The Best & Worst States For Children

An new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation has ranked the best and worst states to raise children based on economic well-being, health care, education, and other factors. But according to CNN, health care was the main difference between the highest- and lowest-ranking states, and it was also a big contributor to changes in some states' rankings over a five-year span. Based on data collected by the Population Reference Bureau, the report singled out New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont as the best states overall, and Mississippi, New Mexico, and Louisiana as the worst.

A color-coded map in the report depicts clear regional trends, with the South accounting for 15 of the 20 worst-ranking states. Only Virginia scored among the top half of states. Other than Rhode Island, every New England state scored within the top 25 percent. Regional trends were similar when broken down by single categories, as well. The findings are also in close agreement with a February analysis by WalletHub, which named North Dakota, New Hampshire, and Vermont the best states to raise a family, and New Mexico, Mississippi, and Louisiana the worst. And according to Save the Children, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New Jersey are the best states for kids, and although the order shifts yet again, the bottom three remain Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico.

So what are Northeastern states doing right, and what are Southern states doing wrong? According to the Annie E. Casey report, 2015 childhood poverty rates were lowest in New Hampshire, at 11 percent, while Mississippi's 31 percent was the highest. Overall, 27 percent of Mississippi children lived in high-poverty areas compared to just 1 percent in Vermont and Wyoming. Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Vermont all tied for the lowest rate of teens not in school and or working, which was 4 percent. Louisiana's rate was the highest, at 11 percent. The report also found that while 50 percent of Massachusetts fourth-graders in public school are unable to read proficiently, New Mexico's rate is a staggering 77 percent (the national average is 65 percent). "Massachusetts was the only state in which more than half of eighth graders were proficient in math," the report said, while in Alabama, 83 percent aren't proficient.

As far as health care, Mississippi had the highest incidence of low birth weight, accounting for 11.4 percent of all live births. Massachusetts and Vermont tied for the lowest rate of uninsured children, at 1 percent. Connecticut had the lowest child mortality rate, at 15 deaths per 100,000 children. And categorized under "Family and Community," the report cited Mississippi as having the highest percentage of children living in single-parent families (48 percent), while Maine and New Hampshire tied for the lowest rate of children in "families not headed by a high school graduate" at 4 percent. The teen birth rate in Massachusetts was 9 births per 1,000 versus 38 per 1,000 in Arkansas. Of course, a child isn't destined for failure based solely on where they're raised, but if you're planning a family and a move, it doesn't hurt to factor in these findings.