Special Report

25 Best Counties to Live In

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5. Loudoun County, Virginia
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 59.8%
> Poverty rate: 3.7%
> Life expectancy: 83.2 years
> Median household income: $129,588

Located across the Potomac River from Montgomery County, Maryland, another county on this list, Loudoun County, Virginia, is one of several counties in commuting distance of Washington D.C. to rank on this list. Proximity to the countless jobs supported by the federal government partially explains the area’s 2.3% unemployment rate, one of the lowest of any county and well below the 3.7% national rate.

Many of the types of jobs in and around Loudoun County are high skilled and high paying. About 60% of area adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher — roughly double the 30.9% national percentage — and the typical area household earns about $130,000 a year, the highest income of any county by more than $12,000.

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4. Douglas County, Colorado
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 58.0%
> Poverty rate: 3.6%
> Life expectancy: 83.7 years
> Median household income: $111,154

Bisected by Interstate 25, Douglas County sits in between Colorado Springs and Denver. Like the other four counties in Colorado to rank on this list, Douglas is home to a wealthy, well-educated population. Most households in the area earn well over $100,000 a year and 58% of adults in Douglas County have a four-year college degree — a far greater share than the 30.9% average nationwide.

Like many of the best counties to live in, Douglas County is growing rapidly. In the last five years, the county population grew by 11.9%, more than three times as fast as the 3.8% national rate over the same period.

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3. Los Alamos County, New Mexico
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 65.5%
> Poverty rate: 5.1%
> Life expectancy: 83.5 years
> Median household income: $110,190

Los Alamos County, New Mexico, is a huge outlier in its state. The area’s median household income of $110,190 is nearly $50,000 higher than the second wealthiest county in the state. Los Alamos County is best known as the home of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which helped develop the nuclear bomb. The lab is the community’s lifeblood, as the county has just over 18,000 residents and he lab has more than 11,000 employees. Nearly two thirds of the county’s residents hold at least a bachelor’s degree — the second largest share of any U.S. county — as many of the jobs at Los Alamos require an advanced scientific education.

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2. Arlington County, Virginia
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 74.1%
> Poverty rate: 8.2%
> Life expectancy: 82.8 years
> Median household income: $112,138

Home to the Pentagon, Arlington County, Virginia, sits directly across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. Like other counties on the outskirts of the nation’s capital, Arlington is home to a well-educated and wealthy population. Nearly three out of every four adults in Arlington have a bachelor’s degree or higher, the largest share of any county in the country. Incomes typically increase with educational attainment, and in Arlington, about 22% of all households earn at least $200,000 a year, more than three times the 6.3% share of households nationwide.

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1. Pitkin County, Colorado
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 61.2%
> Poverty rate: 7.1%
> Life expectancy: 86.5 years
> Median household income: $67,755

With one of the healthiest and best educated populations nationwide, Pitkin County, Colorado, ranks as the best place to live in the United States. Life expectancy in the county is 86.5 years — more than seven years longer than the national average and second longest of any U.S. county. The county’s near nation-leading average life expectancy is partially attributable to the high educational attainment. College graduates live an average of nine years longer than those who have not completed high school, and in Pitkin County, 61.2% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, nearly double the 30.9% share nationwide.

Situated in the Rocky Mountains, about 100 miles southwest of Denver, Pitkin County is also home to several upscale resort towns, including Aspen and Snowmass Village.