Special Report

Best County to Live in Every State

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South Dakota: Lincoln County
> 5-yr. population change: +18.0% (state: +4.9%)
> Poverty rate: 3.0% (state: 13.9%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 41.0% (state: 27.8%)
> Life expectancy: 83.0 years (state: 79.6 years)

Lincoln County is located in southeast South Dakota, just south of Sioux Falls. The richest county in the state by median household income, very few county residents are struggling financially. Just 3.0% of area residents live below the poverty line, less than one-quarter of the state’s poverty rate of 13.9%. Widespread financial security in the area is partially the result of a strong job market, as the county’s unemployment rate of just 2.3% is well below the 2.8% statewide rate and the 3.6% national rate.

Like many other counties on this list, Lincoln County is growing rapidly. In the last five years, the county’s population spiked by 18.0%, more than any other county in South Dakota.

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Tennessee: Williamson County
> 5-yr. population change: +15.2% (state: +3.8%)
> Poverty rate: 4.6% (state: 16.7%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 58.1% (state: 26.1%)
> Life expectancy: 81.9 years (state: 76.3 years)

Located just south of Nashville, Williamson County is one of many counties on this list located within commuting distance of a major city. Not only does proximity to a city provide county residents with access to cultural amenities, but it also provides them with employment opportunities and therefore reduces the likelihood of financial insecurity. Wiliamson is the only county in Tennessee with a poverty rate below 5%.

Williamson is also by far the healthiest county in Tennessee. The county’s average life expectancy at birth is about 82 years, nearly six years longer than the average life expectancy across the state as a whole.

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Texas: Collin County
> 5-yr. population change: +15.9% (state: +8.8%)
> Poverty rate: 6.9% (state: 16.0%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 50.9% (state: 28.7%)
> Life expectancy: 82.0 years (state: 78.5 years)

Collin County, which is part of the greater Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan region and is home to the city of Plano, has a poverty rate of less than 7% and an adult bachelor’s degree attainment rate of greater than 50%.

Growing populations are often a sign of favorable economic and social conditions. In Collin County, the population has increased by 15.9% in the past five years. That is a large increase, even for Texas, which is one of the fastest growing states in the country. Collin’s population growth is nearly double the state’s population growth over the same period and more than four times the nation’s population growth of 3.8% over that period.

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Utah: Summit County
> 5-yr. population change: +8.6% (state: +8.2%)
> Poverty rate: 7.5% (state: 11.0%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 53.5% (state: 32.5%)
> Life expectancy: 82.4 years (state: 79.9 years)

Utah’s Summit County can be found east of Salt Lake City. The 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. Over half of all adults in the county have a bachelor’s degree or higher, the largest share in Utah. The county is also one of the more affluent, with the typical household earning about $95,000 year, also the highest median annual household income of any county in the state.

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Vermont: Chittenden County
> 5-yr. population change: +2.7% (state: -0.1%)
> Poverty rate: 11.3% (state: 11.4%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 49.6% (state: 36.8%)
> Life expectancy: 81.4 years (state: 80.2 years)

Chittenden County, Vermont, includes the state’s most populous city, Burlington, which is home to a number of postsecondary institutions, including the University of Vermont. A high concentration of colleges and universities often coincides with higher regional educational attainment, and nearly 50% of county adults have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 30.9% of adults nationwide.

A college degree generally contributes to improved employment opportunities and job stability. Chittenden County’s 1.3% unemployment rate is the lowest in the state and is tied with Story County, Iowa, for the lowest of any large county in the United States.

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