Special Report

25 Best Counties to Live In

Source: Wikimedia Commons

25. Carver County, Minnesota
> 5-yr. population change: +7.9%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 2.2%
> Poverty rate: 4.1%
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.8 years

By a number of quality of life indicators, Carver County is the best county to live in in Minnesota, and one of the best counties to live in nationwide. The typical county household earns $88,638 a year, over $30,000 more than the national median household income of $55,322. The county’s high incomes are likely due in part to the area’s healthy job market. Just 2.2% of the county workforce is unemployed, nearly half the 4.1% national unemployment rate. Carver County also has some of the higher educational attainment levels, best health outcomes, and fastest population growth of any U.S. county.

Source: Tim Erskine / Wikimedia Commons

24. Delaware County, Ohio
> 5-yr. population change: +10.8%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 3.1%
> Poverty rate: 4.9%
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.4 years

The population of Delaware County grew by 10.8% from 2011 to 2016, nearly three times the national population growth rate of 3.9% over that time. A number of new Delaware County residents likely moved to the area for its healthy job market and employment opportunities. Just 3.1% of the county workforce is unemployed, tied as the fourth lowest unemployment rate in Ohio and one of the lowest in the nation. Many in the county likely work in advanced, high-paying jobs in nearby Columbus, the capital of Ohio. Some 58.2% of workers in Delaware County commute outside of the county for work, more than twice the national average. The county is also one of the wealthiest in the region. The typical household earns $94,234 a year, the highest median household income in Ohio and the 22nd highest of any U.S. county.

Source: Ichabod / Wikimedia Commons

23. Johnson County, Kansas
> 5-yr. population change: +6.2%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 2.8%
> Poverty rate: 6.0%
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.7 years

By a number of metrics related to quality of life, Johnson County is one of the best places to live in the United States. Some 53.6% of county adults have a bachelor’s degree, the largest share in Kansas and far more than the national college attainment rate of 30.3%. A college degree tends to lead to higher-paying jobs, and Johnson is one of the wealthiest counties in the country. The typical county household earns $78,186 a year, far more than the national median household income of $55,322.

Source: JERRYE and ROY KLOTZ MD / Wikimedia Commons

22. Hunterdon County, New Jersey
> 5-yr. population change: -2.1%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 3.7%
> Poverty rate: 4.5%
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.5 years

Located within the New York-Newark-Jersey City metropolitan area, Hunterdon County is one of the wealthiest, most well-educated, and healthiest counties in the country. The typical county household earns $108,177 a year, nearly twice the national median of $55,322 and the sixth most of any U.S. county. Nearly 50% of adults in the county have a bachelor’s degree, also one of the highest such figures nationwide. Wealth and education are closely tied to longevity, and Hunterdon County has one of the longest life expectancies in the nation at 82.5 years — more than three years longer than the U.S. figure.

Source: SEASTOCK / iStock

21. San Miguel County, Colorado
> 5-yr. population change: +5.2%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 6.1%
> Poverty rate: 11.9%
> Life expectancy at birth: 83.7 years

San Miguel is one of the most well-educated and healthiest counties in the nation. The county seat is Telluride, a ski town known for its first-class resorts, numerous summer festivals, and a free gondola lift connecting the city to its companion town of Mountain Village. Some 55.1% of adults in the county have a bachelor’s degree, the 19th largest share of any U.S. county. The life expectancy at birth in San Miguel County is 83.7 years, nearly five years longer than the U.S. life expectancy and the sixth longest of any county nationwide.

San Miguel County is primarily comprised of resort towns and may lack the economic opportunities of other healthy, well-educated counties have year-round. Some 6.1% of the county’s workforce is unemployed, a larger share than the 4.1% national unemployment rate.