Special Report

Best County to Live in Every State

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Montana: Gallatin County
> 5-yr. population change: +11.5% (state: +3.9%)
> Poverty rate: 13.0% (state: 14.4%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 48.8% (state: 30.7%)
> Life expectancy: 82.0 years (state: 78.9 years)

Gallatin County is located in southwestern Montana, sharing a border with both Idaho and Wyoming. By far the best educated county in the state, nearly half of all adults in the county have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 30.7% of adults across Montana as a whole. Better-educated adults tend to live longer, healthier lives than those with lower educational attainment. Gallatin County’s average life expectancy at birth of 82 years is three years longer than the average life expectancy across the state.

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Nebraska: Sarpy County
> 5-yr. population change: +9.9% (state: +3.6%)
> Poverty rate: 5.3% (state: 12.0%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 39.5% (state: 30.6%)
> Life expectancy: 80.5 years (state: 79.6 years)

Sarpy County is located in eastern Nebraska, bordered on three sides by the Platte and Missouri Rivers, with the city of Omaha to the north. Serious financial hardship is relatively uncommon in county as just 5.3% of the population lives below the poverty line, less than half the poverty rate of 12.0% statewide. As is the case with many counties on this list, Sarpy also ranks as the richest county in the state, with a median annual household income of $75,752.

The high incomes and low poverty in Sarpy County are partially attributable to a highly-educated population. Nearly 40% of adults in the county have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 30.6% of adults across the state as a whole.

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Nevada: Douglas County
> 5-yr. population change: +1.2% (state: +6.8%)
> Poverty rate: 9.8% (state: 14.2%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 27.2% (state: 23.7%)
> Life expectancy: 81.1 years (state: 78.1 years)

Douglas County, located in western Nevada along Lake Tahoe, just south of Carson City, ranks as the best county to live in in the state. No other Nevada county with a population of 10,000 or more has a higher life expectancy than Douglas County — where the life expectancy at birth of 81.1 years is three years longer than the life expectancy across the state. Local residents are also more likely to be financially secure, as Douglas is one of only two Nevada counties where fewer than one in every 10 residents live below the poverty line.

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New Hampshire: Rockingham County
> 5-yr. population change: +2.2% (state: +1.1%)
> Poverty rate: 4.8% (state: 8.1%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 40.6% (state: 36.0%)
> Life expectancy: 80.6 years (state: 80.2 years)

Nearly every county in New Hampshire, a state characterized by overall low unemployment and poverty, ranks higher than the vast majority of U.S. counties as a desirable place to live. Of them, Rockingham County, located in southeastern New Hampshire and sharing a border with both Maine and Massachusetts, ranks the highest. Rockingham is the only county in the state where more than 40% of adults have a bachelor’s degree. It is also the only New Hampshire county with a poverty rate below 5%.

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New Jersey: Somerset County
> 5-yr. population change: +3.0% (state: +1.9%)
> Poverty rate: 4.8% (state: 10.7%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 53.1% (state: 38.1%)
> Life expectancy: 82.0 years (state: 80.0 years)

Along with the best counties to live in Connecticut and New York state, Somerset County, New Jersey, is one of three counties on this list within commuting distance to New York City. Close proximity to the largest city in the United States provides county residents with access to a massive job market, and many of the available jobs are high paying. Just 2.4% of workers in Somerset County are unemployed, and over half of all households earn over $100,000 a year. Serious financial hardship is relatively rare in the county, as just 4.8% of residents live below the poverty line, less than half the 10.7% poverty rate across New Jersey.

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