The Safest States for Young Families in the U.S.
Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.
Safety is an especially big concern for young families trying to decide where to raise their kids. The safest places boast low crime statistics, of course. But safety also includes a host of other factors, such as air quality, the availability of affordable medical and child care resources, and access to health insurance.
To determine the safest states for young families in the U.S., LendingTree researchers examined 13 different metrics, including rates of violent and property crimes, cost of living, cost and availability of child care, air quality, access to health care and more. For a complete list of metrics, how they were evaluated and weighted and where the data was sourced, see the methodology section below.
- The Northeast scores high for young families. New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts all ranked in the top 10. These states tend to have low rates of violent and property crime as well as high numbers of local pediatricians.
- Florida is a better place for retirees. Florida took the bottom spot in the study. The Sunshine State has few child care establishments and fairly high housing costs relative to local incomes.
- Child care is very expensive. Depending on where you live, full-time child care can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars a year to more than $20,000.
The 10 safest states for young families
The Cornhusker State scored in the top 10 for six of the metrics analyzed: density of hospitals (#4), air quality (#5), high school graduation rate (#8), housing costs as a percent of income (#6), child care establishment density (#5) and the percentage of households with children (#4). It did not score well on child care costs, however, coming in at 41 out of 51, with child care costing an average of nearly 22% of household income.
2. Iowa (tie)
Iowa stands out because of its high-quality schools and low cost of housing. The state has the highest graduation rate in our study at 91%. A home here is also unlikely to bankrupt you: Iowa ranks fourth for housing costs as a percentage of income at 17.1%.
2. New Hampshire (tie)
New Hampshire has the third-lowest violent crime rate in the country and the lowest property crime rate. Most families in New Hampshire are also economically secure; the state’s poverty rate is just 7.7%. However, young families feel somewhat isolated given that just under 20% of households have children.
Like New Hampshire, Vermont takes the plaudits for its rankings in violent and property crime rates. Vermont ranks second and third respectively in those two metrics. But it’s not cheap to raise a family: Vermont’s housing and child care costs are some of the highest in the nation relative to local income.
5. North Dakota
North Dakota is one of the most affordable states in the country for young families. The state ranks sixth for care costs as a percentage of household income and first for housing costs as a percentage of income. The state’s relatively poor air quality and fairly high rates of automobile fatalities hurts North Dakota’s overall ranking. North Dakota ranks 31st for average air quality and 38th for automobile fatalities per 100,000 residents.
Violent crime in Maine is rare as is property crime. Maine has the lowest violent crime rate in the nation at 112 incidents per 100,000 residents, and the fourth-lowest property crime rate at 1,358 incidents per 100,000 residents. Maine ranks no worse than fourth in either of those metrics. Along with physical safety, Maine has the highest rate of day care services in the country: roughly 1.6% per 100 establishments in Maine are dedicated to child care. Maine’s population, however, is relatively old: It ranks second-to-last for percentage of households with children.
7. New Jersey
New Jersey is a safe state with low rates of automobile fatalities. For property crime rate and fatalities in car accidents per 100,000 residents New Jersey ranks fifth, while in violent crime, the Garden State ranks one spot lower at No. 6. But the garden state ranks low in both affordability and hospital density. Average housing costs for both renters and homeowners total about 25% of income. Just 0.05% of establishments in New Jersey are hospitals, among the lowest in the nation.
Kentucky offers young families reliable schools with high graduation rates and affordable day care services. Violent crimes are rare: just 212 per 100,000 residents, which is the seventh-lowest in the nation.
Minnesota, where about a quarter of all households have children, boasts high health insurance rates and low poverty and automobile fatality rates. Minnesota ranks fifth in the number of people with health insurance, third for poverty rates and fourth for automobile fatality rates. Minnesota also has a low violent crime rate (220 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, 10th-lowest in the nation ). But child care is expensive: the average cost of child care costs nearly 24% of the local median household income, 47th ranked in the study.
Massachusetts offers low poverty rates, high rates of health insurance and safe streets. In all of those metrics the bay state ranks in the top 10. This state also has the third-highest rate of pediatricians per 1,000 workers in the country with some of the best hospitals in the nation. But all those amenities don’t come cheap. This state ranks in the bottom 10 for costs of child care and of housing. The median home costs 28% of the median household’s income while child care costs would cost nearly 23% of income. Massachusetts ranks 44th for housing costs as a percent of income and 50th for child care costs as a percentage of income.
In order to rank the safest states for young families (including Washington D.C.), researchers looked at the following 13 metrics:
- Violent crime rate per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI and is for 2018.
- Property crime rate per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI and is for 2018.
- Fatalities from automobile accidents per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and is for 2017.
- Average air quality index. This measures how clean or polluted local air is. A lower number is better. To create the state data, researchers averaged the AQI for every county. Data comes from the EPA and is for 2019.
- Child care establishment density. This is the number of child care establishments as a percentage of all establishments. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2016 county business patterns survey.
- Child care costs as a percentage of household income. This is the annual cost of center-based child care as a percent of household income. Data comes from Child Care Aware and the Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey. Some states had no data available and were scored using the national average.
- Housing costs as a percentage of income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey.
- Poverty rate. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey.
- High school graduation rate. Data comes from the U.S. Department of Education and is for the 2016-17 school year.
- Hospital density. This is the number of hospitals as a percent of all establishments. Data comes from the 2016 county business patterns survey.
- Pediatricians per 1,000 workers. Data comes from the BLS and is for 2018 and 2017. Some states had no data available and were given a zero for this metric.
- Percentage of residents with health insurance. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey.
- Households with children. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey.
In order to create the final ranking, we first ranked each state in each metric. We then found each state’s average ranking across the 13 metrics, giving equal weighting to each metric. Then, we found the average ranking total for each state. Using this average ranking, we indexed each state’s ranking to a score based on its distance from perfect possible score (ranking first in every metric) and the worst possible score (ranking last in every metric).