The Best States for Working Families

By Amanda Postma - Jul. 31, 2020

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The middle class isn’t like it was 20 years ago.

During that time, working families were expecting their children to make more than them when they grew up and started careers. Now, that story is completely different.

Instead, those children have grown up, started careers and are struggling. Why? Despite inflation, the median income for middle-class families hasn’t changed in those 20 years.

In addition, the middle class is struggling to save for retirement. Between paying for a home and daycare costs, most of the middle-class families are relying on borrowing money rather than saving it.

However, some states treat working families better than others. We set out to find the states where childcare is affordable, owning a house isn’t just an American dream, it’s a reality, and workers have more free-time.

The Best States for Working Families

  1. Kentucky
  2. Nebraska
  3. Iowa
  4. Ohio
  5. North Dakota
  6. Montana
  7. Vermont
  8. Utah
  9. Michigan
  10. Idaho

If you’re looking for some great family-friendly places to live that will allow you to start saving for your retirement, these states are a great place to start. Be sure to continue reading to find our complete list of which states are the best, and which ones are not so great.

How We Determined This

We ranked each state 1-to-50 in 5 categories:

  • Quality of public schools
  • Percent of median income that covers daycare costs
  • Average home price
  • Amount of hours worked
  • Median commute length

The factors we looked at can be put into two categories: Time and affordability. Trying to balance working and raising a family is hard- it strains your free time and your wallet. We sought to identify the states where working families have a bit more extra cash in their pockets and a little extra time mom or dad can use as they please.

For time, we used data from the Census’ ACS to determine the median commute length and the average amount of hours worked. The less time spent on the freeway or on the clock, the better for work-life balance.

For affordability, we first looked into daycare costs, using data from In many states, daycare is more expensive than college and a burden to working families. To determine where working families were struggling to afford childcare, we compared the percentage of median income to the average daycare cost in each state.

We then examined the median housing cost in each state, once again from the ACS. While you don’t need a house to raise a family- many people enjoy the space and privacy it affords. Not to mention, homeownership is a cornerstone of the American dream.

Finally, we used Wallethub’s school rankings to evaluate the free public education system available.

1. Kentucky

kentucky class=

Monthly Daycare Costs: 17%
Hours Worked: 39
Home Cost: 135,300

Kentucky comes in ahead of the game with being the best state for working families. From working 39 hours a week to only 17% of family monthly costs going toward daycare, it’s easy to see why it’s such a great place for families. Perhaps the most family-friendly aspect of this state is its average home cost of $135,300. That’s the fifth-lowest in the country!

2. Nebraska

nebraska class=

Monthly Daycare Costs: 18%
Hours Worked: 40
Home Cost: 147,800

Nebraska comes in second when it comes to providing a family-friendly atmosphere for middle-class families. While an average home only costs $147,800 here, the best part is the commute. The average commute in Nebraska is 18.6 minutes, which just happens to be the fifth-shortest in the country. That puts you at seeing your family much sooner, rather than later.

3. Iowa

iowa class=

Monthly Daycare Costs: 19%
Hours Worked: 39
Home Cost: 142,300

The third best state in the U.S. for working families is Iowa. From daycare only taking up 19% of the monthly costs to only working 39 hours a week, the state wants to make sure you’re able to take care of your family while being able to spend as much time with them as possible. A nice little bonus of living here is that homes average $142,300, which is the ninth-lowest in the country.

4. Ohio

ohio class=

Monthly Daycare Costs: 19%
Hours Worked: 39
Home Cost: 140,000

With the eighth-lowest average home cost of $140,000 in the U.S., Ohio pops up at No. 4. The state also promotes a life-work balance with the average workweek being only 39 hours. Your family may get tired of spending so much time with you in Ohio.

5. North Dakota

north dakota class=

Monthly Daycare Costs: 16%
Hours Worked: 40
Home Cost: 185,000

North Dakota is the fifth-best place for working families to reside. This isn’t surprising, especially since daycare costs only take up 16% of the monthly bills. Plus, the state has the second-lowest average commute time of 17.1 minutes.

