According to the 2018 United Nations Human Development Index — a composite measure of education, life expectancy, and standard of living — the United States is the 13th most developed country in the world, behind nations such as Norway, Switzerland, and Australia.
While the United States as a whole falls behind a number of European and Asia-Pacific countries, conditions are far from uniform across the country, and some parts of the country outrank much of the world in livability. In some U.S. counties, median household income and educational attainment rates can more than double the national averages. Additionally, some U.S. counties have an average life expectancy at birth that is higher than in any country worldwide.
Building on the United Nations’ Human Development Index, 24/7 Wall St. constructed an index of education, poverty, and life expectancy to determine the 25 best U.S. counties to live in.
Adults with greater educational attainment are more likely to be financially secure and healthy — and partially as a result, the best-educated communities in the country are also often among the healthiest and highest earning. While nationwide, 30.9% of adults 25 and over have at least a bachelor’s degree, the bachelor’s degree attainment rate in each of the 25 counties on this list exceeds 45%. For more on education in America, see the most and least educated states and the most educated city in every state.
Higher-income individuals often have better access to health care and are able to afford a greater range of healthy options related to diet and lifestyle, and as a result, they often live longer and healthier lives. In each of the counties on this list, life expectancy at birth exceeds the 79.1 year national average by at least two years.
Many of the best counties are within commuting distance of major cities, such as New York City and Washington, D.C., where large shares of residents commute to jobs in high-paying industries such as professional, scientific, technical services, and government. In 13 of the 25 counties on this list, the share of workers who commute to jobs outside of their home county exceeds the national average of 25.7%. Likely due in part to their proximity to metropolitan job markets, the unemployment rate in all 25 of the best counties to live is lower than the national rate.
Jobs, high incomes, and access to healthier lifestyles are primary pull factors for America’s upwardly and geographically mobile population. In 19 of the 25 counties on this list, population growth over the past five years has exceeded the 3.8% national population growth rate. Several of the 25 counties on this list rank as the fastest growing county in their respective state.