Good parenting is without doubt the biggest determinant of whether children are raised well, but it helps to have the support and resources of a good local environment.
To help parents get a feel for where they might expect to find the best locations for their families, MoneyRates.com has taken a quantitative approach to determine the best U.S. states for raising children.
How we determined the top 10
The MoneyRates.com analysis looked at four categories of factors which contribute to the environment in which children grow up:
- Violent crime. Keeping your kids safe is likely to be your first priority, so MoneyRates.com looked at U.S. Census Bureau data on the number of violent crimes by state.
- Academic performance. Outside of the home, school probably has the most influence on a child's development. MoneyRates.com looked at data from the National Center for Education Statistics on eighth-grade performance levels in math, reading, science and writing.
- Cost of college. The opportunity to attend college is a key determinant of what kind of career and future a child will have. MoneyRates.com ranked states according to College Board data on the affordability of two- and four-year public colleges for in-state residents.
- General cost of living. Raising a child is expensive; just how expensive depends in part on the cost of living in your state. To account for this, MoneyRates.com factored ACCRA Cost of Living data into the analysis.
Based on these four factors, here are the 10 best states for raising children.
10 best states for raising children: Idaho (No. 1)
This area of the country generally fared very well in this analysis. Idaho doesn't lead the nation in any one category, but is in the top 10 in two categories, with its low rate of violent crime (sixth lowest in the nation) and reasonable public college costs (10th most affordable). Cost of living and academic performance also earned scores that were solidly better than the median for all states.
10 best states for raising children: Wyoming (No. 2)
Wyoming has the most affordable public colleges in the country, the seventh-lowest rate of violent crime, and ranks a solid 12th in academic performance. The only area where Wyoming didn't shine was in overall cost of living, where it ranks a middle-of-the-pack 27th cheapest.
10 best states for raising children: Utah (No. 3)
With the fifth-lowest rate of violent crime in the nation, Utah is a state where you can feel comfortable raising your family. Utah also has the ninth-cheapest public colleges in the country, and is 17th cheapest in overall cost of living. Academic performance was about average, at 23rd in the nation.
10 best states for raising children: North Dakota (No. 4)
North Dakota offers the fourth-lowest rate of violent crime in the nation, and ranks seventh in academic performance. Its one downfall, and it's a mild one, is the cost of public colleges, which are slightly above the median.
10 best states for raising children: Montana (No. 5)
The strongest attribute Montana has going for it as a place to raise children is its fifth-place ranking in academic achievement. Its crime rate is lower than most states, and so is the cost of public colleges in Montana. The only area where Montana falls down is in overall cost of living, which is higher than the national median.
10 best states for raising children: Nebraska (No. 6)
Nebraska is one of the 10 most affordable states in the country, and is also better than average in terms of violent crime and cost of public colleges. However, it's only about average in academic performance, ranking 26th out of the 50 states.
10 best states for raising children: Kansas (No. 7)
Kansas is the only state that made the top 10 to have an above-median rate of violent crime, though only by a small margin. However, it is one of the 10 cheapest states to live in, and its college costs and academic performance garnered solid scores.
10 best states for raising children: Iowa (No. 8)
Iowa made the list on the basis of respectable all-around performance, rather than shining in any one category. It's only weak point is college cost, which is slightly above median.
10 best states for raising children: South Dakota (No. 9)
South Dakota is a top-10 performer in academics, which makes up for having college expenses and an overall cost of living that are a little higher than most states.
10 best states for raising children: Wisconsin (No. 10)
Crime rates in Wisconsin are relatively low, and academic performance is relatively high. The cost of living is about average, but the cost of public colleges is a bit more expensive than in most states.
Of course, the best state to raise children is in a state of love and stability. But, if you happen to be in Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, or any of the other states on MoneyRates.com's top 10 list, that can also help.