Special Report

Best County to Live in Every State

Source: Famartin / Wikimedia Commons

Virginia: Falls Church
> 5-yr. population change: +12.5% (state: +4.4%)
> Poverty rate: 2.9% (state: 11.2%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 78.1% (state: 37.6%)
> Life expectancy: 81.8 years (state: 79.2 years)

Falls Church, Virginia, an independent city, is about a 20 minute drive west of Washington, D.C. Some of the most affluent, highly-educated places in the United States can be found in the greater D.C. region, serving as bedroom communities for the researchers, educators, and lawyers who work in the nation’s capital.

Close to 80% of Falls Church’s adults have a bachelor’s degree, more than any other county or county equivalent in the country. More than one in four households have an annual income of $200,000 or more, compared to just 6.3% of households nationwide.

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Source: Michael Feist / Wikimedia Commons

Washington: San Juan County
> 5-yr. population change: +3.1% (state: +6.4%)
> Poverty rate: 10.7% (state: 12.2%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 48.3% (state: 34.5%)
> Life expectancy: 83.7 years (state: 80.0 years)

San Juan County, the best county to live in Washington, is in the northwest corner of the state and is entirely located on a group of islands between the U.S. mainland and Vancouver Island, Canada. San Juan has the longest life expectancy of any county in the state and one of the longest in the country. The county’s average life expectancy at birth is 83.7 years, 13th highest among U.S. counties and 4.6 years higher than the national average life expectancy. Poverty is also less common in San Juan than in much of the rest of the state.

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Source: Jim Surkamp / Flickr

West Virginia: Jefferson County
> 5-yr. population change: +4.0% (state: -0.7%)
> Poverty rate: 9.9% (state: 17.8%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 30.5% (state: 19.9%)
> Life expectancy: 77.8 years (state: 76.0 years)

In the measures used to create this index of the best counties to live: life expectancy, poverty, and bachelor’s degree attainment among adults, the state of West Virginia compares unfavorably to most of the rest of the country. Even Jefferson County, the state’s best county by these measures, does not rank especially highly among all U.S. counties.

Jefferson County, which is in the easternmost part of the state, has an adult bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 30.5%, which is well above the state rate of 19.9% but slightly below the national share of 30.9%. Life expectancy in the county is 77.8 years at birth, which is higher than the state’s 76.0 year average life expectancy but less than the national life expectancy of 79.1 years.

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Source: n8nhale / Flickr

Wisconsin: Ozaukee County
> 5-yr. population change: +1.6% (state: +1.3%)
> Poverty rate: 5.9% (state: 12.3%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 47.7% (state: 29.0%)
> Life expectancy: 82.1 years (state: 79.8 years)

Ozaukee County, the best county to live in Wisconsin, is located along the shore of Lake Michigan, just north of Milwaukee. It is one of the more affluent places in both the state and the nation as a whole. The county’s median annual household income of $80,526 is about $24,000 higher than the statewide median. Just 5.9% of the county’s population lives in poverty, compared to a state poverty rate of 12.3%. Life expectancy in the county is also about two years longer than the 80 year average across Wisconsin as a whole.

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Wyoming: Teton County
> 5-yr. population change: +7.5% (state: +3.6%)
> Poverty rate: 6.8% (state: 11.1%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 54.1% (state: 26.7%)
> Life expectancy: 83.5 years (state: 78.6 years)

Teton County, the best county to live in Wyoming, largely comprises federal land like Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.

Residents of Teton County are some of the least likely to face financial hardship. 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 of households nationwide. Financial security is closely tied to educational attainment, and with a bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 54.1%, Teton County’s population is one of the best educated in America.

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