Expecting parents have got their hands full when it comes to preparing for their soon-to-arrive bundles of joy.
What you might not realize, though, is that many of the factors that are less in your control—things like average medical costs and the rate of birth complications—vary widely from state to state. In fact, the differences can be so stark that some experts believe that in the long term, moving to another state might be a worthwhile choice for some expectant parents.
As Diane M. Harnek Hall, professor of family studies at Towson University put it, “Location matters a great deal.”
“There are opportunities everywhere. However, the pathway to those opportunities is more direct in some areas than others,” she explained.
Harnek was one of six experts on a panel assembled by WalletHub to rank all 50 states and the District of Columbia on their friendliness toward new parents and parents-to-be.
The panel evaluated each state on a variety of criteria, assigning each a point value.
Four main categories were considered by the experts: cost, health care, baby friendliness, and family friendliness. Across those categories were a total of 20 specific metrics, each of which was considered on a 100-point scale.
Higher numeric scores represented better conditions for expecting parents and their babies.
Finally, the panel combined the weighted scores of each state and D.C. across all of the metrics, summing them and using the resulting scores to to rank them.
Here’s a breakdown of how each state was scored.
Within the cost category, there were four criteria, each of which carried a weight of 5 points: hospital cesarean delivery charges, hospital conventional delivery charges, the average annual price tag for early child care, and average health insurance premium rates.
Within the health care category, there were 11 criteria. With the exception of fertility clinics per capita, which was weighted at .98 points, every other criteria was weighted at 3.9 points.
Some other health criteria were infant mortality rate, maternal mortality ratio, rate of low birth weight, rate of preterm births, and share of children with all seven recommended vaccines.
The health category was rounded out with the following criteria: quality of women’s hospitals, quality of pediatric neonatology facilities, midwives and obstetrician-gynecologists per capita, pediatricians and family doctors per capita, and the state’s Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) survey score.
Within the baby friendliness category, there were a total of four criteria. Parental leave policy was weighted at 8 points, while mom groups per capita, childcare centers per capita, and share of nationally accredited childcare centers were weighted at 4 points each.
The final category, family friendliness, which was weighted at 20 points, had a single criterion—the state’s results on WalletHub’s “Best and Worst States to Raise a Family” ranking.
So without further ado, here are the best and worst states to have a baby, according to the expert panel’s analysis.
We’ll start with the worst: states ranked Nos. 42 to 51 (don’t forget D.C.!):
48. West Virginia
46. South Carolina
43. New Mexico
And now, the 10 best states to have a baby in:
3. New Hampshire
5. North Dakota
If your state didn’t make either the best or worst lists, find out its rank here, courtesy of WalletHub.