GREENSBORO, N.C. (WAVY/WGHP) – Some people make a choice about whether to have a baby or have a pet. Some people do both. We are here to help you with that decision-making process.

WalletHub, the financial advice website that collects and analyzes data to evaluate trends, tendencies and likelihoods, has crunched the numbers to determine the best places in the U.S. to have a baby or to own a pet.

Sometimes children and pets can mix. Even horses. (James Crisp/AP Images for Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana)

And in some cases the picture isn’t pretty.

WalletHub ranks North Carolina 41st among 50 states and the District of Columbia as the best state to have a baby. That means there are only 10 that ranked worse.

Virginia, on the other hand, ranks 26 on this list.

In order to determine the best and worst states to have a baby, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across four key dimensions:

  1. Cost
  2. Health Care
  3. Baby-Friendliness
  4. Family-Friendliness.

But when it comes to pet-friendly cities, Raleigh, NC ranks 10 out of 100, Winston-Salem is No. 47, and Greensboro is No. 52.

In Virginia, the resort city of Virginia Beach ranks 57, Chesapeake comes in at 72 and Norfolk at 87.

These were separate analyses and reports, not overlapping data, and they create a barometer for our region more than a hard data point that should direct our lives.

After all, whether you can and will love a child and whether or not a pet might tax you is a personal choice based on emotion and your heart, not just dollars, programs and common sense.

We will tell you more about the broader picture of both these evaluations, but this is how WalletHub reached its conclusions on the two topics:

  • A BABY: Data for the cost of having a child, health care, baby friendliness and family friendliness were compiled, with health care getting the greatest weight (40 points out of 100). Each of the other categories was given 20 points.
  • A PET: WalletHub evaluated pet budgets, pet health and wellness data and outdoor pet-friendliness, giving health and wellness have the weight in its point system (50 out of 100).

So let’s dig into each topic separately and offer perspective.

Having a child

Source: WalletHub

North Carolina’s score in the baby sweepstakes is 37.21, nearly 50% lower than No. 1 Massachusetts (71.11). Vermont, Rhode Island, Minnesota and New Hampshire rounded out the Top 5.

North Carolina was hurt because we rank No. 48 for cost and No. 47 for baby-friendliness. That means we pay a lot more than most for medical costs and get dinged for our stalled Medicaid expansion plan being discussed in the General Assembly.

The friendliness element is based on parental-leave policies, mom’s groups, having nationally accredited child-care centers and birth rates, among other factors. North Carolina’s birth rate is 11.5, which accounts for 123,554 total births, the World Population Review reported.

Except for No. 43 Nevada, all of the states that ranked worse than North Carolina were Southern. Florida was No. 42, and Nos. 44-51 were (in order) Oklahoma, West Virginia, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama.

That was the case even though Louisiana was second-best, and Arkansas was sixth-best for cost.

Steven Meyers, chair of the Department of Psychology at Roosevelt University said in WalletHub’s release that area leaders can help make a state more baby-friendly. He cited educational investments – particularly early childhood programs – and assisting at-risk children as being keys.

Parts of North Carolina have dealt with poverty, food insecurity and an imbalance of investment in public school systems.

“There is a range of initiatives that assist young children with developmental disabilities to help them develop skills to avoid life-long challenges,” Meyers said. “Other programs are critical for helping families avoid food or housing insecurity. These all reflect whether children and families are a priority in terms of local-level resource allocation.”

Virginia received a total score of 51.30, with a rank of 18 for family-friendliness, 20 for health care and 29 for cost. The lowest ranking was 35 for baby-friendliness.

Having a pet

Source: WalletHub

For those of you who love furry creatures and would have a houseful if you could, be encouraged that Winston-Salem is the fifth-cheapest city to have a pet, and Greensboro ranks eighth for pet cost. Raleigh was No. 1 in that category, largely because it had the second-lowest vet costs of all cities.

That’s helpful because 59% of North Carolinians own pets, with 41% having dogs and 27% having cats. We hazard guesses on the remaining pets. Wyoming has the highest rate, 72% (we guess they counted all the horses and all the cows).

The top five pet-friendly cities were Scottsdale, Arizona; Tampa; Portland, Oregon; St. Louis; and Cincinnati.

The worst five were Chicago, New York, Honolulu, Baltimore and Santa Ana, California (that’s near Disneyland).

Charlotte (No. 81) and Durham (No. 88) also ranked in the top 100.

55% of Virginians own a pet, with the majority owning dogs, according to worldpopulationreview.com.

Nancy Gee, the director of the Center-Animal Interaction at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond, has a list of five indicators she shared with WalletHub that she would use to designate the best and worst cities for pets:

  1. The presence of pet-friendly establishments (like hotels, department stores, and outdoor dining areas).
  2. The presence of pet necessity stations such as pet watering areas and pet clean-up supplies (e.g., poop bags).
  3. Pet-friendly walking paths that have plenty of shade in hotter climates areas.
  4. Pet-friendly beach areas where dogs can go for a swim on lakes or ponds or slow-moving rivers.
  5. Fun pet options for play and relaxation and/or pet amenities such as readily available dog toys, beds, or treat options for the wide variety of pet choices.