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The Best and Worst States to Raise a Family: All 51 States

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If you’re raising a family in 2020, you might have considered moving to a more family-friendly location. The fact is, some states are better for your wallet — and your kids — than others. Although certain states give you a better shot at growing your wealth to provide for a family, many of those same states also have high costs of living. It’s important to consider multiple factors when choosing where to settle down.

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In its latest study, GOBankingRates examined each state’s average annual expenditures and median income for families as well as sales tax rates, crime rates, high school graduation rates and more to find the best and worst states to raise a family. Keep reading to find out which states rank the highest and lowest.

Last updated: Jan. 21, 2021

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51. New Mexico

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $78,393
  • Median income for families: $53,394
  • High school graduation rate: 74%
  • Property crime per capita: 3.11%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 137,092

One reason New Mexico finished last in the rankings is because of its low median family income, which is more than 30% below the national average. It also has one of the highest property crime rates per capita, and its high-school graduation rate ties Arizona for the lowest in the country.

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50. District of Columbia

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $144,469
  • Median income for families: $106,667
  • High school graduation rate: 76%
  • Property crime per capita: 4.37%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 27,550

The nation’s capital might be a great place to earn a sizable income, but there’s a good chance you’ll spend the majority of it on basic necessities. The District of Columbia is among the worst places for families because it has the second-highest cost of living in the country, and it ranks No. 1 in violent crime per capita with a rate of 1.05%.

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49. Hawaii

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $177,642
  • Median income for families: $93,338
  • High school graduation rate: 83%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.84%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 89,042

Hawaii ranks as one of the most expensive states to own a home. The cost of living in Hawaii is almost double the national average, but residents do catch a break in taxes. The state and average local tax rates in Hawaii are some of the lowest in the country.

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48. Louisiana

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $84,057
  • Median income for families: $61,275
  • High school graduation rate: 85%
  • Property crime per capita: 3.16%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 303,253

Although Louisiana has one of the lowest property taxes in the U.S., Bayou State residents pay among the highest rates in state and average local sales taxes at 9.52%. The crime rate isn’t favorable, either. Louisiana’s violent crime rate is one of the highest at 0.55%.

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47. Arizona

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $89,990
  • Median income for families: $70,158
  • High school graduation rate: 74%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.44%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 519,270

Arizona not only has one of the highest property crime rates per capita in the country, but it’s also among the 15 states with the highest violent crime rates per capita. On the bright side, Arizona is a bit more affordable overall — the cost of living is at about the national average.

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46. Alaska

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $115,432
  • Median income for families: $83,674
  • High school graduation rate: 80%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.91%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 57,149

Alaska isn’t one of the best places for families because it’s among the most expensive states to live. The cost of living in Alaska is more than 28% higher than the national average. However, the state makes up for it in lower taxes. The combined state and average local sales tax rate in Alaska is a low 1.76%.

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45. Oklahoma

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $77,943
  • Median income for families: $62,212
  • High school graduation rate: 84%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.85%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 308,652

If affordability is what you seek in 2020, then Oklahoma certainly qualifies as a cheap place to live. The cost of living is the third-lowest in the country. On the minus side, the combined state and local average sales tax for Oklahoma is 8.95%, which is even higher than that of pricey states like New York and California. Oklahoma also has a fairly high property crime rate.

 

 

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44. Nevada

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $97,811
  • Median income for families: $69,315
  • High school graduation rate: 88%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.32%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 217,566

Nevada residents will have to work extra hard if they want to raise a family in the home state of Las Vegas. The median income for families is nearly $30,000 less than the average family spends each year. Moreover, Nevada students have the worst ACT scores in the country.

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43. South Carolina

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $85,855
  • Median income for families: $66,670
  • High school graduation rate: 84%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.94%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 345,463

Living in South Carolina might save you some money in the long run because the cost of living is below the national average. However, you might want to consider moving to another state if you’re concerned about your children’s test scores. Students in South Carolina are tied for the third-lowest ACT scores in the country.

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42. Mississippi

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $76,145
  • Median income for families: $53,104
  • High school graduation rate: 83%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.38%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 184,586

The good news is, Mississippi has the cheapest cost of living for families in the country. The bad news: Mississippi also has the lowest median income for families with children under 18, and its average ACT scores are among the worst in the country.

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41. Arkansas

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $79,292
  • Median income for families: $57,294
  • High school graduation rate: 91%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.86%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 224,939

The average annual expenditures for a family in Arkansas are the fifth-lowest in the country. At the same time, Arkansas families earn a median salary of only $57,294 a year — which is the third-lowest among the states.

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40. Alabama

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $80,550
  • Median income for families: $62,404
  • High school graduation rate: 89%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.67%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 328,784

Although Alabama has solid high school graduation rates, students’ test scores still rank among the bottom five in the U.S. Where Alabama shines is in its affordable cost of living, which is well below the national average.

