Special Report

Best County to Live in Every State

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Massachusetts: Middlesex County
> 5-yr. population change: +5.0% (state: +3.5%)
> Poverty rate: 8.2% (state: 11.1%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 54.1% (state: 42.1%)
> Life expectancy: 81.6 years (state: 80.4 years)

Massachusetts has the best-educated population of any state in the country, with a bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 42.1%. In Middlesex County, which covers areas north and northeast of Boston, including Cambridge, MIT, and Harvard University, over half of all adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Areas with better-educated populations are generally more prosperous, and serious economic hardship is relatively rare in Middlesex County. Just 8.2% of county residents live below the poverty line, well below the 11.1% state poverty rate and the 14.6% national rate.

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Michigan: Leelanau County
> 5-yr. population change: -0.5% (state: +0.3%)
> Poverty rate: 7.7% (state: 15.6%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 40.8% (state: 28.1%)
> Life expectancy: 83.1 years (state: 78.3 years)

Leelanau County is located in northwestern Michigan along the shores of Lake Michigan. With an average life expectancy of 83 years, about five years longer than life expectancy across the state, Leelanau is one of the healthiest counties in the United States. College-educated adults have a greater sense of control over their lives and tend to exhibit healthier behaviors and lifestyles than those with lower educational attainment. In Leelanau County, 40.8% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, well above the 28.1% bachelor’s degree attainment rate across the state as a whole.

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Minnesota: Carver County
> 5-yr. population change: +8.1% (state: +3.3%)
> Poverty rate: 4.0% (state: 10.5%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 47.5% (state: 34.8%)
> Life expectancy: 82.8 years (state: 80.9 years)

Located just outside of Minneapolis, Carver County, like many other counties on this list, is within commuting distance of a major city. Access to one of the largest cities in the Midwest provides job opportunities to Carver County residents, which in turn reduces the incidence of serious financial hardship. Unemployment in the county stands at just 2.6%, and the poverty rate is just 4.0%, each well below the respective 3.3% and 10.5% rates statewide.

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Mississippi: Rankin County
> 5-yr. population change: +5.3% (state: +0.6%)
> Poverty rate: 8.5% (state: 21.5%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 29.2% (state: 21.3%)
> Life expectancy: 78.4 years (state: 74.9 years)

With a 21.3% bachelor’s degree attainment rate, Mississippi ranks among the least educated states in the country. Even in Rankin County, located just east of the state capital of Jackson, just 29.1% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, a slightly smaller share than the 30.9% of American adults nationwide.

Despite the lower than average educational attainment, financial hardship is far less common in Rankin County than it is nationwide. Just 8.5% of county residents live below the poverty line, well below the 14.6% national poverty rate, which itself is far below Mississippi’s poverty rate of 21.5%.

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Missouri: Platte County
> 5-yr. population change: +8.2% (state: +1.6%)
> Poverty rate: 7.2% (state: 14.6%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 41.5% (state: 28.2%)
> Life expectancy: 80.4 years (state: 77.7 years)

Platte County, Missouri, is one of two counties on this list within commuting distance of Kansas City, one of the largest cities in the Midwest. The access to a major city provides greater job opportunities for county residents and reduces the likelihood of financial hardship. Unemployment in the county stands at just 2.3%, and the poverty rate is just 7.2%, each well below the respective 3.6% and 14.6% rates statewide.

Platte County residents are also more likely to live longer, healthier lives than those in much of the rest of the state. The county’s average life expectancy at birth is 80.4 years, nearly three years longer than the average life expectancy across Missouri.

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