Special Report

25 Best Counties to Live In

Source: Thinkstock

5. Douglas County, Colorado
> 5-yr. population change: +12.0%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 2.5%
> Poverty rate: 3.8%
> Life expectancy at birth: 83.7 years

Some 97.9% of adults in Douglas County have a high school diploma, and 57.5% have a four-year college degree or higher — each among the largest such shares of any U.S. county and well above the comparable U.S. figures of 87.0% and 30.3%, respectively. Better-educated populations provide a greater talent pool for employers to choose from and are less susceptible to unemployment. In Douglas, only 2.5% of the labor force is unemployed compared to the 4.1% U.S. unemployment rate.

Not only are there enough jobs to support the area’s workforce, but also many of those jobs are high paying. The typical county household earns $105,759 a year, about $55,000 more than what the typical American household earns. High incomes are underscored by a poverty of only 3.8% — among the lowest of any U.S. county.

Source: Dean_Fikar / oStpcl

4. Los Alamos County, New Mexico
> 5-yr. population change: -0.8%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 3.7%
> Poverty rate: 5.1%
> Life expectancy at birth: 83.5 years

Los Alamos County is less than 40 miles from Sante Fe, New Mexico’s capital city and about 90 miles north of Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city. The county’s economy is supported largely by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a weapons development facility. The laboratory employs some 11,200 people from Los Alamos County and surrounding cities and towns and boasts a $2.45 billion annual budget.

Due in part to skill sets required to work at the laboratory, Los Alamos County has a well-educated population. Some 64.6% of county adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, the third largest share of any U.S. county and more than double the share of American adults with similar education of 30.3%. The area’s high educational attainment is reflected in the county’s median household income. The typical Los Alamos household earns $105,902 a year, more than in all six other U.S. counties and about $45,700 more than the median income in Sandoval, the next wealthiest county in New Mexico.

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock

3. Arlington County, Virginia
> 5-yr. population change: +11.4%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 2.4%
> Poverty rate: 8.7%
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.8 years

Arlington County is situated directly across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. As a result, area residents have access to a range of employment opportunities with government agencies, government contractors, major companies, and universities — many which are high paying. One of the wealthiest counties in the United States, the typical Arlington household earns $108,706 a year, and only 8.7% of the county population lives below the poverty line. In comparison, the typical U.S. household earns $55,322 a year, and 15.1% of Americans live in poverty.

The area’s high incomes are bolstered by the county’s well-educated labor force. Adults with a bachelor’s degree are far more likely to secure a high-paying job than those with only a high school diploma, and in Arlington, 73.7% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, the second largest share of any U.S. county.

Source: Darren_Bridges_Photography / iStock

2. Pitkin County, Colorado
> 5-yr. population change: +5.0%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 5.8%
> Poverty rate: 8.6%
> Life expectancy at birth: 86.5 years

With a life expectancy of 86.5 years, Pitkin County, Colorado is one of only two U.S. counties in which life expectancy at birth exceeds 86 years. The near nation-leading life expectancy is due in part to the area’s high educational attainment. Adults with a college education are better equipped to make healthy decisions regarding diet and lifestyle, and 60.4% of county adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher — nearly double the comparable share of American adults nationwide.

Pitkin County is home to the ski resort towns of Aspen and Snowmass Village, which serve as major economic engines in the area.

Source: Famartin / Wikimedia Commons

1. Falls Church, Virginia
> 5-yr. population change: +14.8%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 2.8%
> Poverty rate: 2.7%
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.8 years

Falls Church is an independent city, which functions similarly to a county, within the Beltway around the nation’s capital. As is the case with other counties on this list in close proximity to Washington D.C., Falls Church residents have access to a range of employment opportunities with the federal government, contractors, universities, and hospitals — many of which offer high paying jobs. Only 2.8% of the county’s workforce is unemployed, well below the 4.1% U.S. unemployment rate . Also, the the typical area household earns over $115,000 a year, which is more than double the median income nationwide.

Like many other prosperous parts of the country, Falls Church is growing rapidly. In the last half decade, the area’s population grew by 14.8%, more than triple the comparable 3.9% national population growth rate.

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