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39. California

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $128,287
  • Median income for families: $85,332
  • High school graduation rate: 85%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.33%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 3,039,563

If you want to live in Los Angeles or San Francisco, prepare to pay a hefty price. California ranks as one of the most expensive states in terms of both cost of living and average annual expenditures for families. Although high costs make California one of the hardest places to raise a family, the Golden State still has one of the highest proportions of households with children under age 18 at 23.1%.

Find Out: What You Can Get in Every State for the Price of a California Home

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38. Tennessee

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $80,910
  • Median income for families: $66,371
  • High school graduation rate: 90%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.65%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 498,840

Tennessee has the highest combined state and average local sales tax rate in the country at nearly 10%. However, the state’s average annual expenditure for married couples with children is 9% below the national average, which could help offset the amount of money that residents spend on taxes.

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37. Florida

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $89,181
  • Median income for families: $65,772
  • High school graduation rate: 88%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.15%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 1,303,885

The cost of living in Florida is slightly below the national average. However, the roughly $23,000 gap between the median family income and the annual costs to raise a family makes Florida rank pretty far down on this list.

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36. Washington

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $100,868
  • Median income for families: $91,467
  • High school graduation rate: 85%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.68%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 640,659

Although Washington has one of the highest median incomes for families, it also has one of the higher property crime rates per capita in the country. In addition, the combined state and average local sales tax is 9.23% — the fourth-highest of all 50 states.

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35. North Carolina

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $85,855
  • Median income for families: $68,891
  • High school graduation rate: 89%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.36%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 787,140

North Carolina has one of the larger populations of households with children ages 18 and under, and the cost of living for families is comfortably below the national average. However, the state ranks tied for seventh-lowest for ACT scores, despite 89% of students graduating high school.

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34. Kansas

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $77,764
  • Median income for families: $75,707
  • High school graduation rate: 90%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.31%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 247,320

Kansas has the second-lowest average annual family expenditures in the country at nearly 9% below the national average. However, its median income for families is also below the national average, and its combined state and average local sales tax rate is high at 8.68%.

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33. Missouri

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $79,382
  • Median income for families: $72,072
  • High school graduation rate: 93%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.64%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 475,642

Family expenditures in Missouri are similar to those of Mississippi and Oklahoma, making it one of the cheapest states to live in. But the violent crime rate per capita in Missouri is pretty high at 4.95%.

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32. New York

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $140,154
  • Median income for families: $83,592
  • High school graduation rate: 86%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.37%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 1,379,203

It’s no secret that New York is expensive — the cost of living here is the third-highest in the country. However, median income is also high compared with other states, and students perform exceptionally well in high school, scoring the fifth-highest in the U.S. on their ACTs.

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31. Colorado

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $92,777
  • Median income for families: $92,511
  • High school graduation rate: 81%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.59%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 478,856

At $92,511 a year, Colorado ranks among the top 10 states in median income for families. But even with a higher income, living in Colorado is still on the high side. The average yearly expense for Colorado families is more than 3% higher than the national average.

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30. Wyoming

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $84,956
  • Median income for families: $80,008
  • High school graduation rate: 82%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.57%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 50,466

The average annual costs to raise a family in Wyoming are about 5% lower than the national average, and the median family income is decent. But students’ average ACT score and high school graduation rates are both below average.

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29. Georgia

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $80,910
  • Median income for families: $70,797
  • High school graduation rate: 85%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.38%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 769,340

You might not make the highest annual salary in Georgia, but you don’t need as much to raise a family compared to other states. Georgia ranks tied for 10th in terms of lowest average yearly expenditures for families.

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28. Ohio

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $82,798
  • Median income for families: $72,098
  • High school graduation rate: 89%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.06%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 874,359

Ohio ranks among the most affordable states for families to live, with average annual expenditures falling well below the national average. But the Buckeye State’s overall ranking is hurt by a combined state and average local sales tax rate that is on the high side at 7.17%.

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27. West Virginia

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $83,068
  • Median income for families: $58,467
  • High school graduation rate: 91%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.58%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 127,979

West Virginia has a cheap cost of living for families at about 8% below the national average. In addition, the combined state and average local sales tax rate sits on the low side at 6.5%. However, West Virginia’s median income for families is among the lowest in the country.

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26. Oregon

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $120,736
  • Median income for families: $81,203
  • High school graduation rate: 80%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.73%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 315,307

Oregon is one of the states with the highest annual costs for families. And while the Beaver State’s median family income of $81,203 is above the national average, it’s still almost $40,000 less than average family expenditures. On the plus side, Oregon is one of only four states with no statewide sales tax or local sales tax.

