Policy Resource

These Are the Best States for Babies

Jun 10, 2020

The State of Babies Yearbook provides a snapshot of how the nation’s babies are faring nationally and by state across nearly 60 indicators in three policy areas essential for a good start in life: Good Health, Strong Families, Positive Early Learning Experiences. Here are the states that scored highest.

About every 8 seconds, a baby is born in the United States. Those tiny fingers, those spellbound yes, that newborn smell! New parents often spend hours upon hours gazing at their baby and daydreaming about their future.

However, as our debut State of Babies Yearbook showed us last year, the state in which that baby is born can make a big difference in their start toward achieving their full potential. This year, we added disaggregated data broken down by race/ethnicity, income, and geographic setting to paint a more accurate picture of the disparities that exist in our nation for each state and the District of Columbia – and 12 of our 50 states have risen to the top.

“So what are they?” you’re wondering. Don’t worry, we’ll get there — but before we reveal the list, there are a few important things to know.

Why the State of Babies Matters

Babies are our next generation of parents, workers, and leaders. Where a baby is born shouldn’t determine their outcome, yet, each state can play a big role in helping babies achieve their full potential. And now, babies and families are under unprecedented stress. They are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic as an earthquake: a sudden, unexpected episode, that disrupts everyone without prejudice. And what sometimes accompanies an earthquake is a tsunami that spreads across the ocean and disproportionately impacts those that cannot make it to higher ground. 

In this country, that means those who were already facing barriers due to long-standing cracks and a lack of equity in the many systems that support the healthy development and well-being of infants, toddlers, and their families. Those barriers and disparities are the story in State of Babies. We can’t afford to squander the potential of a single child if our nation is to fully recover and be successful.  

About the Rankings

The State of Babies Yearbook: 2020 provides a snapshot of how the nation’s babies are faring nationally and by state across nearly 60 indicators in three policy areas essential for a good start in life: Good Health, Strong Families, Positive Early Learning Experiences. These indicators include everything from being read to daily, to mental health, to crowded housing, and much more.

We then rank each state on the various indicators and categorize them into four tiers, from lowest to highest-performing. The top tier (W) is the top 25 percent of states while the bottom tier (G) is the lowest performing 25 percent of states. 

Getting Started (GROW)
Reaching Forward (GROW)
Improving Outcomes (GROW)
Working Effectively (GROW)

“Best” Isn’t Good Enough

While yes, these 12 states have some strong policies for babies and show they are paving the way for other states to follow in some areas, the reality is that all states can do better for babies. The placement for the indicators shows how the state is doing relative to all other states, not measured against an absolute standard.

For example, while almost all Vermont moms receive early prenatal care, as many as 25 percent of babies in Vermont have already had one adverse childhood experience (ACE) and although Oregon is tops in developmental screening, 11 percent of Oregon’s babies in families with low income have had two or more ACEs. 

In the District of Columbia, parents have one of the highest rates of reading to their babies every day, however 30 percent of the District’s babies in families with low income live in crowded housing compared to 12 percent of babies in families above low income.  And in 7 of the 12 top states, more mothers rate their mental health as below excellent or very good than the national average of 19.8%. The list can go on. We urge state policymakers and advocates to remember that it’s not about the ranking, it’s about the babies and focus on the needs and disparities indicated within their own states.

However, without further ado, here are the best states for babies according to the State of Babies Yearbook: 2020 (listed in alphabetical order). Drumroll please…

These states are in the “W” tier for Working Effectively in the 2020 Yearbook:

  1. Connecticut
  2. District of Columbia
  3. Iowa
  4. Maine
  5. Maryland
  6. Massachusetts
  7. New Hampshire
  8. Oregon
  9. Pennsylvania
  10. Rhode Island
  11. Vermont
  12. Washington

Learn more about the data and see where babies in your state stand in the 2020 Yearbook. Visit stateofbabies.org.

  • Author

    Sharon Bell

    Digital Engagement Specialist

    ZERO TO THREE

    2028572676