10 Best (and Worst) States to Raise a Family in 2017

Thinking of having kids? Maybe you have kids, and you want to live in a family-friendly, peaceful community? There’s a myriad of things to consider. You may not be willing to leave your hometown and family behind, for one. And what about cost of living, and local economies — if you pick up and move, you want to make sure you can find a job on the other end.

It’s not an easy decision. But if you do have some flexibility, you want to make sure you’re moving to a city or state that will set your family up for success. Of course, your surroundings are only a part of the equation. You’ll still need to get to those PTA meetings, recitals, and soccer games.

With that in mind, where are the best places to raise a family and have kids? How about the worst? A report from WalletHub will help you zero in on them.

“WalletHub’s data team compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 40 key indicators of family-friendliness. Our data set ranges from ‘median family salary’ to ‘housing affordability’ to ‘unemployment rate’,” the report said. “In order to identify the best states to raise a family, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across five key dimensions: 1) Family Fun, 2) Health & Safety, 3) Education & Child Care, 4) Affordability and 4) Socioeconomics.”

The full methodology can be found in the report itself, which is worth digging into. But we’re going to give you the meat — the 10 worst and best states in which to raise a family. To kick us off, we’ll start with the worst ones.

10. South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina | iStock.com

South Carolina is the 10th state on our worst list — No. 41 overall. It ranked very low in terms of affordability, education, and child care per WalletHub’s numbers. In all other categories, it received fairly average scores.

9. Alabama

scene of downtown Huntsville, Alabama

Huntsville, Alabama | iStock.com

Alabama, No. 42 on the list, was dinged in the socioeconomic and family fun rankings. It also placed low in the health and safety category.

8. West Virginia

scenery in Virginia

State park in Virginia | iStock.com

West Virginia placed dead last in terms of family fun, and nearly last in socioeconomics. Clearly, the state has been through some tough economic times. But most people probably didn’t know it was evidently devoid of fun.

7. Georgia

Downtown of Athens

Downtown Athens, Georgia | iStock.com/SeanPavonePhoto

Georgia scored poorly in two categories: health and safety and affordability. It also ranked No. 40 in socioeconomics. Georgia is a state experiencing a lot of changes, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see it make significant progress in the next several years.

6. Arizona

Phoenix Arizona with its downtown lit

Phoenix, Arizona | iStock.com/Dreamframer

Perhaps it’s the dry, oppressive heat that makes Arizona such a bad place to raise kids? Arizona ranked very low in terms of education, child care, and affordability. But you’d have to imagine that not being able to go outside for several months out of the year (in some parts of the state) also plays a role.

5. Alaska

Byers Lake, Alaska is the closest view to Mount McKinley

Denali in Alaska | iStock.com/mbarrettimages

You’d think growing up in Alaska would be fun. But it could also be isolating, at least to a degree. And you’d have to worry about bears. Alaska ranked No. 50 for health and safety, and No. 47 in education and child care. It’s hard to say whether those are bear-related.

4. Nevada

view of las vegas

The Las Vegas Strip | Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Ascaya

Nevada has a somewhat seedy reputation, with cities like Reno and Las Vegas being known for their adult-oriented entertainment options. Still, it ranked No. 2 on the list in terms of family fun. But parents might not be convinced when they see its ranking in education and child care, which came in at No. 51. Yep, that would be dead last.

3. Washington, D.C.

Washington DC, USA skyline

Washington D.C. skyline | iStock.com/Sean Pavone

When it comes to raising kids, the District of Columbia seems to be more House of Cards than The West Wing. Washington D.C. ranked No. 51 in socioeconomics and No. 49 in health and safety.

2. Mississippi

Welcome to Mississippi

Welcome to Mississippi sign | iStock.com/Meinzahn

Mississippi ranked no higher than No. 43 in any of WalletHub’s categories. It ranked No. 50 in both family fun and affordability, and No. 48 in socioeconomics.

1. New Mexico

Albuquerque new Mexico

Albuquerque, New Mexico | iStock.com/alex grichenko

According to WalletHub, New Mexico is the absolute worst state to raise a family in 2017. A little too much Walter White, perhaps? It ranked No. 51 in affordability and No. 50 in education, child care, and socioeconomics.

Next: Now, we’ll jump to the other end of the spectrum. Here are the top 10 best states, per WalletHub’s report.

10. South Dakota

sign board saying ' South Dakota'

Sign board saying “South Dakota” | iStock.com/wellesenterprises

South Dakota isn’t only a great place to live for retirees. By WalletHub’s measures, it’s also a fantastic place to have kids and raise a family. South Dakota is attractive for its affordability — it ranked very highly in terms of affordable housing and child care.

9. Connecticut

Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Connecticut

Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Connecticut | iStock.com/kosukeyuki

If you’ve always thought the setting of Gilmore Girls seemed ideal for raising a family, you were right. Connecticut ranked ninth in WalletHub’s report, getting high marks in terms of affordability, education and child care, and health and safety.

8. Iowa

Bell Tower at Iowa State University in Ames

Bell tower at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa | iStock.com/dosecreative

Iowa, No. 8 overall, ranked No. 1 in the country in terms of affordability. Though largely rural, it also placed high for family fun and socioeconomics.

7. New Jersey

Waves at sunset, Cape May, New Jersey.

Cape May, New Jersey | iStock.com

Close proximity to New York City, beaches, and plenty of history make New Jersey a fantastic place to raise a family. New Jersey took the top ranking in the education and child care category, and also placed highly in terms of affordability.

6. Massachusetts

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Cambridge, Massachusetts | Jorge Salcedo/Shutterstock

Sticking to the Northeast, Massachusetts landed at No. 6 on this year’s WalletHub report. The state ranked No. 2 in the country in health and safety, and No. 5 for education and health care.

5. Nebraska

'Welcome to Nebraska' sign board on a empty road

A Nebraska welcome sign | iStock.com

Don’t let this image of Nebraska dissuade you. Yes, it’s flat and rural. But that also means there’s plenty of space. Which means it’s affordable. Nebraska ranked No. 5 for not just affordability, but also for socioeconomics and family fun.

4. Minnesota

Minneapolis downtown skyline at sunset

Minneapolis, Minnesota downtown skyline at sunset | iStock.com/RudyBalasko

A short distance from Nebraska, Minnesota also ranks very highly in three categories: health and safety, affordability, and socioeconomics. If you can handle the humid summers and frigid winters, Minnesota is a great place to call home.

3. Vermont

University of Vermont

University of Vermont campus | University Communications/University of Vermont

Vermont is the safest and healthiest state in the country, according to WalletHub. It was also No. 2 in child care and education. Its only knock? It ranked No. 35 in terms of family fun. But boring and safe is better than exciting and dangerous, at least for most parents.

2. New Hampshire

New Hampshire scenery

New Hampshire | Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Taking the No. 2 spot on this year’s report? New Hampshire. It ranked No. 2 for socioeconomics, and landed in the top 10 for all categories except family fun. Again, boring and safe trumps all else for many parents.

1. North Dakota

North Dakota from the air

North Dakota from the air | Andrew Burton/Getty Images

WalletHub’s No. 1 state for raising a family and having kids is North Dakota. It ranked in the top seven for all categories except family fun (in which it was No. 13), and second for socioeconomics. If you can handle the weather and find ways to entertain yourself, North Dakota is the best place to raise your family.

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