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25. Montana

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $97,272
  • Median income for families: $71,554
  • High school graduation rate: 90%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.19%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 76,800

The cost of living for families in Montana might be 8% higher than the national average, but residents here save a lot of money in taxes because it doesn’t have a statewide sales tax. The reason Montana’s ranking isn’t higher is because there’s a nearly $26,000 gap between median income and average costs for families.

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24. Texas

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $82,438
  • Median income for families: $72,065
  • High school graduation rate: 93%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.39%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 2,376,074

After California, Texas has the second-largest population of homes with children ages 18 and under — which makes sense, considering Texas also ranks second to California in overall population among the states. The cost of living for families in Texas is more than 8% below the national average. However, the combined state and average local sales tax rate is on the higher end at 8.19%.

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23. Maryland

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $115,072
  • Median income for families: $103,580
  • High school graduation rate: 87%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.95%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 463,569

Maryland has the fourth-highest median income for families in the country, but it also has one of the highest costs of living. Maryland’s combined state and average local sales tax rate of 6% is lower than most states.

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22. South Dakota

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $89,630
  • Median income for families: $75,085
  • High school graduation rate: 91%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.77%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 75,454

South Dakota’s cheap cost of living and low tax rate put it in the top half of this ranking. Annual family expenditures are right around the national average, though the state’s median income is slightly below average. South Dakota’s state and average local sales tax is 6.4%.

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21. Delaware

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $96,822
  • Median income for families: $77,223
  • High school graduation rate: 88%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.25%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 63,216

About 88% of students graduate high school in Delaware, and they also have among the highest ACT scores in the nation. On top of quality education, Delaware has no statewide or local sales taxes.

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20. Indiana

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $80,461
  • Median income for families: $71,089
  • High school graduation rate: 89%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.97%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 515,997

The combined state and average local sales tax rate in Indiana is somewhat high at 7%. However, the Hoosier State’s cost of living for families is among the lowest in the country, which helped it crack the Top 20 of best states to raise a family.

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19. Minnesota

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $90,979
  • Median income for families: $97,217
  • High school graduation rate: 87%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.08%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 482,928

The cost of living for families in Minnesota is only slightly higher than the national average, yet its median income is roughly 25% higher than average. However, Minnesota has a pretty high combined state and average local sales tax rate at 7.46%. Its violent crime rate is low compared with most states, making it one of the safer places to raise a family.

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18. Vermont

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $104,913
  • Median income for families: $82,202
  • High school graduation rate: 85%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.42%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 43,174

Vermont is one of 13 states with an average annual cost for families in six figures, so it’s an expensive place to live. However, Vermont also has a higher-than-average median income, a very low property crime rate and the fourth-lowest rate of violent crime per capita in the country.

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17. Kentucky

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $84,686
  • Median income for families: $65,141
  • High school graduation rate: 94%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.9%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 342,058

The median income for families in Kentucky is among the lowest of the 50 states. However, the cost of living for families is almost 6% below the national average, and the combined state and average sales tax rate is a very affordable 6%.

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16. North Dakota

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $86,754
  • Median income for families: $87,595
  • High school graduation rate: 94%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.98%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 69,820

North Dakota is one of the few states where the cost of living for families and the median income are so close it’s basically a wash, which means it’s an affordable place for most families. Crime rates are low, but so is the average ACT score.

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15. Utah

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $87,113
  • Median income for families: $87,271
  • High school graduation rate: 88%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.17%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 313,284

If you’re worried about crime, consider moving to Utah. GOBankingRates found that the rate of violent crime per capita in Utah is among the lowest in the country. The Beehive State also has a very close ratio of family costs to median income.

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14. Pennsylvania

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $92,777
  • Median income for families: $80,661
  • High school graduation rate: 88%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.40%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 928,453

Pennsylvania’s cost of living for families is about $12,000 higher than its median income for families, but that’s offset somewhat by a comparatively low state and average local sales tax rate of 6.4%. The Keystone State also ranks in the top third for average ACT score.

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13. Michigan

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $81,000
  • Median income for families: $73,725
  • High school graduation rate: 88%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.59%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 729,040

Overall, Michigan is one of the best states to raise a family due to its numerous perks. The combined state and average local sales tax rate is only 6%, and Michigan has a low rate of property crime. In addition, its students’ ACT scores are among the best in the country.

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12. Nebraska

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $83,427
  • Median income for families: $80,271
  • High school graduation rate: 93%
  • Property crime per capita: 2.04%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 177,844

Not only is the cost of living in Nebraska about 7% below the national average, but the combined state and average local tax rate is also on the cheaper side at 6.93%.

