No matter what part of the country you live in, the shared experience of parenting means a mama in New Mexico can relate to a mama in New Hampshire.
But in some very important ways, that experience is different depending on which state you live in. Economic factors, housing prices and the education system all pay a role when parents are deciding where they want to raise their kids.
WalletHub recently released its analysis of the best and worst states to raise a family in 2019, and after measuring "49 key indicators of family-friendliness," it named Minnesota as the best state for families right now.
Things like median family salary, housing affordability, the unemployment rate, childcare quality and availability, parental leave and the share of uninsured children in each state factored into the rankings, which put New Mexico in the last spot.
New Mexico's poverty rate, divorce rate, violent crime rate and education system took a toll on its score. That doesn't mean that New Mexico can't be a great place for a family, but it does mean that a lot of families are having a tough time there.
"Within every state, there are many individuals and families who thrive," says Erica Jordan Ph.D., clinical assistant professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Houston.
"However, when you take a closer look (such as by ZIP code), it is clear that some children start off with more advantages than others. Children who have safe and affordable housing, robust and reliable economic opportunities for their parents, low rates of crime, and quality healthcare and education (including high-quality early childhood education) often have advantages."
According to Jordan, a state's ranking may be a consideration for parents, but not the deciding factor.
"For instances, if it is most important to a couple that their children be raised around extended family or if they rely on extended family for childcare, then they will likely be more satisfied if they prioritize living near grandparents or other relatives. However, for many families this is not the only consideration. Personally, I have specific professional goals that influence where I live."
That is the case for many parents, but considering a state's ranking and the factors that go into it might help you narrow things down if you're trying to decide between two opportunities. Check out this map to see how your state ranks.
Here are the 10 best states to raise a family, according to WalletHub:
3. North Dakota
5. New Hampshire
6. New York
8. New Jersey
9. Rhode Island
And here are the 10 lowest ranking states:
43. South Carolina
47. West Virginia
50. New Mexico
What can help states move up
Sharon N. Obasi Ph.D, assistant professor of Family Studies and Assistant Program Director for Early Childhood and Family Advocacy at University of Nebraska Kearney, has some advice for lawmakers in the lower ranking states:
"Any proposals that advocate for quality, affordable child care, and paid family leave are extremely beneficial for family well-being," she explains. "We all want families to thrive and one way to accomplish that is to ensure that family members have time to bond and grow as a unit while being self-sufficient."
Minnesota may be the highest ranking state according to WalletHub's metrics, but its parental leave situation isn't really all that impressive. State law requires employers to provide up to six weeks of unpaid parental leave to a mother or father upon the birth or adoption of a child. When you consider that other states, like Washington and New York are implementing paid leave policies and that California (no. 19 according to WallertHub) is aiming for six whole months of paid leave, the top spot may not belong to Minnesota for long.
You might also like:
- The best (and worst) states to have a baby in 2018
- 2017's best places to raise a family list will make you reconsider flyover states
- Study reveals the best + worst states for working moms: Where do you land?