A new report finds New Jersey is the 7th best state in the nation for raising a family.

The WalletHub analysis used 40 key indicators of family friendliness for its ranking.

The study ranked New Jersey as:

  • 11th best in the country for the percentage of families with kids
  • 9th best for child care costs, adjusted for median family income
  • 4th best for infant mortality rate
  • 10th best for median family salary (adjusted for cost of living)
  • 13th best for violent crime rate
  • 11th best for percentage of families below the poverty level

Cecilia Zalkind, president and CEO of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, isn’t surprised our ranking was so high compared to other states.

She noted a number of studies, including the Annual Kids Count report, gives the Garden State high marks for “our strong education system, education spending, our median family income, our health system, they’re all positive.”

She pointed out New Jersey does have very highly rated schools but “another factor that makes our education system so strong is our high quality preschool program, there are not many states that have a preschool program with the quality standards that we have that serves a broad number of children.”

Zalkind said “our preschool program serves about 50,000 3- and 4-year-olds in the lowest income communities of the state, that helps in our education arena.”

“Education is critical, that’s how a child develops, grows, learns and gets prepared to be a productive self sufficient adult.”

Another positive for Jersey is access to healthcare for kids.

“New Jersey has really done very well in ensuring that children have health insurance. We have taken advantage of the federal child health insurance program, and we have significantly reduced the number of children without health insurance.

She noted last year’s Kids Count report found about 75,000 children do not have health insurance in New Jersey, but “a little more than 10 years ago we were talking about half a million children, so we’ve made significant progress.”

She said the most recent data available, from 2014, shows Jersey’s our median family income was $89,020 a year, which is on the high side compared to other states, but “if you look at individual counties the picture is quite different. In Essex County, the median family income drops to $64,000; in Cumberland it’s $44,000.”

In other words, “we may have a good median family income across the board, but we do have these communities with pockets of poverty, families who are struggling.”

Zalkind also noted that “compared to other states, we have a poverty rate that’s below the national average. But again looking at individual communities, we’ll find that it’s much higher.”

The state ranked highest for family friendliness is North Dokota, while New Mexico gets the worst rating.

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You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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