These Are the Best U.S. States to Raise a Family, According to Data

These studies consider criteria like health and safety, child care, affordability, and more.

Working from home or a remote location has been made possible by advancements in technology over the past 50 years. We associate the growing trend with recent events, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, but the word “telecommuting” was actually coined in 1972 by a NASA engineer named Jack Nilles. Since then, remote work has been used as a way to minimize air pollution, traffic, commuting costs, office expenses, and stress. Workers today have a great deal of freedom to choose where they live — a bonus for families who can focus on the needs of their growing children.

Considerations are aplenty when it comes to deciding on the best states to raise a family. A study by Wallet Hub analyzed five general criteria (health and safety, family fun, education and child care, affordability, socioeconomics) and rated all 50 U.S. states on a weighted scale of elements within each category. Based on their evaluation, the top five states were Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, Minnesota, and Nebraska. 

View of the rocky harbor and town of Marblehead, Massachussetts, USA.

Patrick Donovan/Getty Images

As an example, the family fun category included fitness and recreational opportunities, as well as number of families with young children. Health and safety, meanwhile, covered air quality, medical care, and crime. Education and child care focused on public education and day care. Affordability considered housing costs and family income, while socioeconomics looked at unemployment, poverty, and foreclosure rates.

In addition to evaluating the data, Wallet Hub proposed questions to a panel of experts in the field. In response to a question about the degree to which a child’s development and family’s quality of life is influenced by the state they live in, Dr. Heidi Stolz, professor in Child and Family Studies at the University of Tennessee, said, "Overall, neighborhoods and communities have major impacts on children’s development. Neighborhood safety, school quality, air and water quality, green space, economic opportunities for parents, access to quality food, and positive social connections are the building blocks for children’s futures."

In response to the same question, Dr. Patty Kuo, assistant professor of Child, Youth, and Family Studies at the University of Nebraska — Lincoln, stated, “Location matters for child development because it can determine a family’s access to key resources, like fresh healthy food, quality health care, child care, and education.”

In addition to this criteria, personal preferences enter the picture when families choose where to live. Do they value being outdoors or participating in sports? Are they fans of skiing and winter activities? Are they city dwellers who want to be near museums, theaters, and cultural opportunities, or do they prefer boating and year-round warm weather? HomeSnacks combines data from a wide variety of sources to “help people find a place to live that fits them personally,” according to its website.

A panoramic autumn view of quaint Stowe, Vermont in the fall

Tom Narwid/Getty Images

The HomeSnacks list of Best States to Raise a Family in America for 2022 is topped by Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Nebraska, and Iowa. It was Vermont’s health and safety index and Maine’s clean air and water, schools, and safety that gained each one its top spot. New Hampshire (see a pattern here?) also made the top five for similar reasons. Nebraska and Iowa share a low cost of living, lots of children, small town life, and affordability. 

To further demonstrate the challenge of deciding on the “best," a list from MoneyRates places New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Utah in a tie for first, followed by Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Wyoming. The criteria used in their study included cost of living, academic performance, college costs, crime rates, child care, health, public space, and broadband infrastructure. 

Boston, Massachusetts, USA skyline over Quincy Market.

Sean Pavone/Getty Images

Naturally, within each state, cities and neighborhoods vary widely. U.S. News & World Report compiled a list of Best Places to Live for Families in the U.S. in 2022-2023 by combining Best Places to Live in the U.S. with data on cost of living, average salaries, quality of high school education, commute times, and health care access. Huntsville, Alabama, topped the list based on affordability, household income, and air quality among other criteria. San Jose, California, came in second, with points for quality education, although home prices take a larger share of income. And low crime rates, short commutes, and cost of living placed Green Bay, Wisconsin third.

This is Big Spring Park in Huntsville, Alabama during the spring time.

gatorinsc/Getty Images

The good news for families seeking the best place to live is the amount of comparative data available, and for many working adults, the flexibility to find occupations and companies that provide remote work. Armed with information and confidence about earning ability, families today have more freedom than ever to choose the best place to live for them.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles