25 Best Counties to Live In

January 1, 2019 by Grant Suneson

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Roughly one in nine Americans moved within the last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. People move to accommodate growing families, work at a new job, or find somewhere that better fits their needs as they age, among other factors. No matter the reason, some parts of the country are more desirable places to live than others.

While different people look for different things in a place to call home, there are certain attributes that make some areas preferable to others.

24/7 Wall St. constructed an index of education, poverty, and life expectancy to determine the 25 best counties to live in. Though each index component stands alone as a discrete metric, they are closely tied to one another.

Click here to see the 25 best counties to live in.

Adults with greater educational attainment are more likely to be financially secure and healthy — and partially as a result, the best educated communities in the country are also often among the healthiest and highest earning.

Each of the 25 counties on this list have a bachelor’s degree attainment rate of at least 45%. In 21 counties, at least half of adult residents finished college. This high level of education qualifies these residents for specialized, high-level jobs that tend to be high paying.

Though it is not a part of the index, median household income is one of the best indicators of whether or not a county is a good place to live. Each of the 25 counties on this list has a greater median household income than the U.S. median of $57,652. Of the 25 counties, 15 have a median income greater than $100,000.

Higher income individuals are able to afford a greater range of healthy options related to diet and lifestyle, and as result, often live longer and healthier lives. In each of the counties on this list, life expectancy at birth exceeds the 79.1 year national average by at least two years.

Methodology

To determine the 25 best counties to live, 24/7 Wall St. constructed an index consisting of bachelor’s degree attainment, poverty rate. All data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey.

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25. Middlesex County, Massachusetts
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 54.1%
> Poverty rate: 8.2%
> Life expectancy: 81.6 years
> Median household income: $92,878

Middlesex County is located in eastern Massachusetts, covering Cambridge and extending north to the New Hampshire border. Middlesex is the only county in Massachusetts and the broader New England region to rank among the 25 best counties to live in. One of the wealthiest counties in the U.S., Middlesex has a median household income of $92,878 — about $35,000 more than the national median. High incomes are bolstered by a healthy economy. Just 2.4% of the county labor force was unemployed in October, well below the comparable 3.7% national unemployment rate.

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24. Santa Clara County, California
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 50.0%
> Poverty rate: 8.6%
> Life expectancy: 83.1 years
> Median household income: $106,761

Santa Clara County in California contains San Jose and much of the Silicon Valley area, a tech innovation hub. Companies like Google, Apple, and Hewlett Packard are all headquartered in the county, providing thousands of high-paying jobs to residents. In Santa Clara County, 22.4% of households earn at least $200,000 annually. Santa Clara also ranks as one of the best places to live because its residents tend to live a long time. Only a handful of other counties have a longer life expectancy than Santa Clara, at 83.1 years.

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23. San Mateo County, California
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 48.5%
> Poverty rate: 7.3%
> Life expectancy: 83.1 years
> Median household income: $105,667

San Mateo is one of several counties in the San Francisco Bay region to rank among the best places to live. Over half of all households in San Mateo County earn over $105,000 a year and 22.5% of households earn over $200,000 a year — more than three times the share nationwide.

Wealthier Americans can afford a greater range of healthy options related to diet and lifestyle and, partially as a result, they often live longer, healthier lives. In San Mateo, the average life expectancy is 83.1 years — four years longer than the national average.

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22. Summit County, Utah
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 53.5%
> Poverty rate: 7.5%
> Life expectancy: 82.4 years
> Median household income: $94,952

Summit is the only county in Utah to rank among the best places to live. Situated just east of Salt Lake City, Summit County extends into the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest and is home to Park City, an upscale resort community.

As in other counties on this list, Summit’s population is well-educated and high income. Over half of all adults in Summit County have a bachelor’s degree or higher — the largest share in Utah — and the typical household earns about $95,000 year, also the most of any county in the state.

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21. Delaware County, Ohio
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 53.8%
> Poverty rate: 5.1%
> Life expectancy: 81.4 years
> Median household income: $100,229

Delaware County is the only county in Ohio — and one of only a few in the broader Midwestern United States — to rank among the best places to live. Delaware is the only one of Ohio’s 88 counties where over a half of all households earn at least $100,000 a year. Delaware County is located just north of Columbus, providing area residents with access to jobs in and around the state capital. Partially as a result, just 3.3% of workers in the county are unemployed, well below the 3.7% national unemployment rate.

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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.

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15. Somerset County, New Jersey
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 53.1%
> Poverty rate: 4.8%
> Life expectancy: 82.0 years
> Median household income: $106,046

Somerset County, New Jersey, ranks among the wealthiest places in the country, as it is one of fewer than two dozen American counties in which the typical household earns at least $100,000. More than one in five households in Somerset earn at least $200,000 per year. High incomes are likely bolstered by the fact that more than half of adult residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, qualifying them for highly skilled, well-paying jobs. The county is less than 60 miles from New York City, and many Somerset residents likely commute to jobs in the city.

Somerset County also has a life expectancy — 82.0 years — that is nearly three years longer than the nationwide average.

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14. Montgomery County, Maryland
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 58.3%
> Poverty rate: 7.0%
> Life expectancy: 81.5 years
> Median household income: $103,178

Home to the federal government and the countless jobs supported by it, parts of Washington D.C. and the surrounding area are among the wealthiest areas in the country. Montgomery County, Maryland, is one of them. Montgomery County is home to several D.C. commuter towns, including Bethesda and Rockville, and the headquarters of several major corporations, including Lockheed Martin, the largest defense contractor in the world.

