Special Report

25 Best Counties to Live In

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25. Middlesex County, Massachusetts
> Largest place in county: Lowell
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 54.1%
> Poverty rate: 8.2%
> Life expectancy: 81.6 years
> Median household income: $92,878

People with higher incomes tend to have healthier lifestyles. In Middlesex County, just 11.3% of adults smoke, and only 18% of adults are physically inactive — less than the national smoking rate of 17.0% and inactivity rate of 22.0%. Healthy lifestyles lead to positive outcomes in Middlesex County as average life expectancy at birth is 81.6 years, more than two and a half years longer than it is nationwide.

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24. Santa Clara County, California
> Largest place in county: San Jose
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 50.0%
> Poverty rate: 8.6%
> Life expectancy: 83.1 years
> Median household income: $106,761

Santa Clara County in California contains San Jose and much of the Silicon Valley area, a tech innovation hub. Companies like Google, Apple, and Hewlett Packard are all headquartered in the county, providing thousands of high-paying jobs to residents. In Santa Clara County, 22.4% of households earn at least $200,000 annually, the sixth largest share of any U.S. county. Santa Clara also ranks as one of the best places to live due to the health of its residents. Just 16.1% of adults do not exercise, and only 19.8% are obese — far less than the national inactivity rate of 22.0% and obesity rate of 29.0%. Overall, the life expectancy at birth in Santa Clara is 83.1 years, four years longer than the U.S. average.

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23. San Mateo County, California
> Largest place in county: Daly City
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 48.5%
> Poverty rate: 7.3%
> Life expectancy: 83.1 years
> Median household income: $105,667

San Mateo is one of several counties in the San Francisco Bay region to rank among the best places to live based on education level, poverty rate, and life expectancy. Over half of all households in San Mateo County earn over $105,000 a year, and 22.5% of households earn over $200,000 a year, more than three times the corresponding share nationwide.

Wealthier Americans tend to have better access to health care and can afford a greater range of healthy options related to diet and lifestyle and, partially as a result, they often live longer, healthier lives. In San Mateo, the average life expectancy is 83.1 years — four years longer than the national average.

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22. Summit County, Utah
> Largest place in county: Park City
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 53.5%
> Poverty rate: 7.5%
> Life expectancy: 82.4 years
> Median household income: $94,952

Summit County’s population is well educated and has high incomes. Over half of all adults in the county have a bachelor’s degree or higher, the largest share in Utah, and the typical household has an income of nearly $95,000 year, also the most of any county in the state. Also, just 7.5% of residents live in poverty, nearly half the national poverty rate.

Situated just east of Salt Lake City and extending across Park City into the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Summit is also one of the most active counties in the country. Some 94.8% of residents have access to locations for physical activity, compared to 84.0% of Americans nationwide. Just 10.8% of adults do not exercise, the eighth smallest share of any U.S. county.

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21. Delaware County, Ohio
> Largest place in county: Delaware
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 53.8%
> Poverty rate: 5.1%
> Life expectancy: 81.4 years
> Median household income: $100,229

Delaware County is the only county in Ohio — and one of only a few in the broader Midwestern United States — to rank among the best places to live based on education, poverty, and life expectancy. Delaware is the only one of Ohio’s 88 counties where over half of all households earn at least $100,000 a year.

The county is located just north of Columbus, providing area residents with access to jobs in and around the state capital. Some 59.3% of workers commute outside of the county to their jobs, more than twice the national share. Likely due in part to their proximity to the range of job opportunities common in big cities, just 3.6% of workers in the Delaware County are unemployed, below the 4.0% national unemployment rate.