Population and Social Characteristics

California's Best Counties to Live In

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California | Downtown Los Angeles
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Every year in the United States, tens of millions of Americans move to a new home. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the bulk of these moves are motivated by personal circumstances, often relating to housing, family, or employment. But when it comes to deciding on a place to live, it can also be helpful to weigh other, less subjective factors.

As a means of gauging and comparing degrees of development between countries — beyond standard measures like gross domestic product and economic growth — the United Nations created the Human Development Index. By accounting for factors related to health and well-being, educational attainment, and standards of living, the HDI offers an assessment of overall quality of life at the individual level within a given geography.

When applied to communities within the United States, the core principles of the HDI reveal that some parts of the country are far better places to live than others.

Using an index inspired by the HDI, 24/7 Wall St. identified the best counties in California to live in. Counties are ranked on a combination of three measures – average life expectancy at birth, the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher, and the poverty rate. Of the 57 counties in California with sufficient data, we ranked the 30 with the highest HDI score.

Across all of California, average life expectancy at birth is 81 years. Additionally, 12.1% of the population live below the poverty line and 35.9% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Of the 30 counties on this list, 13 compare favorably to the state as a whole in each of these metrics.

Among these 30 California counties, average life expectancy at birth ranges from 78.3 years to over 100. Meanwhile, poverty rates vary between 6.4% and 17.4%, and bachelor’s degree attainment rates range from about 20% to over 60%.

Data used to calculate rankings are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2022 American Community Survey and County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a joint program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. All ACS data are five-year averages.

Why It Matters

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Many of the most commonly cited economic indicators — including unemployment, GDP, and industrial output — are useful gauges of prosperity and productive capacity in a given area. But when it comes to measuring overall quality of life, any single metric inevitably falls short. To address these shortcomings, the HDI combines three key social and economic measures into a single index score, allowing for objective comparisons between communities across the United States.

30. Tuolumne County

Source: CampPhoto / iStock via Getty Images
  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 78.3 years
  • Poverty rate: 11.4%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 24.4%
  • Median household income: $70,432
  • Population: 54,993

29. Mariposa County

  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 80.6 years
  • Poverty rate: 16.0%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 28.9%
  • Median household income: $60,021
  • Population: 17,130

28. Sierra County

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 81.0 years
  • Poverty rate: 12.6%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 23.9%
  • Median household income: $61,108
  • Population: 2,916

27. Riverside County

Source: Thomas De Wever / iStock via Getty Images
  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 80.0 years
  • Poverty rate: 11.4%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 24.1%
  • Median household income: $84,505
  • Population: 2,429,487

26. Amador County

Source: Michael Marfell / Moment via Getty Images
  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 79.8 years
  • Poverty rate: 7.8%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 20.6%
  • Median household income: $74,853
  • Population: 40,577

25. Inyo County

  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 78.7 years
  • Poverty rate: 11.9%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 29.0%
  • Median household income: $63,417
  • Population: 18,829

24. Monterey County

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  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 82.2 years
  • Poverty rate: 12.3%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 27.1%
  • Median household income: $91,043
  • Population: 437,609

23. Sacramento County

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  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 79.2 years
  • Poverty rate: 13.1%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 32.6%
  • Median household income: $84,010
  • Population: 1,579,211

22. San Benito County

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  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 81.9 years
  • Poverty rate: 7.5%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 22.0%
  • Median household income: $104,451
  • Population: 64,753

21. Solano County

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  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 80.0 years
  • Poverty rate: 9.0%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 28.2%
  • Median household income: $97,037
  • Population: 450,995

20. Los Angeles County

Source: Ron and Patty Thomas / E+ via Getty Images

  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 81.3 years
  • Poverty rate: 13.7%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 34.6%
  • Median household income: $83,411
  • Population: 9,936,690

19. Santa Barbara County

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  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 81.8 years
  • Poverty rate: 13.5%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 35.7%
  • Median household income: $92,332
  • Population: 445,213

18. Yolo County

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  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 81.5 years
  • Poverty rate: 17.4%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 43.3%
  • Median household income: $85,097
  • Population: 217,141

17. San Luis Obispo County

  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 81.8 years
  • Poverty rate: 12.6%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 38.0%
  • Median household income: $90,158
  • Population: 281,712

16. Ventura County

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  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 82.3 years
  • Poverty rate: 9.0%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 34.7%
  • Median household income: $102,141
  • Population: 842,009

15. Nevada County

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  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 80.8 years
  • Poverty rate: 10.4%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 38.8%
  • Median household income: $79,395
  • Population: 102,322

