//this is the mailchimp popup form //ShareThis code for sharing images
Home / Blog / The Best U.S. States for Working Parents

The Best U.S. States for Working Parents

Study reveals which U.S. states best support parents planning to work while raising their children.

Phil Strazzulla
HR Tech Expert, Harvard MBA, Software Enthusiast
Contributing Experts
No items found.
A working mother holds her baby while seated at her desk.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Contributing Experts

Table of Contents

Share this article

Subscribe to weekly updates

Join 20,000 HR Tech Nerds who get our weekly insights
Thanks for signing up, we send our newsletter every Wednesday at 10 AM ET!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
  • A new study from the SSR research team has revealed which states are the best for parents planning to work while raising their children – and Connecticut comes out on top
  • Each state was ranked based on childcare affordability, public school rankings, maternity leave pay, maternity leave length, and the cost of living
  • Connecticut performed best thanks to its policy of 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and high public school ranking, while New Mexico came out as the worst state
  • An expert discusses the common considerations when deciding where to raise children and stresses the importance of a strong community

The SSR research team has crunched the numbers to reveal which states are the most accommodating for working parents, and which need to improve their provisions.

Infographic showing the best and worst states ranked according to how labor laws, schooling, and cost of living support working parents.

Research Methodology

We assigned each state a score out of 60 based on public school rankings, the duration of available maternity leave, the current cost of living, the percentage of income needed to pay for childcare, and maternity leave pay.

We gathered data from the World Population Review (state income, paid maternity leave, public school rankings), County Health Rankings (childcare costs), and the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (cost of living index scores).

And the Winners Are…

It turns out that the best state for working parents is Connecticut, with a score of 52.6 out of 60.

The state offers incredibly generous maternity leave, with mothers able to take 12 weeks of paid leave, receiving 95% of their income during this time.

Connecticut is also the state with the third highest-rated public schools, and parenthood is well-priced. The average parent must only dedicate 25% of their annual income to cover childcare expenses.

The national average for the cost of childcare currently runs at 27% of the average household income.

Maryland came second with a score of 49.9. The state also offers 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. Maryland’s parents also spend slightly less on childcare than their Connecticut-based peers. Childcare expenses equate to 22% of their income – which is nearly a fifth (19%) below the national average.

Colorado is in third place with a score of 49.3. The state has the country's eighth-best public schools and offers 12 weeks of paid maternity leave.

New Jersey was named the fourth best state for working parents with a score of 49.1, largely thanks to its high yearly salary of $78.7k. This salary means that, although the cost of living is high, on average, parents only need to dedicate 31% of their income to childcare expenses. It’s still less than some other states, including its neighbor, New York.

Rounding the top five states off is Washington with a score of 49. The state sees 27% of a parent’s income spent on childcare, which aligns with the national average. The state also benefits from some of the best public schools, ranking 13th in the country.

The Top Five States for Working Parents Ranked

State Average Annual Income Childcare Costs as Percentage of Income Weeks of Paid Maternity Leave Percentage of Income Paid Maternity Leave Cost of Living Index Score Position for Public School Rankings Total Score
Connecticut $84,972 25% 12 95 113.9 3 52.7
Maryland $70,730 22% 12 90 114.8 12 49.9
Colorado $74,167 30% 12 90 106.9 8 49.3
New Jersey $78,700 31% 12 66 110.3 1 49.1
Washington $75,698 27% 12 90 115.7 13 49.0

The States Where Working Parents Struggle Most

The state we found to be the worst for working parents is New Mexico, with a score of 26.4 out of 60 - 19% lower than the average score of 32.8.

The state’s parents pay 21% more than the national average for childcare. The slice of household income needed to raise little ones stands at 33%, making it one of the more expensive regions for working families with young children.

In fact, the state is one of the least affordable for childcare. Given the average annual salary of $51.5k, New Mexico is also 17% below the national average of $62.7k gross household income.

The second worst U.S. state for working parents is Montana. Its lack of paid maternity leave and high cost of living sets its score at 26.5. The state following in third place is Michigan, with a score of 26.8.

Michigan, like the others on the worst states list, offers no paid maternity leave and is also ranked 29th for public schools. Not only that, but the state has one of the highest rates of income spent on childcare at 41%.

The fourth state is West Virginia, which has the second lowest average yearly income at $49.1k, landing a score of 26.9. Like Michigan, West Virginia has above-average childcare costs, with parents spending 36% of their income.

Lastly, the fifth least suitable state for parents is North Carolina, scoring 27.1 out of 60. North Carolina ranks 43rd in the public school rankings and, on average, requires parents to spend 32% of their annual income on childcare expenses.

The Bottom Five States for Working Parents Ranked

State Average Annual Income Childcare Costs as Percentage of Income Weeks of Paid Maternity Leave Percentage of Income Paid Maternity Leave Cost of Living Index Score Position for Public School Rankings Total Score
New Mexico $51,500 25% 0 0 93.9 47 26.4
Montana $57,719 22% 0 0 103.1 277 26.5
Michigan $56,813 30% 0 0 91 29 26.8
West Virginia $49,169 31% 0 0 85.2 34 26.9
North Carolina $57,129 27% 0 0 96.2 43 27.1

While some prospective parents aren’t able to relocate to a better state to start their family, others will want to move to an area that offers better provisions and prospects for them and their children.

