A new report from a major philanthropic foundation looks at “state trends in child well-being.” Families with LGBTQ members, however, will likely want to cross-reference it with some LGBTQ-specific studies if they want to determine the best state for them.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Book, “the premier source for data on child and family well-being in the United States,” ranks each state according to economic well-being, education, and health of children, as well as on other family and community factors. Overall, over the past five years, it found “gains in the Economic Well-Being and Health domains, but setbacks in the Education and Family and Community domains.” (Keep in mind that the report is analyzing data only through 2015, so it does not take into account any post-Trump actions.)
As important as all of that is for any family, LGBTQ families may also benefit from looking at HRC’s 2016 State Equality Index, which reports not only on general factors related to LGBTQ people, such as nondiscrimination laws, but also on parenting- and children-specific ones, such as anti-bullying laws that specifically protect students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; anti-conversion therapy laws; adoption, fostering, and surrogacy laws; and states that collect data in their Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Movement Advancement Project’s extensive set of maps also break down LGBTQ-related legal issues state by state. Those who live in cities may also wish to look at HRC’s Municipal Equality Index.
Additionally, GLSEN takes a close look at “State and School District Anti-Bullying Policies,” and offers a series of state snapshots on the school climate for LGBTQ students. (I would assume that some of this also applies to non-LGBTQ students with LGBTQ parents.)
Some of the states that rank high in the Kids Count study also do well in the LGBTQ analyses, such as New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont, which top the Kids Count list and are praised by HRC as “Working Toward Innovative Equality.” Others show discrepancies. North Dakota, for example, is ranked a respectable ninth in Kids Count, but HRC says it needs to make basic equality a high priority and GLSEN notes that it has the lowest percentage of school districts with anti-bullying policies (of any type, not just SO/GI inclusive).
There are many factors that influence where LGBTQ families live and work, including where we grew up and where our extended and chosen family members live. For those of us who identify in other ways, too, there are additional items to consider. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “Race for Results” report, for example, looks at “the intersection of kids, race, and opportunity,” and its Kids Count Data Center lets users parse the data by race/ethnicity, family nativity (immigrant status), and more; United Cerebral Palsy ranks states on “how well state Medicaid programs serve Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) and their families.” (Massachusetts ranks a mediocre 26th in the UCP list.)
Much of how happy we are with where we live depends on what we make of it—but laws, policies, and overall climate can have a definite impact. If you’re considering a move, it may pay to do some research first!