14. Sonoma County

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  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 82.0 years
  • Poverty rate: 8.9%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 37.8%
  • Median household income: $99,266
  • Population: 488,436

13. El Dorado County

  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 81.9 years
  • Poverty rate: 8.6%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 38.0%
  • Median household income: $99,246
  • Population: 191,713

12. San Diego County

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  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 81.8 years
  • Poverty rate: 10.6%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 41.0%
  • Median household income: $96,974
  • Population: 3,289,701

11. Napa County

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  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 82.1 years
  • Poverty rate: 7.9%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 37.8%
  • Median household income: $105,809
  • Population: 137,384

10. Santa Cruz County

Source: benedek / Getty Images
  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 82.7 years
  • Poverty rate: 11.4%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 42.5%
  • Median household income: $104,409
  • Population: 268,571

9. Orange County

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  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 82.8 years
  • Poverty rate: 9.7%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 42.8%
  • Median household income: $109,361
  • Population: 3,175,227

8. Contra Costa County

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  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 82.2 years
  • Poverty rate: 8.3%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 44.5%
  • Median household income: $120,020
  • Population: 1,162,648

7. Placer County

  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 82.3 years
  • Poverty rate: 6.8%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 42.4%
  • Median household income: $109,375
  • Population: 406,608

6. Alameda County

Source: Sundry Photography / iStock via Getty Images
  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 82.8 years
  • Poverty rate: 9.2%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 50.9%
  • Median household income: $122,488
  • Population: 1,663,823

5. Mono County

Source: Nikolay Tsuguliev / iStock via Getty Images
  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: >100 years
  • Poverty rate: 11.3%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 31.7%
  • Median household income: $82,038
  • Population: 13,219

4. San Francisco County

Famous Lombard Street, San Francisco, California, USA
Source: Maks Ershov / Shutterstock.com

  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 83.7 years
  • Poverty rate: 10.5%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 59.8%
  • Median household income: $136,689
  • Population: 851,036

3. San Mateo County

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  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 84.9 years
  • Poverty rate: 6.4%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 52.9%
  • Median household income: $149,907
  • Population: 754,250

2. Santa Clara County

Source: yhelfman / iStock via Getty Images
  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 84.7 years
  • Poverty rate: 6.9%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 55.3%
  • Median household income: $153,792
  • Population: 1,916,831

1. Marin County

Source: yhelfman / iStock via Getty Images
  • Avg. life expectancy at birth: 85.3 years
  • Poverty rate: 7.0%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 61.1%
  • Median household income: $142,019
  • Population: 260,485
Rank County Avg. life expectancy at birth (yrs.) Adults with a bachelor’s degree (%) Poverty rate (%) Population
1 Marin, California 85.3 61.1 7.0 260,485
2 Santa Clara, California 84.7 55.3 6.9 1,916,831
3 San Mateo, California 84.9 52.9 6.4 754,250
4 San Francisco, California 83.7 59.8 10.5 851,036
5 Mono, California 100+ 31.7 11.3 13,219
6 Alameda, California 82.8 50.9 9.2 1,663,823
7 Placer, California 82.3 42.4 6.8 406,608
8 Contra Costa, California 82.2 44.5 8.3 1,162,648
9 Orange, California 82.8 42.8 9.7 3,175,227
10 Santa Cruz, California 82.7 42.5 11.4 268,571
11 Napa, California 82.1 37.8 7.9 137,384
12 San Diego, California 81.8 41.0 10.6 3,289,701
13 El Dorado, California 81.9 38.0 8.6 191,713
14 Sonoma, California 82.0 37.8 8.9 488,436
15 Nevada, California 80.8 38.8 10.4 102,322
16 Ventura, California 82.3 34.7 9.0 842,009
17 San Luis Obispo, California 81.8 38.0 12.6 281,712
18 Yolo, California 81.5 43.3 17.4 217,141
19 Santa Barbara, California 81.8 35.7 13.5 445,213
20 Los Angeles, California 81.3 34.6 13.7 9,936,690
21 Solano, California 80.0 28.2 9.0 450,995
22 San Benito, California 81.9 22.0 7.5 64,753
23 Sacramento, California 79.2 32.6 13.1 1,579,211
24 Monterey, California 82.2 27.1 12.3 437,609
25 Inyo, California 78.7 29.0 11.9 18,829
26 Amador, California 79.8 20.6 7.8 40,577
27 Riverside, California 80.0 24.1 11.4 2,429,487
28 Sierra, California 81.0 23.9 12.6 2,916
29 Mariposa, California 80.6 28.9 16.0 17,130
30 Tuolumne, California 78.3 24.4 11.4 54,993

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