Special Report

Best County to Live in Every State

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New Mexico: Los Alamos County
> 5-yr. population change: +0.1% (state: +1.4%)
> Poverty rate: 5.1% (state: 20.6%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 65.5% (state: 26.9%)
> Life expectancy: 83.5 years (state: 78.4 years)

Los Alamos, located in north-central New Mexico, is the best county to live in the state and one of the best nationwide. The county is bolstered by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a weapons development facility that employs nearly 12,000 people. Many jobs at the lab are high-skill, and partially as a result, 65.5% of Los Alamos County residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, by far the largest share in the state. Additionally, only 5.1% of county residents live below the poverty line, less than one-quarter of the statewide poverty rate.

Los Alamos is located less than 200 miles east of McKinley County, the worst county to live in the state, where more than one in every three residents live below the poverty line.

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New York: Nassau County
> 5-yr. population change: +1.8% (state: +2.1%)
> Poverty rate: 5.9% (state: 15.1%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 44.4% (state: 35.3%)
> Life expectancy: 82.2 years (state: 80.4 years)

Nassau County is located on Long Island along the eastern border of Brooklyn and Queens. As is the case in two other counties on this list, close proximity to New York City — the largest city in the country — provides Nassau residents with a wide range of job opportunities. Just 2.9% of workers in the county are unemployed — compared to 3.9% of workers across New York state. As a result of the proximity to the city and the low unemployment, the likelihood of serious financial hardship is relatively low in the county. The county’s 5.9% poverty rate is less than half the 15.1% poverty rate across the state as a whole.

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North Carolina: Orange County
> 5-yr. population change: +5.9% (state: +5.3%)
> Poverty rate: 14.0% (state: 16.1%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 57.6% (state: 29.9%)
> Life expectancy: 80.8 years (state: 77.9 years)

Orange County is located in North Carolina’s Research Triangle region. The region is so named due in part to the presence of three major research Universities: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and North Carolina State University. Perhaps not surprisingly, Orange County is the best educated county in the state, with a 57.6% bachelor’s degree attainment rate.

Orange County residents are also generally healthy. Life expectancy at birth in the county is 80.8 years, about three years longer than it is across the state as a whole.

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North Dakota: Burleigh County
> 5-yr. population change: +12.7% (state: +10.2%)
> Poverty rate: 8.5% (state: 11.0%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 35.1% (state: 28.9%)
> Life expectancy: 81.2 years (state: 80.0 years)

The county seat of Burleigh County, located in central North Dakota, is the state capital of Bismark, and the county ranks as the best to live in the state. Just 8.5% of county residents live below the poverty line, a smaller share than North Dakota’s 11.0% poverty rate. Life expectancy in Burleigh County is also about a year longer than the 80 year life expectancy across the state as a whole.

Like many counties on this list, Burleigh County is growing rapidly. In the last five years, the county’s population increased by 12.7%, a faster growth than the 10.2% statewide population growth and the 3.8% national population growth.

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Ohio: Delaware County
> 5-yr. population change: +10.6% (state: +0.7%)
> Poverty rate: 5.1% (state: 14.9%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 53.8% (state: 27.2%)
> Life expectancy: 81.4 years (state: 77.9 years)

Sitting just north of Columbus, Delaware County is in close proximity to a major city. Access to the state capital and most populous city in the state provides job opportunities to Delaware County residents, which in turn reduces the likelihood of financial hardship. Unemployment in the county stands at just 2.3%, and the poverty rate is just 5.1%, each well below the respective 4.3% and 14.9% rates statewide.

Delaware County is also growing rapidly. In the last five years, the county’s population grew by 10.6%, more than 10 times the state’s 0.7% population growth over the same period.

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