The Best Counties to Live In

Print Email

Houses near Half Moon Bay, San Mateo County, California
Source: Thinkstock

25. San Mateo County, California
> 5-yr. population change: +6.3%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 2.8%
> Poverty rate: 8.0%
> Life expectancy at birth: 83.3 years

Based on a number of socioeconomic measures, San Mateo is one of the best U.S. counties to live in. Higher educational attainment can open doors to higher paying jobs. In San Mateo, some 45.6% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, well above the 29.8% of adults nationwide. Incomes in the area are also high. The typical county household earns over $93,600 a year, well above the $53,889 national median annual income.

High educational attainment and high incomes are indicative of the types of jobs available in the area. Many San Mateo County residents work in high-paying tech jobs in nearyby Silicon Valley, while others likely benefit from employment opportunities in San Francisco.

24. Collin County, Texas
> 5-yr. population change: +16.7%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 3.2%
> Poverty rate: 7.6%
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.1 years

Collin is the only county in Texas to rank among the 25 best places to live nationwide. Major cities typically offer a wide range of employment opportunities, including many high-paying jobs, and many Collin County residents live within commuting distance of two of the state’s largest cities, Dallas and Fort Worth. Perhaps as a result, only 3.2% of the county’s labor force is out of a job, well below the 4.6% national unemployment rate.

Like many areas with healthy job markets and other favorable living conditions, Collin’s population is on the rise. Over the past five years, the county’s population grew by 16.7%, more than four times faster than the national average growth over that period.

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
Source: Thinkstock

23. Santa Clara County, California
> 5-yr. population change: +7.4%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 3.5%
> Poverty rate: 9.5%
> Life expectancy at birth: 83.4 years

Silicon Valley, a hotbed of technological innovation, is located primarily within Santa Clara County, California. Among a slew of newer companies, the area is also home to the headquarters of such tech giants as Apple, Facebook, and Google. Jobs at such companies tend to be high paying and typically require at least a college education. Close to 50% of county adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, well above the comparable 29.8% share of adults nationwide. Additionally, the typical county household earns $96,310 a year, well above the $53,889 national median.

Like most counties with high educational attainment rates, average life expectancy is high in Santa Clara. At 83.4 years, life expectancy in the county is higher than in all but half a dozen U.S. counties.

Waconia Lake, Minnesota, Carver County
Source: Wikimedia Commons

22. Carver County, Minnesota
> 5-yr. population change: +7.9%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 2.8%
> Poverty rate: 4.4%
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.5 years

Some of the best predictors of personal well-being and longevity are income and access to medical care. In Carver County, Minnesota, only 4.4% of the population lives in poverty, less than a third of the 15.5% national poverty rate. In addition, only 4.3% of county residents lack health insurance, also less than a third of the 13.0% national uninsured rate. Such positive socioeconomic conditions help explain the county’s relatively high life expectancy, which at 82.5 years is 3.6 years longer than the national life expectancy.

Carver County is within commuting distance of downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. Like other counties on this list, access to major urban centers is likely a major advantage for area county residents.

Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Source: Thinkstock

21. Middlesex County, Massachusetts
> 5-yr. population change: +5.2%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 2.1%
> Poverty rate: 8.3%
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.1 years

Middlesex County, situated in eastern Massachusetts largely to the north and east of Boston, is the only New England county to rank among the best places to live. The Boston metro area has a high concentration of colleges and universities, and partially as a result, Middlesex County is one of the best educated areas in the country. Over half of all county adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, well above the 29.8% national college attainment rate.

Many high paying jobs require a college education, and in Middlesex County, higher educations appear to be paying off. The typical Middlesex household earns $85,118 a year, well above the $53,889 national median income.