With rampant inflation making raising children much more costly than usual, a new study recently released showcases 2023’s Best & Worst States to Raise a Family
To determine the best states in which to put down family roots, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 51 key indicators of family-friendliness. The data set ranges from the median annual family income to housing affordability to the unemployment rate. For example:
Raising a Family in California (1=Best; 25=Avg.):
- 11th – % of Families with Young Children
- 42nd – Child-Care Costs (Adjusted for Median Family Income)
- 2nd – Infant-Mortality Rate
- 45th – Median Annual Family Income (Adjusted for Cost of Living)
- 35th – Violent Crimes per Capita
- 31st – % of Families in Poverty
- 50th – Housing Affordability
- 37th – Unemployment Rate
- 12th – Separation & Divorce Rate
- 13th – Percentage of Residents Aged 12+ Who Are Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19
Balancing When Setting Down Roots
“Families need to balance the cost of living with the amenities that a community provides. Places with low housing costs can be good for families. However, affordable real estate may reflect the fact that a community is far from employment and educational opportunities. What you save in housing costs you will end up paying in transportation time and costs. Low housing costs may also reflect low property tax rates, which may mean that fewer social supports are in place,” said Lauren Jones, an associate professor at Ohio State University.
“There are multiple considerations for families. Education will be a top priority – what are the public schools like, how well funded are they and what types of options do they offer? For working families, having options for afterschool care and programs will be important, too. If families have younger children they will want to know about the quality, access to, and affordability of child care and other early childhood programs. Parents will also want to know about the outdoor opportunities for their family if there are parks, summer recreation such as community-run day camps, a community pool, and what other green community spaces are available. If the family has a particular religion they may want to know about the available resources and communities that would fulfill that need. Cost is essential, is this a community that the family can afford to buy or rent a home or apartment, and will they be able to move to a bigger place if or when their family grows? Can they afford the amenities they will want such as recreation, and the necessities, such as health care and child care, that this area offers,?” said Tovah P. Klein, Ph.D., an associate professor; director, at Barnard College Center for Toddler Development.
Making States More Attractive to Young Families
“States have a lot of control over childcare policy, and it has been overlooked for many years. Expanding funding to childcare subsidies for low-income families can help strengthen the entire childcare market, making childcare more available to all families. As research has demonstrated, child care is a key driver of family well-being and women’s labor force participation. Expanding access to quality child care is also one of the most impactful investments we can make in children from low-income families. Strengthening K-12 schools is important, but funding in the school system can only go so far if children are already behind by the time they reach kindergarten,” Jones added.
“Education and child care/early childhood funding are key. So is paid family leave and sick policy. When families can work and live well in a community, they are supported to bring up their children. Children then have access to safe, high-quality programs that their parents can afford without undue financial burdens. Good educational programming is key to a child’s development. Health care – is this a state and city that funds and promotes access to good health care, from pediatrics and preventive care to excellent hospitals in case of emergencies? Some states have programs where child development and mental health are integrated into their pediatric health care system, which can be supportive to families. Authorities can support and fund guaranteed paid parental leave as well as paid sick time, which parents need to care for a sick child without losing pay at work. Paid time off for school conferences or other school events also allows parents to be part of their child’s schooling,” Klein added.
Family’s Quality of Life
“States can have powerful influences on children’s development and the quality of life for families and children. One of the clearest examples is state approaches to funding and supporting education. Starting early in life, access to high-quality affordable early childhood education has significant implications for children’s learning and social development, family well-being, and ultimately community and state economic development…There is also quite a bit of variability across states in the per-student funding for Kindergarten – 12 schools. States that provide higher and more equitable rates of funding across school districts can support vibrant public schools where well-qualified teachers are hired and retained, class sizes are optimal for learning, and students gain critical skills and graduate from high school ready to continue their education or gain meaningful employment. State policies and programs can also have a big impact on health. For example, providing access to affordable health insurance that includes dental care, and mental health benefits, and extending maternal health care past the post-partum period can improve the quality of life for families and communities. Finally, states can support increasing minimum wages and state-earned income and child tax credits so that working parents can afford to make ends meet in the national context of increased costs of living,” said Melissa A. Barnett, Ph.D., an associate Professor, at The University of Arizona.
“Children’s development and a family’s quality of life are influenced by a state’s commitment and support of child care, education, and family support policies because those policies provide stronger systems of care and education,” said Megan McClelland, Ph.D., at Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children & Families Endowed Director; professor at Oregon State University.