6. Montana

montana class=

Monthly Daycare Costs: 20%
Hours Worked: 38
Home Cost: 219,600

Montana is next on the list. What makes this state so great is its average workweek. Most people here only work 38 hours every week, which is the fifth shortest workweek in the U.S.

7. Vermont

vermont class=

Monthly Daycare Costs: 21%
Hours Worked: 38
Home Cost: 223,700

In addition to having access to fresh maple syrup, Vermont is great for middle-class families for other reasons as well. A major one that comes to mind is that the average workweek here is only 38 hours, which ranks Vermont No. 2 in the country. So you definitely have time to enjoy some waffles while you’re there.

8. Utah

utah class=

Monthly Daycare Costs: 20%
Hours Worked: 37
Home Cost: 256,700

With lots of outdoor activities to do with the family, Utah is eighth on the list. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to teach your kids how to snowboard, especially with the average 37-hour workweek. The workweeks here are the lowest in the U.S.

9. Michigan

michigan class=

Monthly Daycare Costs: 19%
Hours Worked: 38
Home Cost: 146,200

Michigan comes in at No. 9. While the average daycare costs only account for 19% of the monthly costs, that’s not the best thing about this state. Actually, the cost of homes is what’s turning many middle-class families’ heads. The state averages $146,200 homes, which is the 11th lowest out of the rest of the states. So now, you might be able to start a college fund for your kids.

10. Idaho

idaho class=

Monthly Daycare Costs: 17%
Hours Worked: 39
Home Cost: 192,300

The last state we’re going to talk about here is Idaho. At No. 10, Idaho still has some impressive stats that draw in a lot of working families. The average daycare costs only account for 17% of the monthly bills here, which is the ninth-lowest percentage. Another impressive feat is the state’s average commute, which is 20.7 minutes, also ranking the state ninth best. Saving money on daycare and gas doesn’t get any easier.

Summary of the Best States for Working Families

If you’re looking to move to a more family-friendly state, or you just want to save a little money for a college fund or retirement plan, these states couldn’t get any better. From low daycare costs to short commutes and everything in-between, these 10 states are the perfect home for working families.

Rank State Daycare Costs Home Cost
1 Kentucky 17% $135,300
2 Nebraska 18% $147,800
3 Iowa 19% $142,300
4 Ohio 19% $140,000
5 North Dakota 16% $185,000
6 Montana 20% $219,600
7 Vermont 21% $223,700
8 Utah 20% $256,700
9 Michigan 19% $146,200
10 Idaho 17% $192,300
11 South Dakota 18% $159,100
12 Missouri 16% $151,600
13 Kansas 19% $145,400
14 Arkansas 15% $123,300
15 Maine 20% $184,500
16 Minnesota 22% $211,800
17 Connecticut 19% $272,700
18 Alabama 14% $137,200
19 Wisconsin 23% $173,600
20 Delaware 18% $244,700
21 Mississippi 12% $114,500
22 Indiana 22% $135,400
23 South Carolina 14% $154,800
24 New Hampshire 19% $252,800
25 Oregon 18% $287,300
26 Oklahoma 18% $130,900
27 New Jersey 17% $327,900
28 Illinois 20% $187,200
29 Florida 18% $196,800
30 Wyoming 20% $213,300
31 Tennessee 18% $158,600
32 New Mexico 21% $166,800
33 Pennsylvania 20% $174,100
34 Texas 16% $161,700
35 West Virginia 20% $115,000
36 North Carolina 20% $165,900
37 Virginia 19% $264,900
38 Maryland 18% $305,500
39 Rhode Island 23% $249,800
40 Georgia 16% $166,800
41 Massachusetts 25% $366,800
42 Hawaii 19% $587,700
43 Arizona 20% $209,600
44 New York 23% $302,200
45 Nevada 22% $242,400
46 California 20% $475,900
47 Louisiana 20% $157,800
48 Washington 22% $311,700
49 Alaska 20% $265,200
50 Colorado 23% $313,600

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Amanda Postma

Amanda Postma is a writer for the Zippia Career Advice blog with a focus on creating entertaining content to help you through your job search. She received her BA from the University Of Missouri-Columbia.

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Topics: Study