As any working parent knows, raising a family while juggling a full-time career is no simple feat. But, according to a new study, where you live can have a major impact on how easily and affordably you’re able to balance both parenting and working.
Conducted by SelectSoftware Reviews, the study ranked the best and worst states for working parents based on factors like the cost of living, the ratio of the cost of childcare to income, the duration of available parental leave and how much it covers financially and public school rankings. The company utilized data from sources like county health rankings, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, and WorldPopulationReview.com, then scored each state on a scale of 1-60.
Here are the top five places to raise a family, according to the survey’s results.
Connecticut is the No. 1 place to raise a family in the U.S., according to the SelectSoftware Reviews study. It rated the Constitution State a score of 52.6 out of 60, the highest of any state. One factor that likely helped boost it to the top spot is Connecticut’s generous family leave program. Working parents can take advantage of a 12-week paid leave to bond with a newborn (or a newly adopted child) or care for a sick kid of any age. Pregnant workers with serious health conditions related to their pregnancy may also qualify for an additional two weeks of paid leave for a total of 14 weeks.
Beyond the paid family leave program, Connecticut also rates third on the survey’s list of highly-rated public schools. Plus, an average income of $84,972 means that parents in this state typically only spend 25% of their wages on childcare. These factors also helped contribute to Connecticut nabbing the top-rated spot.
This mid-Atlantic state that’s home to Baltimore and its famous blue crabs is ranked number two on the survey’s best states for working parents, thanks to a combination of factors that resulted in a 49.9 score. Starting in 2026, Maryland will offer its workers 12 weeks of paid family leave that tops out at $1,000 a week. Workers are eligible for the leave as long as they worked the minimum number of required hours within the state in the last 12 months, even if they then move out of Maryland once their leave begins.
Maryland also benefits from highly-rated public schools and affordable childcare. Parents typically only spend 22% of their average $70,730 income on daycare and other childcare options.
Colorado has long been a favorite place of outdoor enthusiasts, thanks to its vast mountain areas, but there’s a lot to like about it from the perspective of a working parent, too. As of 2024, Colorado parents can take up to 12 weeks of paid family leave, a benefit that helped land the state the No. 3 spot on the survey’s list with a score of 49.3. The state also offers women who suffer from pregnancy or childbirth complications an additional four weeks of leave.
Like the other top-ranked states, Colorado’s public schools are among the best in the country, and its cost-of-living to childcare cost ratio is relatively low. Parents typically spend about 30% of an average yearly income of $74,167 on childcare.
4. New Jersey
Although it has a higher-than-average cost of living, New Jersey took the No. 4 spot in the survey’s rankings thanks to other family-friendly factors like the state’s well-rated public schools and a 12-week paid family leave program. The New Jersey Family Leave Insurance program has been around since 2019 and even allows working parents with multiple jobs to take a break from one job to receive benefits while continuing to work another job, a major perk for parents who may juggle shift work or multiple part-time responsibilities.
On average, New Jersey parents spend about 31% of an annual average income of $78,700 on childcare costs, a percentage that helped boost the state to the top of the list and give it a score of 49.1.
The only West Coast state to make the list, Washington netted a score of 49 for its high-quality public schools and cost of living. The average income in the Evergreen State is around $75,698 and, of that, parents can expect to spend 22% of it on childcare.
Like the other states in the top five, Washington offers its residents a paid 12-week family leave program to bond with a new child or care for one with a serious health condition.
The worst states for working parents
On the flip side, if you’re wondering what states did not fare well in the survey’s results, you might be surprised to know that the five worst states to be a working parent include New Mexico, Montana, Michigan, West Virginia and North Carolina. The study found that these states scored low on factors like the availability of paid family leave and public school ratings, making them among the least affordable places to raise a family in the U.S.