Special Report

The Best Counties to Live In

Johnson County, Kansas
Source: Ichabod / Wikimedia Commons

20. Johnson County, Kansas
> 5-yr. population change: +6.7%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 3.1%
> Poverty rate: 6.2%
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.6 years

Johnson County is located just south of downtown Kansas City, Kansas. It is also one of the best counties to live in nationwide. Members of the area’s labor force are far more likely to have a high paying job than American workers across the country. A typical county household earns an annual income of $76,113, about $22,000 more than the national median.

Also, just 3.1% of the area’s labor force is unemployed compared to the national unemployment rate of 4.6%. A large share of Americans get health insurance coverage through their employers, and the low unemployment rate may help explain why such a large share of Johnson County residents have health coverage. Just 7.2% of county residents lack health coverage, well below the national uninsured rate of 13%.

Delaware County, Ohio
Source: Nyttend / Wikimedia Commons

19. Delaware County, Ohio
> 5-yr. population change: +11.6%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 3.2%
> Poverty rate: 4.5%
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.4 years

The median household income of $91,955 a year in Delaware County, Ohio is by far the highest in the state. High incomes are partially attributable to high educational attainment. Delaware County is the only area in the Buckeye State where over half of all adults have a bachelor’s degree.

Delaware County is located near Columbus, the state’s capitol, just north of the city’s beltway. In addition to the Ohio government, many private sector employers also operate in the city. Major employers in the Columbus region include JP Morgan Chase, Nationwide Mutual Insurance, and Honda of America Manufacturing.

Hunterdon County, New Jersey
Source: JERRYE and ROY KLOTZ MD / Wikimedia Commons

18. Hunterdon County, New Jersey
> 5-yr. population change: -1.7%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 3.0%
> Poverty rate: 4.4%
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.2 years

Hunterdon is one of several New Jersey counties on this list that are home to wealthy New York City commuters. The typical Hunterdon household earns an annual income of over $105,000, sixth highest among U.S counties. The county almost entirely consists of financially secure individuals and families as just 4.4% of the population lives in poverty, which is not only less than a third of the national poverty rate of 15.5%, but also lower than in all but a handful of other U.S. counties. Wealthier, healthier counties tend to be desirable places to live, and in most of the areas on this list the populations are growing faster than the rest of the country. Hunterdon is a notable exception, as the county’s population declined by 1.7% over the past five years.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

17. Morris County, New Jersey
> 5-yr. population change: +1.7%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 3.2%
> Poverty rate: 4.5%
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.3 years

Morris County, New Jersey is one of only 11 counties in the United States with a six-figure median annual household income. With over half of all area households earning at least $100,000 a year, relatively few area residents face serious financial hardship. Only 4.5% of Morris County’s nearly half a million residents live in poverty, less than a third of the national 15.5% poverty rate.

Morris County is within commuting distance of New York City, one of the largest most diverse job markets in the country. The relative availability of jobs in the area likely reduces the share of county workers out of a job. Morris County’s 3.2% unemployment rate is well below the 4.6% national unemployment rate.

somerset county nj
Source: Siddharth Mallya / Wikimedia Commons

16. Somerset County, New Jersey
> 5-yr. population change: 3.5%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 3.3%
> Poverty rate: 5.0%
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.4 years

In Somerset County, New Jersey, 52.5% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, one of the highest shares of any county and well above the nationwide share of 29.8% of adults. Residents with a college education are more likely to be employed in high-paying industries. The typical household in Somerset earns an annual income of $100,667, 10th highest among all U.S. counties. Higher education and incomes are tied to better health outcomes, which may help explain Somerset’s 82.4 year life expectancy, more than three years longer than the national life expectancy at birth.