Navigating the challenges of being a working parent requires a well-thought-through approach to balance the juggling act of raising a family while working.

Parents often have last-minute leave requests due to unforeseen circumstances such as lack of childcare, family emergencies, or illness. Finding an employer that can accommodate this flexibility from an HR perspective is key for retaining staff and maintaining employee satisfaction.

Companies that prioritize a good work-life balance and offer family-friendly policies can play a crucial role in fostering an environment where your family can thrive, contributing to both a happy work life and a happy home life.

The Full Dataset and Scores (Ranked from Highest to Lowest Score Out of 60)

State Average Annual Income Childcare Costs as Percentage of Income Weeks of Paid Maternity Leave Percentage of Income Paid Maternity Leave Cost of Living Index Score Position for Public School Rankings Total Score
Connecticut 84,972 25 12 95 113.9 3 52.68
Maryland 70,730 22 12 90 114.8 12 49.99
Colorado 74,167 30 12 90 106.9 8 49.29
New Jersey 78,700 31 12 66 110.3 1 49.07
Washington 75,698 27 12 90 115.7 13 49.00
Delaware 61,387 25 12 80 100.8 11 48.08
New York 78,089 32 12 67 126.5 6 46.15
Illinois 68,822 26 1 100 91.8 20 41.76
California 77,339 30 8 70 136.4 40 40.99
Rhode Island 65,377 24 4 70 112 22 39.63
Hawaii 61,175 24 8 58 179.2 36 37.92
Missouri 56,551 17 0 0 88.3 26 33.05
New Hampshire 74,663 25 0 0 115.6 2 32.26
Minnesota 68,010 23 0 0 94.4 15 31.71
Indiana 57,930 20 0 0 91.1 23 31.53
Wyoming 71,342 27 0 0 93.2 14 31.19
South Dakota 65,806 25 0 0 91.8 17 30.99
Kansas 60,152 23 0 0 87.4 28 30.89
Pennsylvania 65,167 27 0 0 94.8 9 30.76
Virginia 68,211 27 0 0 101.4 10 30.42
Iowa 58,905 26 0 0 89.9 16 30.18
North Dakota 66,184 26 0 0 94.3 25 30.14
Nebraska 63,321 27 0 0 91 21 30.07
Georgia 57,129 24 0 0 90.9 31 29.75
Tennessee 58,279 24 0 0 90.4 41 29.65
Texas 61,985 25 0 0 93 38 29.62
Wisconsin 61,210 28 0 0 95.4 19 29.26
Idaho 54,537 22 0 0 99 33 29.26
South Carolina 53,320 22 0 0 94.3 45 29.23
Vermont 63,206 30 0 0 114.9 4 29.13
Utah 57,925 22 0 0 104.5 37 29.09
Arkansas 51,787 25 0 0 88.5 32 29.06
Ohio 57,880 29 0 0 92.2 18 29.02
Oregon 62,767 24 0 0 114.7 24 28.72
Mississippi 46,248 24 0 0 86.7 39 28.69
Alaska 68,919 23 0 0 126.4 35 28.69
Maine 59,463 29 0 0 110.7 7 28.61
Oklahoma 54,998 28 0 0 86.8 44 28.58
Massachusetts 84,945 42 0 0 148 5 28.19
Alabama 50,637 27 0 0 88.2 46 28.09
Florida 63,597 31 0 0 101 42 27.67
Arizona 56,667 24 0 0 110 50 27.59
Kentucky 52,109 31 0 0 93.2 30 27.36
Nevada 61,282 31 0 0 101.1 48 27.25
Louisiana 54,622 32 0 0 90.7 49 27.24
North Carolina 57,129 32 0 0 96.2 43 27.13
West Virginia 49,169 36 0 0 85.2 34 26.98
Michigan 56,813 41 0 0 91 29 26.83
Montana 57,719 36 0 0 103.1 27 26.48
New Mexico 51,500 33 0 0 93.9 47 26.44
Phil Strazzulla
HR Tech Expert, Harvard MBA, Software Enthusiast
LinkedIn logoTwitter logo

Phil is the founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, a website dedicated to helping HR and Recruiting teams find and buy the right software through in-depth, expert advice. He has bought over $1 million worth of HR and Recruiting tools. Additionally, as of 2023, nearly 3 million HR professionals have relied on his advice to determine which business software they should buy.

Phil studied finance at New York University and started his career working in venture capital before getting his MBA from Harvard Business School. His in-depth understanding of the Saas landscape, especially HR Tech, stems from nearly a decade of researching and working with these tools as a computer programmer, user, and entrepreneur.

Featured in: Entrepreneur Harvard Business School Yahoo HR.com Recruiting Daily Hacking HR Podcast HR ShopTalk Podcast Employer Branding for Talent Acquisition (Udemy Course)

Related posts

Join 35,000 HR Tech Nerds who get our weekly insights

More posts
Read HR Tech Reviews