When it comes to raising children, every parent wants to find the best environment to keep their kids safe, while also giving them opportunities to grow and learn. These opportunities can vary widely based on where you live, however.
We dig into the numbers to determine the safest states for raising children. Our rankings are based on data about crime rates, education and access to the internet. We also consider the average graduation gap. A crucial measure for understanding the equity of educational opportunities in a state, this measures the difference in graduation rates for students in different socio-economic and ethnic categories. For crime rates, we used data based on the total amount of crimes reported to the FBI per state, and for educational data we looked to the National Center for Education Statistics. We used census data to compile stats such as access to the internet — a crucial measure of financial stability and educational opportunity in a state.
Here are the safest 15 states for raising kids.
Safe States to Raise Children
Total score: 95.2
Vermont tops our list with a whopping 95.2 points, which is almost 20 points above the national average. Top stats that make Vermont great for raising children include a No.1 ranking in incidents of violent crime, property crime and drug crime, good access to the internet and a high graduation rate (eighth in the nation). Vermont also ranks eighth in average graduation gap, which means only a few other states top Vermont when it comes to equity in education.
Total score: 93.05
Also well above the national average with its total score, Wyoming might beat even Vermont if it weren’t for slightly higher incidents of drug-related crime. Access to the internet is good, graduation rates are excellent and overall crime rates are among the lowest in the nation. And with the lowest population in the country, Wyoming residents have plenty of space.
Total score: 91.45
Third on our list with 91.45 points is Hawaii, which also beats the national average of 77.04. Graduation rates in Hawaii are just under 80%, and the state ranks No.1 in average graduation rate gap, which means that Hawaiian kids have the most equal access to education in the country. Couple that with more internet access than our top two and relatively low crime rates, and it makes Hawaii a great place to raise a family.
Total score: 90.9
Maine comes in with a strong 90.9 points, putting this northeastern state at No.4 on our list — still well above the national average. Maine is sixth in the country for graduation rates, has high levels of internet access and enjoys a low violent crime rate. Drug-related crimes and property crimes are a little higher than the previous three picks, however — the state ranks 26th in property crime and 13th in drug-related crime. Overall though, Maine still ranks high as a safe place for families.
Total score: 89.2
Arkansas rounds out our top five safest states for raising kids. Graduation rates are high in Arkansas — in fact, the state is tied with Maine for sixth in that category. Violent crime and property crime are both low in Arkansas, but the state does rank 21st in drug crimes. Meanwhile, access to the internet in Arkansas is among the lowest in the country — the state 48th in this category — but overall, Arkansas still ranks high for low crime rates and high rates of graduation.
6. New Jersey
Total score: 89
New Jersey scores 89 and ranks sixth, in large part due to having the best access to the internet in the nation, very low rates of drug crime and violent crime, and having the fourth-best graduation rate in the country. Where New Jersey could use improvement is in its average gap in graduation — the state ranks 32nd in this crucial equality metric.
Total score: 88.3
Delaware comes in at No.7 on our list of safe states to raise children. Access to the internet in Delaware is high (5th in the country), graduation rates are at 85% and the state has very low property crime rates, ranking second in the nation. Violent crime is something to consider in Delaware however — the state is 35th in the country in this category.
Total score: 87.85
Iowa scores a solid 87.85 because of a low crime rate across the board. Violent crimes are very low — the state is tied for first in the nation in this category. Iowa ranks seventh for property crimes and 10th for drug crimes. Meanwhile, graduation rates are high at 85.7%, but the state ranks lower — 28th — for access to the internet.
9. Rhode Island
Total score: 86.65
Rhode Island’s high total score is largely due to this state being solid on crime. It’s tied at No.1 for low violent crimes, eighth for drug-related crimes and 12th for property crimes. The state has great internet access, ranking fourth nationally in that category. However, graduation rates and average graduation gap could use improvement — the state is ranked in the middle of the pack in both of those categories.
Total score: 86.1
Alaska shines when it comes to crime: Low rates of violent crime, property crime and drug-related crime put this state’s total score nine points above the national average. The state ties for first in violent crime, second in property crime and sixth in drug crime. Graduation rates aren’t as good in Alaska, however. The state ranks 38th in this crucial category, while also scoring low in internet access at 43rd in the country.
Total score: 85.1
Kansas also scores well on violent crime and property crime, tying for first and second nationally in these categories. Drug crime isn’t rampant either, and the state ranks 12th in this area. Educational opportunities are where Kansas falls short compared to better-ranked states. Access to the internet sits at only 68% in Kansas, and the state ranks 20th in graduation rate and 24th in average graduation gap.
Total score: 84.95
Maryland is tied for first in violent crime and ranks fifth for drug crime, so these kinds of incidents are low in Maryland. Property crime is a little higher, however, ranking the state 19th in this area. Access to the internet is good at 78%, graduation rates are a solid 84% but the average graduation gap — an important measure of ethnic and racial equity when it comes to education — leaves something to be desired. Maryland ranks 39th in the country in this metric.
13. West Virginia
Total score: 84.85
West Virginia ranks first in the country in graduation rate and is tied for first when it comes to educational equity. While West Virginia’s total is still above the national average, the state doesn’t shine so brightly in other areas. Ranked 27th in violent crime, 31st in drug crime, 22nd in property crime, and 37th in access to the internet, West Virginia has work to do to move up the list.
14. South Carolina
Total score: 84.55
South Carolina comes in at 14 in our list of top states to raise kids. The state sits in the middle of the pack (21st) when it comes to graduation rates but ranks high when it comes to average graduation gap, or educational equity. Drug crimes are a bit high in South Carolina — the state ranks 30th in this category. The state also ranks 42nd in the country in access to the internet, with only 63% of people having reliable online access.
15. New Hampshire
Total score: 83.05
When it comes to violent crime and property crime, New Hampshire ranks highly, tied for first for violent crimes and seventh for property crimes. Access to the internet is also good in New Hampshire, with 78% of people having access — eighth in the country. Graduation rates fall right in the middle at 25th nationally, and when it comes to the average graduation gap, the state needs improvement, ranking 34th in the country.
When it comes to safely raising kids, you want to know they have access to good education, are relatively safe from crimes and are as shielded as possible from the influence of drugs and other unhealthy habits. All of our top 15 states score well above the national average in total points by being strong in one or more of these crucial categories, and our top five picks shine across the board. If you’re looking for the best place to raise a family and you have the option to move, these 15 states are our top selections to consider.
To make our picks, we gathered data from the 2019 FBI Crime Report, using that data to rank states in violent crime, property crime, drug crime and other types of crimes. Census data gave us rankings for access to internet per state, and the National Center for Education Statistics’ “The Condition Of Education 2019” report was our source for educational data (stats in this report represent 2016-2017 graduation statistics).
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