The following was from an article titled, 2021’s Best and Worse States to Raise a Family, from WalletHub, and features commentary from Neil Mecham, Associate Professor of Child and Family Studies and Chair of the Child and Family Studies Department
Not all states are created equal. Some are more conducive to pleasant family life than others. With those differences in mind, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- What should families consider when choosing a place to set down roots?
- To what degree is a child’s development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the state they live in? How?
- How can authorities make their states more attractive to young families?
- How might Joe Biden’s proposals related to child care and paid family leave affect child and family well-being?
- In evaluating the best states for families, what are the top five indicators?
- How do different states compare when it comes to the support offered to single-parent families torn between struggling to find work and taking care of their children?
Ph.D. – Associate Professor of Child and Family Studies; Chair of the Child and Family Studies Department – Berea College
What should families consider when choosing a place to set down roots?
It might sound selfish, but parents should consider what an area holds for them – what they would like to do with their children. Developing strong supportive relationships with children is generally done while spending quality time with them, and parents are more likely to spend time with their children if they are doing things they, the parents, enjoy. So if you like to ride bikes, then selecting a city with established bike routes would allow being helpful. If attending cultural events brings you joy, then cities with venues for children would be important.
To what degree is a child’s development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the state they live in? How?
Quality of life can be measured in multiple ways. Taxes, education systems, industry, and wages all influence the financial aspect of the quality of life, but access to leisure activities and natural setting also has great influence. I know many families, not considered financially well off, who would rate their quality of life very high because they enjoy the opportunities their environment provides them.
How can authorities make their states more attractive to young families?
Local authorities should prioritize providing access to nature-scape areas. Sports fields are good, and so are plastic playgrounds, but nature-scape parks and playgrounds provide the most variety and invitation for families to use them year-round.
How might Biden’s proposals related to child care and paid family leave affect child and family well-being?
When parents need to work, they need to feel that their children are not just warehoused and kept safe. They want to feel that their children are growing; being challenged and enjoying their time. Supporting the childcare systems that can provide this level of quality care takes leaders who make it a priority, not an afterthought or lip service campaign promise.
In evaluating the best states for families, what are the top five indicators?
- Access to activities that the parents would regularly enjoy doing with their children.
- Support of and access to quality early childcare and early childhood education providers.
- Access to nature-scape environments.
- Policies that support parents’ efforts to spend time with their children.
- Salaries and wages are sufficient; hence parents do not need to work two jobs or overtime.