Special Report

25 Best Counties to Live In

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20. Carver County, Minnesota
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 47.5%
> Poverty rate: 4.0%
> Life expectancy: 82.8 years
> Median household income: $93,095

Carver County is one of only four Midwestern counties to rank among the best places to live, and the only one in Minnesota. Situated just outside of Minneapolis, workers in the county have access to jobs in a major metropolitan area. Partially as a result, less than 2% of residents were unemployed as of October, nearly half of the U.S. 3.7% unemployment rate. This low unemployment rate likely helps drive down the poverty rate in Carver County, as almost all residents who look for work are able to find it. Just 4.0% of Carver County residents live in poverty, one of the lowest rates among the more than 3,000 U.S. counties.

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19. San Miguel County, Colorado
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 54.1%
> Poverty rate: 10.5%
> Life expectancy: 83.7 years
> Median household income: $62,243

San Miguel County is located in southwestern Colorado, along the Utah state border. While the county’s median income of $62,243 is only marginally higher than the $57,652 national median, serious financial hardship is far less common in San Miguel than in much of the rest of the country. For example, just 10.5% of county residents live below the poverty line, well below the 14.6% national poverty rate.

San Miguel is one of the best educated counties in the United States. Among residents 25 and older, 54.1% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Nationwide, just 30.9% of adults have a bachelor’s degree.

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18. Johnson County, Kansas
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 54.6%
> Poverty rate: 5.6%
> Life expectancy: 81.7 years
> Median household income: $81,121

Johnson County makes up the Southwestern part of the Kansas City metropolitan area and borders Missouri. With 54.6% of adult residents holding at least a bachelor’s degree, the area is one of the best educated in the country. For comparison, 30.9% of American adults hold a four-year college degree.

Johnson County residents are among the least likely to live below the poverty line. The area’s poverty rate is just 5.6%, a full nine percentage points below the U.S. poverty rate. Although the area’s $81,121 median household income is lower than that of most counties on this list, it is still one of the 100 highest among U.S. counties, and more than $23,000 above the U.S. median.

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17. Hunterdon County, New Jersey
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 50.7%
> Poverty rate: 4.5%
> Life expectancy: 82.5 years
> Median household income: $110,969

Hunterdon County is located in western New Jersey along the Pennsylvania state border, just north of Trenton. In Hunterdon, incomes are high and poverty is scarce. The typical household earns $110,969, nearly double what the typical American household earns in a year. Additionally, just 4.5% of area residents live below the poverty line, less than a third of the 14.6% national poverty rate.

Across broad populations, incomes tend to rise with educational attainment. In Hunterdon County, over half of all adults have a bachelor’s degree. Nationwide, fewer than one in three adults have a four-year college degree.

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16. Morris County, New Jersey
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 52.6%
> Poverty rate: 4.6%
> Life expectancy: 82.0 years
> Median household income: $107,034

Morris County, New Jersey, located about 40 miles west of Manhattan, is one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. Over half of all households earn at least $107,000 a year and more than one in every five earn at least $200,000.

Wealthier individuals have access to a greater range of options related to diet and lifestyle and, as a result, often have longer and healthier lives. In Morris County, average life expectancy is 82 years, about three year longer than the average nationwide.