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Editorial: By all indications, we're good and could be better

Families living in the upper Midwest should be feeling pretty good — subzero weather and all.

The cold, hard truth — when you look at the WalletHub survey data — is that states with four genuine seasons lead the nation as the best places to a raise a family. Coincidence? Don't tell that to local kids who all seem to love the recent snowfall.

Minnesota ranks second; North Dakota, fourth; Wisconsin, sixth; Iowa, eighth in the 2018 survey. Massachusetts is first. New Hampshire (3), Vermont (5), New York (7) and Nebraska (9) round out the list. The only warm state to make the top 10 is California, coming in at No. 10 — but as everyone knows, northern California gets plenty of snow and ice.

Seriously, though, it's the well-being of children that matters and the survey's findings make it clear that parents' economic opportunities are key. Minnesota scored highest in median family salary, ranking first out of all 50 states when adjusted for cost of living. Wisconsin's high score was overall affordability, coming in fourth.

In ranking the 50 states, researchers used 42 metrics that fall into five indicators:

• family fun — including the percentage of families with children 0 to 17 years old and the number of attractions.

• health and safety — air and water quality, birth weight, life expectancy at birth, violent and property crimes per capita, and more.

• education and child care — quality of public schools and day care centers, graduation rates, etc.

• affordability — housing, credit scores, percentage of parents setting aside money for their children's college education and cost of family health insurance, among other things.

• Socio-economics — Percentage of two-parent families, unemployment rate and job opportunities, to name a few.

Studies such as this one might help parents choose where to raise their children by finding the best combination of qualities that matter most to them and ultimately their kids, but we suspect few families will move here simply because of some good rankings. Surveys and studies mean the most when people use them to launch discussions and to ask important questions.

What can we do to make our state (or our community) more attractive to young families?

What is quality health care really worth?

Will low property taxes ultimately prove too costly if the result is a subpar education system?

Yes, it warms the heart to know Minnesota and Wisconsin rank highly when it comes to raising a family. We can feel good about that, but we also can and must continue to do better.

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