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

By Maurie Backman Markets Fool.com

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.

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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

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

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?

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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

DATA SOURCE: WALLETHUB.COM.

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

Affordability

Rank

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

DATA SOURCE: WALLETHUB.COM.

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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