Special Report

Best County to Live in Every State

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Oklahoma: Cleveland County
> 5-yr. population change: +6.8% (state: +3.9%)
> Poverty rate: 12.6% (state: 16.2%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 32.1% (state: 24.8%)
> Life expectancy: 78.7 years (state: 76.1 years)

The state of Oklahoma does not compare favorably to most U.S. states in key socioeconomic measures like educational attainment and poverty. Even the state’s best county to live in only compares slightly better than the national averages in these measures. In Cleveland County, which forms the southern part of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, 12.6% of residents live in poverty, and 32.1% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, compared to national shares of 14.6% and 30.9%, respectively. In the vast majority of counties on this list the bachelor’s degree attainment rate is in excess of 40% and the poverty rate is under 10%.

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Oregon: Washington County
> 5-yr. population change: +7.6% (state: +4.9%)
> Poverty rate: 10.3% (state: 14.9%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 42.4% (state: 32.3%)
> Life expectancy: 81.7 years (state: 79.4 years)

Washington County is not only the best county to live in Oregon, but also it is the richest county in the state. The typical household in the county earns $74,033 a year, well above the median annual household income across the state of $56,119. Serious financial hardship is also less common in Washington County as just 10.3% of residents live below the poverty line, compared to 14.9% of state residents.

Many of the counties on this list are within commuting distance of a major city, and, situated just west of Portland, Washington County is one of them.

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Pennsylvania: Chester County
> 5-yr. population change: +3.0% (state: +0.7%)
> Poverty rate: 6.9% (state: 13.1%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 51.0% (state: 30.1%)
> Life expectancy: 81.2 years (state: 78.8 years)

Chester County, Pennsylvania, is a wealthy suburban region west of Philadelphia. The county’s poverty rate is less than half the national rate of 14.6%, and the median annual household income of $92,417 is nearly $35,000 greater than the national median. As is usually the case in affluent counties, housing is very expensive. With a median home price of $384,436 according to the National Association of Realtors, Chester County has the most expensive housing market in the state.

Chester County is one of less than 50 counties with populations of at least 10,000 where more than half of all adults have a bachelor’s degree. A college degree generally contributes to improved employment opportunities and job stability, and Chester’s unemployment rate of 2.3% is one of the lower figures nationwide.

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Rhode Island: Bristol County
> 5-yr. population change: -1.5% (state: +0.3%)
> Poverty rate: 7.0% (state: 13.4%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 46.8% (state: 33.0%)
> Life expectancy: 81.2 years (state: 79.8 years)

Bristol County is a small area of only about 25 square miles just north of Newport, Rhode Island. The county has the best-educated population in the state, with 46.8% of adults holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. Better-educated populations are typically more affluent, and serious financial hardship is relatively rare in Bristol County. Just 7.0% of the population lives below the poverty line compared to a poverty rate of 13.4% across Rhode Island.

As is often the case in areas with a well-educated, largely financially secure population, Bristol County residents are generally healthy. Life expectancy in the county is just over 81 years, about a year longer than it is statewide and two years longer that it is nationwide.

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South Carolina: Beaufort County
> 5-yr. population change: +10.5% (state: +5.7%)
> Poverty rate: 11.9% (state: 16.6%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 39.8% (state: 27.0%)
> Life expectancy: 81.6 years (state: 76.9 years)

Beaufort County, South Carolina, part of the region that includes Hilton Head Island, ranks as the best county to live in the state, with above-average educational attainment and income.

Higher incomes and high educational attainment both correlate with longer, healthier lives. The national average life expectancy at birth is 79.1 years. Beaufort is the only county in South Carolina that has a higher life expectancy — and by a wide margin. Average life expectancy in the county at birth is 81.6 years.

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