The best & worst states to raise a family


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You want the best for your child. When deciding on a place to live, you’ll probably be looking at things like affordability, safety and education — especially if you have little ones in tow. If you’re trying to figure out where to move (or where not to move) with your family, there are many things to consider.

The Policygenius Family Friendly Index defines which states are the best and worst places to raise your children.

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About the index

What makes a state a good place to raise children?

The index doesn’t just measure how much money people have. It captures the state’s safety, housing affordability and the financial security. It also factors in your child’s ability to get a good education and stay safe. 

The Policygenius Family Friendly Index is made up of nine figures, combined and weighted equally.

  • Percentage of families: Percent of households who have one or more children
  • Percent of families living in poverty: Percent of families who live below the poverty line
  • Cost of child care: Average annual cost of raising a child
  • Cost of college: Average annual cost of a public, four-year college
  • Divorce rate: Number of couples undergoing a divorce in a given year
  • Infant mortality rate: Number of deaths under one year of age per 1,000 live births
  • Violent crime per capita: Number of violent crimes per 100,000 people
  • Median household income: The median combined income of every individual in a household.
  • Housing costs as a percent of income: The percentage of households putting 30% or more of their income to housing. (Personal finance experts generally suggest spending less.)

Each state is ranked out of 100, and a higher score means more financial security.

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The best states for families

  1. Wyoming – 73.5
  2. Utah – 72
  3. Idaho – 64.5
  4. North Dakota – 64
  5. Nebraska – 63.1

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The worst states for families

  1. District of Colombia – 16.9
  2. Louisiana – 30.5
  3. New Mexico – 31.5
  4. South Carolina – 31.6
  5. Michigan – 31.6

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Exploring the index

Wyoming was ranked the best state to raise a child due to low college costs ($5,400), child care costs ($10,394) and violence crime per capita (238 per 100,000 people).

Washington, D.C. was ranked the worst place to raise a child because of its high child care ($23,666) and family poverty rate (39%), not to mention its high violence crime per capita (1,005 per 100,000 people).

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Financially preparing for a baby

  1. Plan ahead for maternity or paternity leave. Read over your benefits package to find out how much time you and your partner’s jobs allow for parental leave. If you need to take unpaid leave, factor that into your finances. If needed, begin planning for child care. It can take days or weeks to find the right daycare or babysitter.
  2. Draft a budget. Record any recurring child care costs (think diapers and babysitter fees) in a spreadsheet to keep track of your money. Here’s a downloadable family budgeting spreadsheet to get you started.
  3. Begin preparing for unexpected medical costs. Babies are expensive medically, even if you have insurance. Out-of-pocket medical costs for childbirth vary widely. Having an emergency fund comes in handy.
  4. Start an emergency fund. If you haven’t already, start setting aside money for the unexpected. A rule of thumb is three to six months of expenses. One of the easiest ways to grow your savings is opening a high-yield savings account.

To learn more, read this comprehensive guide to preparing for a new baby.

This article originally appeared on Policygenius.

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