You always hear about the joy of raising a child, but with that sweet bundle of delight comes a long list of medical expenses and emotional burdens.
Depending on where you live, those costs can hit your wallet much harder. According to personal finance website WalletHub’s 2018 best and worst states to have a baby report, for which analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across four key dimensions — cost, health care, baby-friendliness and family-friendliness — Georgia is nowhere near the top of the list.
Based on metrics such as average annual cost of early child care, health insurance premium cost, infant mortality rate, parental-leave policies and several more, the best state to have a baby is Vermont.
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The Green Mountain State came out on top in the health care rank and boasts the country’s lowest infant-mortality rate, most pediatricians and family doctors per capita and the most child care centers per capita.
Massachusetts and Minnesota followed.
But the Peach State ranked low — very low — at No. 45.
Here’s more on how Georgia fared:
- Overall rank: 45
- Cost: 23
- Health care: 43
- Baby-friendliness: 31
- Family-friendliness: 42
The state ranked among the bottom 10 in both health care and family-friendliness, the latter of which is based on WalletHub’s previous ranking on the worst states to raise a family, which placed Georgia 10th in the nation. That analysis, published in January, is based on data related to health, safety, education, child care, affordability, socioeconomics and family fun.
Georgia’s 7.5 infant mortality rate — the sixth highest mortality rate in America — is partly to blame. According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the latest figures (2016) show the state also bears the fourth highest low birthweight rate, seventh highest preterm birth rate and ranks among the top 10 in cesarean delivery rates.
Nearly 13 percent of the state population is also uninsured — the fifth highest in America after Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and Louisiana, according to the CDC.
In addition to low scores in health care, Georgia ranked among the bottom 10 for family-friendliness, a dimension based on the following metrics: parental-leave policies, mom groups per capita, child care centers per capita, share of nationally accredited childcare centers and birth rate.
Georgia laws do not require maternity leave pay and neither moms nor dads have extensive rights in the state.
While moms may have the option to purchase short-term disability policies prior to conception, a way many women earn maternity leave pay, dads cannot file a short-term disability claim for parental leave.
At least 180 countries in the world have laws guaranteeing some form of paid maternity leave and only nine are without — six Pacific island nations, Papua New Guinea, Suriname and the United States.
In the U.S., four states—California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York—now offer paid leave funded through payroll taxes.
When it comes to early childhood education, Georgia mom Carolyn Tricoche told AJC’s Bo Emerson “it’s really hard to find quality early education at an affordable price. We have a lot of single moms out there who don’t know what to do. I see it every day.”
“Two out of three Georgia children under 6 have a working parent or parents, many of whom cannot afford high-quality child care, says a report from Mission: Readiness, a nonpartisan group of more than 700 retired top military leaders,” the AJC previously reported.
The lack of high-quality early child care is showing. Last year, nearly two out of three third-graders in the state failed the English Georgia Milestones test.
“Research shows that as many as one in six who can’t read proficiently by third grade either drop out or won’t graduate on time. A poor education leads to low pay, a rocky work life and maybe even prison,” Emerson reported in May.
But there is some positive news: While Georgia has been ranking low in WalletHub’s rankings, the state has slightly improved since 2016.
And this year, for the first time since 2012, nonprofit Annie E. Casey Foundation didn’t rank Georgia among the worst 10 states for children in its 2018 Kids Count Data Book, a group dedicated to developing a brighter future for millions of children nationwide.
“Though Georgia’s children and families still face challenges, there are some promising trends for the state,” the foundation announced in a news release, though researchers noted that the ranking can’t be directly compared to previous years’ because methodology has changed over time.
“Georgia has made some key investments in areas such as early care and learning, child welfare, and K – 12 education over the last several years, and it’s already paying off for our families, communities, and economy,” Gaye Smith, executive director of Georgia Family Connection Partnership, said in a statement. “If we stay the course with these types of strategic investments, all Georgians will benefit from the resulting progress and positive community outcomes.”