Montgomery has one of the wealthiest and best educated populations of any U.S. county. Most households in the area earn over $100,000 a year and 58.3% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, nearly double the 30.9% of adults nationwide.

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13. Eagle County, Colorado
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 45.1%
> Poverty rate: 7.7%
> Life expectancy: 85.9 years
> Median household income: $83,803

Eagle County contains the city of Vail, and is near Aspen and Breckenridge, all well-known skiing destinations. Residents of Eagle County, Colorado, tend to live longer than those in almost every other part of the country. The county’s life expectancy of nearly 86 years is about seven years longer than the nationwide average.

A long life expectancy in Eagle County may be closely tied to high incomes as wealthier Americans have access to a greater range of healthy options related to diet and lifestyle. The typical household in Eagle County earns $83,803 a year, about $26,000 more than the typical American household.

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12. Hamilton County, Indiana
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 57.5%
> Poverty rate: 5.0%
> Life expectancy: 81.8 years
> Median household income: $90,582

Like many of the best counties to live in, Hamilton County, Indiana, is located just outside of a major metropolitan area. The county’s close proximity to Indianapolis, the largest city in the state, provides residents with easy access to job opportunities. This likely contributes, at least in part, to the fact that just 2.9% of Hamilton County residents are unemployed, well below the 3.7% national unemployment rate.

A strong job market has also helped reduce financial hardship in Hamilton County as just 5.0% of the population live below the poverty line, nearly a third of the 14.7% national rate. Hamilton is the only county in Indiana to rank among the best places to live in.

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11. Teton County, Wyoming
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 54.1%
> Poverty rate: 6.8%
> Life expectancy: 83.5 years
> Median household income: $80,049

Teton County residents are some of the least likely to face extreme poverty. Just 1.9% of households in the area live on less than $10,000 annually — one of the smallest shares in the country, and well below the 6.7% share nationwide. Financial security is closely tied to educational attainment, and with a bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 54.1%, Teton County is one of the best educated places in America.

With fewer than 23,000 residents, Teton County is one of the least populous places on this list. It is largely comprised of federal land, like Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.

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10. Summit County, Colorado
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 47.8%
> Poverty rate: 10.3%
> Life expectancy: 86.8 years
> Median household income: $73,538

Summit County, Colorado, which is west of Denver and largely located in the White River National Forest, has one of the healthiest populations anywhere in the United States. Life expectancy at birth in Summit County is about 87 years, nearly eight years longer than the national average and the highest life expectancy of any U.S. county.

A relatively wealthy area, Summit County is home to several upscale ski resorts, including Copper Mountain and Breckenridge.

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9. Williamson County, Tennessee
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 58.1%
> Poverty rate: 4.6%
> Life expectancy: 81.9 years
> Median household income: $103,543

Williamson County, located in central Tennessee, is the only county in the state that ranks among the best places to live in the country. The county, which is just south of Nashville, is one of the wealthiest in the nation, with a median household income of $103,543. It is also one of the best educated places in the country, with a 58.1% bachelor’s degree attainment rate .

Williamson County has many positive attributes, including a strong job market and close proximity to a major metro area, which is likely why it is one of the fastest growing parts of the country. The county’s population has grown 15.2% over the past five years, nearly four times the comparable 3.8% national rate.

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8. Marin County, California
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 57.5%
> Poverty rate: 8.1%
> Life expectancy: 83.8 years
> Median household income: $104,703

Marin County is located across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. County residents are among the most likely to be very wealthy. Nearly a quarter of Marin County households earn $200,000 a year or more. That’s nearly four times higher than the comparable national share. Additionally, Marin County’s poverty rate of 8.1% is well below the 14.6% national rate.

As is often the case in wealthy areas, Marin County residents tend to be relatively healthy. Average life expectancy in the county is 83.8 years, about five years longer than the national average .

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7. Howard County, Maryland
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 61.2%
> Poverty rate: 5.2%
> Life expectancy: 83.0 years
> Median household income: $115,576

Howard County, Maryland, is one of the wealthiest parts of the country, with the typical household earning more than $115,000 per year. Residents are also among the least likely to face poverty, as just 5.2% of them live below the poverty line. Nationwide, 14.6% of Americans live in poverty.

High incomes are partially attributable to high educational attainment. Howard is one of just seven counties in which at least 60% of adults have a four-year college degree. This means that residents are more likely to be qualified for high-paying careers. The county is commuting distance to both Washington, D.C. and Baltimore and most working residents do commute to jobs outside of Howard County.

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6. Fairfax County, Virginia
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 60.7%
> Poverty rate: 6.1%
> Life expectancy: 83.7 years
> Median household income: $117,515

Across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., Fairfax County provides easy access to high-paying jobs in and around the nation’s capital. The area’s median household income of $117,515 is nearly the highest in the country, and more than double the U.S. median of $57,652. Fairfax County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, at just 2.3%. Income and health are closely linked, as people with higher incomes can afford a greater range of healthy options related to diet and lifestyle. As one of the wealthiest places in the country, Fairfax County residents tend to live longer, on average, than Americans in most other parts of the country. Life expectancy in the county stands at 83.7-years, compared to 79 years nationwide.

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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.