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11. Rhode Island

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $106,621
  • Median income for families: $82,251
  • High school graduation rate: 88%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.53%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 70,062

Rhode Island is a pricey place to live for families, with average yearly family expenditures more than $24,000 higher than the median family income. However, students have some of the highest ACT scores in the nation, and the property crime rate is among the lowest in the country.

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10. Illinois

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $80,640
  • Median income for families: $86,620
  • High school graduation rate: 88%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.85%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 968,269

Illinois is one of the rare states where the average cost of living for families is actually lower than the median income. However, its state and average local sales tax rate is among the highest of all 50 states at 8.8%.

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9. Wisconsin

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $86,034
  • Median income for families: $82,043
  • High school graduation rate: 92%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.47%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 459,228

Wisconsin has one of the lowest state and average local tax rates in the country at 5.43%. Its cost of living for families is also low at 4% below the national average, making the Badger State an affordable place to live.

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8. Iowa

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $82,169
  • Median income for families: $77,936
  • High school graduation rate: 94%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.73%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 268,740

Iowa is among the 20 states with the lowest rate of property crime per capita. It also ties for the highest high-school graduation rate in the country.

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7. Idaho

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $84,776
  • Median income for families: $72,539
  • High school graduation rate: 86%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.22
  • Households with children 18 and under: 156,830

Idaho falls within the top 20 states for ACT scores and in the top 15 for low sales taxes. In addition, Idaho has the third-lowest rate of property crime per capita, which makes it one of the best states for families.

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6. Maine

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $103,565
  • Median income for families: $75,579
  • High school graduation rate: 87%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.25%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 97,071

The cost of living for families in Maine is about 15% higher than the national average, while its median income for families is below the national average. So how did it land so far up this list? For one thing, Maine’s combined state and average local tax rate is a low 5.5%. In addition, students in Maine have some of the highest ACT scores in the country.

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5. Connecticut

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $111,656
  • Median income for families: $98,318
  • High school graduation rate: 92%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.43%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 260,628

Like a lot of New England states, Connecticut combines high average annual costs for families with high median incomes. Meanwhile, its combined state and average local sales tax rate is modest at 6.35%. Best of all: Connecticut students are tied with Massachusetts for the highest average ACT scores in the country.

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4. Massachusetts

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $116,600
  • Median income for families: $111,761
  • High school graduation rate: 92%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.18%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 518,830

Although average annual family expenditures in Massachusetts are about 30% higher than the national average, families here make the highest median income in the country. Massachusetts also boasts high ACT scores and low property crime rates.

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3. Virginia

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $91,159
  • Median income for families: $94,463
  • High school graduation rate: 92%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.64%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 666,684

Virginia is the only state outside of the Northeast to crack the Top 6 in best states for families, helped by low crime rates. The Old Dominion is part of a select group of states where the median family income is actually higher than what it costs to raise a family.

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2. New Jersey

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $110,038
  • Median income for families: $108,421
  • High school graduation rate: 92%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.34%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 739,504

New Jersey has the second-highest median income for families. In addition, its combined state and average local sales tax is mid-range at 6.6%.

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1. New Hampshire

  • Average annual expenditures for families: $97,092
  • Median income for families: $102,407
  • High school graduation rate: 89%
  • Property crime per capita: 1.21%
  • Households with children 18 and under: 102,287

Although the cost of living in New Hampshire is about 8% more expensive than the national average, there isn’t any sales tax here. The Granite State boasts the fifth-highest median income for families, as well as the third-best ACT scores in the nation.

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    Taylor Bell contributed to the reporting for this article.

    GOBankingRates scored all 50 states and the District of Columbia on 10 factors related to the economy, community, and education to determine which are the best and worst states to raise a family. GOBankingRates took into consideration (1) the estimated annual cost of living in each state calculated by multiplying each state’s Q1 2020 cost of living index score from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center by the national average annual expenditures for a married couples with children from the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s 2019 Consumer Expenditure Survey; (2) the average 2020 typical home value using Zillow’s housing data through August 2020; (3) the 2019 median annual income for families with children under 18 from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey; (4) the 5-year change in median annual income for families with children under 18, calculated with data from the 2014 and 2019 ACS; (5) the midyear 2020 combined state and average local sales tax rate from the Tax Foundation; (6) the 2019 average ACT score for students in each state from the ACT’s website; (7) the graduation rate for students of the class of 2018 in each state from U.S. News and World Report; (8) the proportion of households with children under 18, calculated by adding together the total number of households made up of married and cohabiting couples with children under 18 and dividing the sum by the total number of households in each state, according to the 2019 ACS; (9) the property crime rate per 100,000 residents in each state according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting data; and (10) the violent crime rate per 100,000 residents in each state according to the FBI’S UCR data. All factors were weighted equally in the final score and states were ranked according to their cumulative score after totaling all factors. All data was collected on and up to date as of October 8, 2020.