of the latest MoneyRates Checking Account Fee Survey to find the number of banks in each state offering special checking account terms for children or students.

  3. Overall affordability

    This was based on cost-of-living data provided by the Council for Community and Economic Research.

  4. College affordability

    The College Board's 2020-2021 academic year figures for in-state tuition at four-year public colleges were the basis for this ranking.

  5. Crime safety

    FBI figures on the rate of violent crimes in each state were used for this assessment.

  6. Access to daycare

    Census Bureau data on the number of daycare professionals and the number of children under ten in each state were used to measure how well daycare supply meets potential demand.

  7. Child health

    Each state was ranked according to the percentage of children reported to be in excellent or very good health on the latest available survey data compiled by the National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH) from the Data Resource Center for Child & Adolescent Health.

  8. Kid-friendly neighborhood amenities

    This ranking was based on the percentage of neighborhoods in each state reported to the NSCH as having each of four different kid-friendly amenities.

  9. Broadband availability

    This was determined by a calculation of the percentage of households in each state with broadband subscriptions, based on Census Bureau data.

Best States to Raise a Family 2021

Best States to Raise a Family 2021Based on the average of each state's scores across the nine categories listed above, MoneyRates.com selected the ten best states for families raising children:

1. New Jersey

Is family-friendly not what comes to mind when you think of New Jersey? Then consider all it has to offer.

New Jersey is deemed the best state to raise a family because it ranked in the top ten for six of nine categories: academic performance, access to youth checking accounts, safety from violent crime, availability of daycare, child health and access to broadband. It just missed the top ten in the neighborhood amenities category.

The only drawback is cost of living, as New Jersey was one of the ten most expensive states for overall costs and public college tuition.

  • State: New Jersey
  • Overall Rank: 1
  • Overall Affordability Rank: 42
  • Academic Performance Rank: 3
  • Access to Youth Checking Accounts Rank: 4
  • College Affordability Rank: 46
  • Safety from Violent Crime Rank: 5
  • Availability of Daycare Rank: 8
  • Child Health Rank: 4
  • Neighborhood Amenities Rank: 11
  • Broadband Connectivity Rank: 8

2. (tie) Massachusetts

Massachusetts scored the best for academic performance. It also was in the top ten for access to youth checking accounts, availability of daycare, neighborhood amenities and access to broadband.

As with New Jersey, the one drawback in Massachusetts is that it's expensive. The state is one of the ten costliest overall and for public college tuition.

  • State: Massachusetts
  • Overall Rank: 2
  • Overall Affordability Rank: 46
  • Academic Performance Rank: 1
  • Access to Youth Checking Accounts Rank: 3
  • College Affordability Rank: 42
  • Safety from Violent Crime Rank: 24
  • Availability of Daycare Rank: 4
  • Child Health Rank: 14
  • Neighborhood Amenities Rank: 6
  • Broadband Connectivity Rank: 9

2. (tie) Utah

Not only did Utah earn the top score for broadband access, it also ranked in the top ten for academic performance, college affordability, and neighborhood amenities.

The one knock is that it may be tough to find daycare - Utah ranks dead last in the ratio of daycare workers to children under ten years old in the state.

  • State: Utah
  • Overall Rank: 2
  • Overall Affordability Rank: 24
  • Academic Performance Rank: 3
  • Access to Youth Checking Accounts Rank: 33
  • College Affordability Rank: 3
  • Safety from Violent Crime Rank: 11
  • Availability of Daycare Rank: 50
  • Child Health Rank: 22
  • Neighborhood Amenities Rank: 2
  • Broadband Connectivity Rank: 1

4. Connecticut

Like neighboring Massachusetts, Connecticut is an expensive place to live - but it has several attributes that make it worthwhile.

Connecticut ranked in the top ten for academic performance, access to youth checking, safety from violent crime and availability of daycare.

  • State: Connecticut
  • Overall Rank: 4
  • Overall Affordability Rank: 43
  • Academic Performance Rank: 9
  • Access to Youth Checking Accounts Rank: 10
  • College Affordability Rank: 45
  • Safety from Violent Crime Rank: 3
  • Availability of Daycare Rank: 5
  • Child Health Rank: 15
  • Neighborhood Amenities Rank: 14
  • Broadband Connectivity Rank: 12

5. New Hampshire

A third New England state made the top five states to raise a family with New Hampshire's fifth-place ranking. New Hampshire was the second-best state in the nation for both academic performance and safety from violent crime.

It also made the top ten for availability of daycare and broadband connectivity. On the downside, it is the second-most expensive state for public college tuition.

  • State: New Hampshire
  • Overall Rank: 5
  • Overall Affordability Rank: 37
  • Academic Performance Rank: 2
  • Access to Youth Checking Accounts Rank: 25
  • College Affordability Rank: 49
  • Safety from Violent Crime Rank: 2
  • Availability of Daycare Rank: 3
  • Child Health Rank: 18
  • Neighborhood Amenities Rank: 18
  • Broadband Connectivity Rank: 4

6. Wyoming

If you're thinking ahead to sending your kids to college, Wyoming is appealing for a very practical reason: it has the nation's lowest four-year public college tuition for in-state students. It also ranked in the top ten for academic performance and safety from violent crime.

