Personal Finance

Here Are 2017's Best and Worst States to Raise a Family

Children playing in park

Raising a family can be a fairly expensive prospect. It's estimated that the typical cost of raising a child from birth through age 17 is $233,610, which means you might spend almost a quarter of a million bucks before you even begin to face the ever-climbing expense of college. That's why it helps to live someplace that allows your income to go the furthest while providing kid-friendly resources.

WalletHub recently performed an in-depth analysis of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and ranked them based on a variety of measures. These included, but weren't limited to:

  • Housing costs
  • Childcare costs
  • Crime
  • Climate
  • Education
  • Healthcare
Children playing in park


As you review this data, take a look at where your state falls on the list -- and consider whether it pays to move someplace that might better lend to raising a family.

How does your state measure up?

There are different factors that determine a location's family friendliness, and while cost of living is a major aspect to consider, it shouldn't solely influence your choice. Yes, it's hard to enjoy a good quality of life when you can't keep up with your bills, but it's often the case that when it comes to local amenities, you get what you pay for. In other words, if you want to live somewhere with an excellent school system, updated infrastructure, and ample public programs and services, you may need to be prepared to pay more.

With that in mind, here's how WalletHub rates all 50 states and the District of Columbia on a whole with regard to family friendliness:

Overall Rank State Overall Rank State
1 North Dakota 27 Pennsylvania
2 New Hampshire 28 California
3 Vermont 29 Texas
3 Minnesota 30 Ohio
5 Nebraska 31 North Carolina
6 Massachusetts 32 Michigan
7 New Jersey 33 Hawaii
8 Iowa 34 Idaho
9 Connecticut 35 Oregon
10 South Dakota 36 Kentucky
11 Wisconsin 37 Tennessee
12 Utah 38 Arkansas
13 Kansas 39 Oklahoma
14 Wyoming 40 Florida
15 Colorado 41 South Carolina
16 Delaware 42 Alabama
17 Virginia 43 West Virginia
18 Rhode Island 44 Georgia
19 Illinois 45 Arizona
20 Maine 46 Alaska
21 Montana 47 Nevada
22 Washington 48 Louisiana
23 Indiana 49 District of Columbia
24 New York 50 Mississippi
25 Missouri 51 New Mexico
26 Maryland


Now because cost of living is only one of the many elements included in the above rankings, they don't necessarily tell you which states are the most affordable. The following table, however, ranks all 50 states plus the District of Columbia on the basis of affordability alone:

Affordability Rank State AffordabilityRank State
1 Iowa 27 West Virginia
2 Minnesota 28 Maryland
3 Wisconsin 29 Colorado
3 Connecticut 30 Montana
5 Nebraska 31 Kentucky
6 North Dakota 32 Oklahoma
7 New Jersey 33 Tennessee
8 Kansas 34 Alabama
9 Illinois 35 Oregon
10 Massachusetts 36 North Carolina
11 Pennsylvania 37 Alaska
12 New Hampshire 38 District of Columbia
13 South Dakota 39 Louisiana
14 Washington 40 Texas
15 Vermont 41 Hawaii
16 New York 42 Idaho
17 Ohio 43 Arkansas
18 Michigan 44 Florida
19 Indiana 45 Georgia
20 Rhode Island 46 Arizona
21 Wyoming 47 Nevada
22 Virginia 48 California
23 Maine 49 South Carolina
24 Missouri 50 Mississippi
25 Delaware 51 New Mexico
26 Utah


You'll notice that some states make the top 10 on both lists. These include:

  • North Dakota
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • Iowa
  • Connecticut

Then there are states like Nevada, Mississippi, and New Mexico, all of which score poorly in both regards. While this isn't to say that you can't be happy living someplace low on the list, if you don't have particular ties to a specific state, it pays to explore whether your family might fare better elsewhere.

Other factors to consider

Of course, your ability to thrive as a family will depend heavily on the job opportunities available to you, and the income you'll command as a result. It may very well be the case that Minnesota offers the average American family a great quality of life, but if you can't get a job out there, or if you'll experience a significant decline in earnings by relocating, then a move won't be worth it.

For example, teachers tend to have the highest salaries in Michigan, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, and the lowest salaries in Maine, South Dakota, and Hawaii. So while South Dakota rates pretty highly on the above lists in terms of overall rank and affordability, it may not be the best place to live if you're a dual-income family where both partners are teachers.

Another thing to consider is child care , which, for many families, rivals or exceeds the cost of high-ticket items like housing. Mississippi boasts the lowest child care costs in the country, yet it ranks poorly overall and with regard to affordability. But if you have multiple kids who will need care while you work, you may actually come out ahead financially living someplace where that major expense category is significantly reduced.

Because there's no single factor that makes a place ideal or less so to raise a family, you'll need to think about your personal needs and goals when deciding where you should live. Perhaps you're willing to pay a premium to reside in one of the country's best school districts. Or maybe you'd rather live someplace where housing is cheap and you'll have more room in your budget to save for college or indulge your kids' various talents. While all of this data can certainly be an invaluable source of guidance, you'll ultimately need to decide what's most important to you, and settle down accordingly.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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