1. Alabama: Shelby County
> County median household income: $74,063
> State median household income: $46,472
> Poverty rate: 8.3%
> Oct. unemployment: 2.8%
> Major metro area: Birmingham-Hoover, AL
Alabama is one of the poorest states in the country. The state’s median annual household income of $46,472 is more than $11,000 below the U.S. median. Alabama also has one of the highest poverty rates of all states at 18%. The residents of Shelby County, which is located just south of Birmingham, tend to be much more affluent. Most households earn more than $74,000 a year, and just 8.3% of residents live in poverty. The county’s higher incomes are likely bolstered by a strong job market. The county’s unemployment rate of 2.8% is well below the state’s 4.1% unemployment rate.
Likely because of its relatively prosperity and strong job market, Shelby County’s population is growing at a faster pace than the state’s population growth rate.. In the past five years, the county’s population grew by 6.9%, more than four times the rate of Alabama’s population growth as a whole.
2. Alaska: Juneau City and Borough
> County median household income: $90,749
> State median household income: $76,114
> Poverty rate: 7.4%
> Oct. unemployment: 4.3%
> Major metro area: N/A
Alaska, along with Louisiana, is one of two states that does not designate geographic areas as counties, instead defining larger geographic areas as boroughs. Juneau, the state capital, comprises the entirety of one such borough.
As the state capital, many Juneau residents work in government, a sector that often offers its employees high salaries. Of Juneau workers, 22.2% are employed in public administration, more than four times the national concentration in the sector. These workers, as well as many others in Juneau, are much more likely to be qualified for skilled professions. Juneau adults have a 40.3% college degree attainment rate, well above Alaska’s 29.0% rate.
3. Arizona: Maricopa County
> County median household income: $58,580
> State median household income: $53,510
> Poverty rate: 15.7%
> Oct. unemployment: 3.8%
> Major metro area: Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ
Maricopa is the only county in Arizona in which the median household income surpasses the U.S. median of $57,652 a year. While it is the wealthiest in the state, the county’s median of $58,580 is only slightly higher than that of the nation.
With more than 4 million residents, Maricopa is by far the largest county in Arizona and one of the largest in the entire country. It spans 9,223 square miles, covering 27 cities and towns — including Phoenix — as well as tribal land of three different Native American tribes. County residents are more likely to work in high-paying industries like finance or information than those in any other Arizona County.
4. Arkansas: Benton County
> County median household income: $61,271
> State median household income: $43,813
> Poverty rate: 10.5%
> Oct. unemployment: 2.6%
> Major metro area: Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO
Residents of Benton County, Arkansas, are much less likely to live in extreme poverty than residents statewide. Just 4.0% of households in the county live on less than $10,000 per year, less than the 8.5% statewide. The county, which borders Missouri and Oklahoma, has a median household income more than $17,000 higher than Arkansas as a whole.
Arkansas has one of the lowest college attainment rates in the country. Just 22% of adults have finished college and obtained at least a bachelor’s degree. Benton County adults are much more likely to have finished college, with a 31.7% attainment rate. As Benton is one of the only places in Arkansas with an educational attainment rate higher than the national rate, county residents tend to be better qualified for higher-paying jobs than residents in other parts of the state.
5. California: Santa Clara County
> County median household income: $106,761
> State median household income: $67,169
> Poverty rate: 8.6%
> Oct. unemployment: 2.5%
> Major metro area: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
One of the wealthiest counties in the country, Santa Clara County’s median annual household income of $106,761 exceeds the state median by nearly $40,000 and the U.S. median by nearly $50,000. The county is home to San Jose and the surrounding Silicon Valley area, which has provided many of its residents with high-paying tech jobs.
More than one in five Santa Clara County households — 22.4% — earns over $200,000 annually, more than triple the national share. This high level of income allows residents to obtain a better level of health care, as well as make healthier lifestyle and food decision. These options have likely contributed to better overall health among Santa Clara County residents. The average life expectancy in the county of 82.7 years is more than 4 years longer than the national average.