  • State: Wyoming
  • Overall Rank: 6
  • Overall Affordability Rank: 31
  • Academic Performance Rank: 9
  • Access to Youth Checking Accounts Rank: 39
  • College Affordability Rank: 1
  • Safety from Violent Crime Rank: 8
  • Availability of Daycare Rank: 24
  • Child Health Rank: 24
  • Neighborhood Amenities Rank: 12
  • Broadband Connectivity Rank: 17

7. (tie) Florida

Though the Sunshine State is often associated with retirees, it also has a lot to offer people raising a family. Florida is tied with New York for having the most banks offering youth checking account, and ranked second for affordability of college.

  • State: Florida
  • Overall Rank: 7
  • Overall Affordability Rank: 26
  • Academic Performance Rank: 32
  • Access to Youth Checking Accounts Rank: 1
  • College Affordability Rank: 2
  • Safety from Violent Crime Rank: 29
  • Availability of Daycare Rank: 21
  • Child Health Rank: 10
  • Neighborhood Amenities Rank: 27
  • Broadband Connectivity Rank: 23

7. (tie) Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a top-ten state for both academic performance and child health. It was near or above-median in all nine categories, so there were no glaring negatives as a place to raise children.

  • State: Wisconsin
  • Overall Rank: 7
  • Overall Affordability Rank: 22
  • Academic Performance Rank: 7
  • Access to Youth Checking Accounts Rank: 25
  • College Affordability Rank: 18
  • Safety from Violent Crime Rank: 18
  • Availability of Daycare Rank: 16
  • Child Health Rank: 9
  • Neighborhood Amenities Rank: 29
  • Broadband Connectivity Rank: 27

9. Ohio

While a fourth-place finish for access to youth checking accounts was the only top-ten ranking for Ohio, it narrowly missed the top ten for academic performance.

  • State: Ohio
  • Overall Rank: 9
  • Overall Affordability Rank: 16
  • Academic Performance Rank: 11
  • Access to Youth Checking Accounts Rank: 4
  • College Affordability Rank: 35
  • Safety from Violent Crime Rank: 18
  • Availability of Daycare Rank: 29
  • Child Health Rank: 19
  • Neighborhood Amenities Rank: 17
  • Broadband Connectivity Rank: 25

10. New York

A number-one ranking (tied with Florida) for access to youth checking accounts was New York's best category performance, and it also ranked in the top ten for college affordability, availability of daycare and neighborhood amenities. Not surprisingly though, New York is also one of the most expensive states for overall costs of living.

  • State: New York
  • Overall Rank: 10
  • Overall Affordability Rank: 48
  • Academic Performance Rank: 34
  • Access to Youth Checking Accounts Rank: 1
  • College Affordability Rank: 9
  • Safety from Violent Crime Rank: 26
  • Availability of Daycare Rank: 6
  • Child Health Rank: 21
  • Neighborhood Amenities Rank: 9
  • Broadband Connectivity Rank: 21

Best States for Families - Complete List

The table below shows how all 50 states ranked in each of the above categories.

State Overall Affordability RankAcademic Performance Rank Access to Youth Checking Accounts RankCollege Affordability RankSafety from Violent Crime RankAvailability of Daycare RankChild Health RankNeighborhood Amenities RankBroadband Connectivity RankOverall Rank
Alabama9502533444548464550
Alaska4544471150406441147
Arizona27373337414835201443
Arkansas2422515471740414840
California494510253947324536
Colorado332020343030101313
Connecticut4391045351514124
Delaware353820403613039632
Florida26321229211027237
Georgia8331013252039373225
Hawaii504750311746551738
Idaho19833610428381411
Illinois202744733283532427
Indiana1118423273529323724
Iowa14213321132345223328
Kansas624252034432322822
Kentucky1827103273734474235
Louisiana17413924463843424749
Maine401939291106303119
Maryland4426162640181510718
Massachusetts46134224414692
Michigan10271644384447272941
Minnesota306333812272381316
Mississippi1483912143150505044
Missouri5212019432542353633
Montana3411475321415363329
Nebraska1315391621727241712
Nevada3642338424927131637
New Hampshire372254923181845
New Jersey4234465841181
New Mexico449397493344314848
New York4834192662192110
North Carolina213144281537403523
North Dakota2511472216919254426
Ohio161143518291917259
Oklahoma3403914373637484144
Oregon4724253615223121930
Pennsylvania32231648221126232930
Rhode Island41362041912372116
South Carolina23381039453910494346
South Dakota28113917311313163920
Tennessee7271027484148433942
Texas1534430353440322534
Utah243333115022212
Vermont3932550421263815
Virginia2915164361946192021
Washington3815202820262415114
West Virginia12452510263233454639
Wisconsin22725181816929277
Wyoming3193918242412176
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