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WalletHub ranks Idaho 30th best state to raise a family

January 16, 2019

Despite its wholesome reputation, Idaho may not be the best place to raise a family.

In fact, it doesn’t even rank among the top 25 states for rearing youngsters.

The Gem State recently was ranked the 30th-best state to raise a family according to WalletHub, which ranked all 50 states based on five different indicators: “affordability,” “safety and health,” “family fun,” “education” and “socio-economics.”

Those five indicators were then broken down to 49 different metrics and graded on a 100-point scale, according to the site’s methodology.

Each state’s weighted average across all metrics was then calculated to create an overall score.

Idaho received high marks in “socio-economics” (fifth-best) and “safety and health” (12th), while it was dragged down by low rankings for “education” (45th), “family fun” (42nd) and “affordability” (40th).

The “family fun” category included weighted results for the share of families with young children, the number of attractions, fitness and recreational sports centers per capita, and share of children aged 0 to 17 who live in neighborhoods with a park or playground.

The “education and child care” category included weighted results for quality of public schools, public high school graduation rate, child care services per capita, child care quality and child care cost.

Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Vermont and New Hampshire were the top-five overall ranked, according to WalletHub. New Mexico, Mississippi, Louisiana, West Virginia and Alabama were ranked at the bottom of the list.

Surrounding states were ranked higher than Idaho. Montana was ranked 24th; Wyoming was ranked 25th; Utah was 17th; Oregon was 23rd; and Washington was 14th.

Utah was ranked first in two categories: most families with young kids and lowest divorce rates.

Steven Peterson, an associate clinical professor of economics at the University of Idaho, mostly disagreed with the Gem State’s rankings. He mentioned Idaho’s cheap cost of living, low crime rates, growing infrastructure and diverse recreational activities such as skiing, hunting and hiking.

“I would disagree with some of their rankings,” Peterson said. “A lot of rankings are based on what you include in your index, and any of us could put a variety of factors in an index.”

Peterson, who’s from Moscow and has been a regional economist in Idaho for most of his career, said the list also doesn’t factor in the increasing pace of growth the Treasure Valley and eastern Idaho have experienced in recent years.

Idaho has been the fastest growing state for the past two years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“We do face some problems with infrastructure and education, but in terms of affordability, we’re one of the cheapest states to live in. ... I’m not saying there’s necessarily bias in the rankings, but what you include in the index is important, as you can shuffle the deck a lot,” Peterson said.

WalletHub is a personal finance website that launched in 2013, as the entire list can be viewed here, or at: https://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-to-raise-a-family/31065/#methodology.