Special Report

The Best Counties to Live In

Teton County, Wyoming
Source: Thinkstock

15. Teton County, Wyoming
> 5-yr. population change: +7.3%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 5.6%
> Poverty rate: 7.4%
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.9 years

Situated in western Wyoming along the border with Idaho, much of Teton County consists of nationally protected parks and forests, including parts of Yellowstone National Park and Bridger-Teton National Forest. Partially as a result, it is sparsely populated.

Home to only 22,300 people, Teton County is one of the best places to live in the nation. At nearly 83 years, life expectancy at birth in the county is higher than in all but 11 other U.S. counties. Higher education and incomes are often tied to longer life expectancies, and in Teton County, 53.9% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, a far larger share than the 29.8% of adults nationwide.

montgomery county maryland
Source: Wikipedian1234 / Wikimedia Commons

14. Montgomery County, Maryland
> 5-yr. population change: +7.5%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 3.1%
> Poverty rate: 6.7%
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.6 years

Many of the wealthiest, best educated, and healthiest counties in the United States are located in and around the Washington D.C metro area, and Montgomery County is one of them. Many workers living in the county are employed in high-paying jobs in and around the nation’s capital. The typical household in Montgomery earns $99,435 a year, a higher median income than in all but a dozen other U.S. counties.

People with higher educational attainment tend to live longer than those with less education. In Montgomery, 57.9% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, a larger share than in all but 10 other U.S. counties. With high educational attainment, the county’s 81.6 year life expectancy at birth is nearly three years longer than the national life expectancy.

Hamilton County, Indiana
Source: Derek Jensen / Wikimedia Commons

13. Hamilton County, Indiana
> 5-yr. population change: +13.5%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 3.0%
> Poverty rate: 4.7%
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.8 years

Many wealthy suburbs of Indianapolis are located within Hamilton County, Indiana. Job availability in Indianapolis, the second largest city in the Midwest, likely contributes to a low unemployment rate in Hamilton. Only 3.0% of county workers are out of work, well below the 4.6% U.S. unemployment rate. Due in part to a healthy job market, incomes in Hamilton County are high, and serious financial hardship is uncommon. The typical county household earns $86,222 a year, about $32,333 more than the typical American household, and only 4.7% of county residents live in poverty, less than a third of the national poverty rate.

Like many of the best places to live in nationwide, Hamilton County’s population is growing. In the last half decade, the number of people living in Hamilton increased by 13.5%, far outpacing the national 4.1% population growth.

Franklin, Tennessee
Source: Thinkstock

12. Williamson County, Tennessee
> 5-yr. population change: +14.5%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 3.4%
> Poverty rate: 5.1%
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.2 years

One of the clearest signs a regional economy has a healthy job market and is a desirable place to live is robust population growth. The U.S. population grew by 4.1% over the last five years. Over that same period, Williamson County, Tennessee’s population grew by 14.5%.

The county, part of the Nashville metropolitan area, has a median annual household income of $96,565 and a poverty rate of just 5.1%, each among the best of any U.S. county. A number of large health institutions operate in the area, including Community Health Systems and Williamson Medical Center, providing stable employment to a significant portion of area workers.

Aspen, Pitkin County, Colorado Downtown Scene after Fresh Snow in Winter
Source: Thinkstock

11. Pitkin County, Colorado
> 5-yr. population change: +6.3%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 5.4%
> Poverty rate: 9.9%
> Life expectancy at birth: 83.1 years

Pitkin is one of two counties in Colorado to rank among the best areas in the country to live. Health insurance coverage increases the likelihood of regular doctor visits and indicates the level of access to medical care in an area. While higher health insurance coverage rates almost always accompany relatively high life expectancy, Pitkin County is an exception to this pattern. Some 14.2% of the population is uninsured, a larger share than the 13.0% of uninsured Americans. On the other hand, life expectancy at birth in Pitkin County is 83.1 years, over four years longer than life expectancy across the United States.

High educational attainment in Pitkin County may partially explain the residents’ longevity. Better educated individuals tend to live longer than those with lower educational attainment, and in Pitkin County, 59.1% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, a larger share than in all but seven other counties.