(NEXSTAR) – Many people would move for a job, but would you consider changing states to have a baby?
Personal finance site WalletHub weighed all 50 states and the District of Columbia to find the best – and worst – states to give birth and raise a young child.
New England dominated the list of best states, with Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island taking the top three spots, and New Hampshire and Connecticut in fifth and sixth places, respectively.
The study’s authors assigned an overall score to each state based on the following criteria: cost, health care quality, baby-friendliness and family-friendliness.
The worst state to have a baby in, the study found, was Alabama, followed by Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Arkansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Nevada and Florida.
So does it make sense to move to a top-ranked state to start a family? Not necessarily, experts say.
“Parents’ jobs are not always in the same part of the country as extended family, but that extended family can be a really important resource and support if you have young kids,” said Dr. Jennifer D. Sciubba, author of “8 Billion and Counting: How Sex, Death, and Migration Shape Our World.” “That is something prospective parents should consider when weighing job opportunities and a potential move.”
Amid skyrocketing rent and home prices, along with inflationary pressure, the financial burden of raising a family can feel crushing for some.
“If you have two kids two years apart and they cannot start public school until they are five, you are looking at paying for 7 years of very expensive childcare, not to mention summers and breaks,” Sciubba said. “That feels impossible for many Americans with working parents.”
Others are putting off or deciding against having children, driving the birth rate down.
For years, the birth rate has been declining in the U.S., with the drop in the first year of the pandemic marking the largest single-year fall in almost half a century. Last year saw an increase in births, but the number was still fewer than in 2019.
Fluctuations in the birth rate are often tied to economic conditions, according to Matthew Weinshenker, associate professor and chair of sociology & anthropology at Fordham University.
“First, in an advanced economy like ours, birthrates tend to track economic conditions,” Weinshenker said. “When things are going well, young couples judge that they can afford a child (or another child). That is why the birthrate went down rather sharply when the Great Recession hit.”
Weinshenker adds that many women in the second half of the 20th century are combining work and family with the goal of having a richer life – but doing so in the U.S. is much harder than in other countries.
“We are the only advanced economy in the world that does not have a national paid parental leave benefit, our childcare system is private and costly, and only about half the states guarantee paid sick leave,” Weinshenker said. “Absent these supports, while people still want children, they tend to have fewer, and have them later in life, compared to the past.”
Planning to bring a new child into the world comes with endless decisions, but if you’re leaning toward starting a new life in a different state like so many during the pandemic, this study might just help you tick off one major box.