Special Report

25 Best Counties to Live In

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20. Carver County, Minnesota
> Largest place in county: Chaska
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 47.5%
> Poverty rate: 4.0%
> Life expectancy: 82.8 years
> Median household income: $93,095

Situated just outside of Minneapolis, Carver County is one of only four Midwestern counties to rank among the best places to live, and the only one in Minnesota. Some 63.0% of workers commute outside the county for work — many to Minneapolis and St. Paul — more than twice the 25.7% national share. Likely due in part to their proximity to jobs in a major metropolitan area, just 3.0% of the county’s workforce was unemployed as of July, well below the 4.0% U.S. unemployment rate.

Carver County is also one of the areas in the country where poverty is most rare. Just 4.0% of residents live in poverty, less than a third of the 14.6% national poverty rate.

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19. San Miguel County, Colorado
> Largest place in county: Telluride
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 54.1%
> Poverty rate: 10.5%
> Life expectancy: 83.7 years
> Median household income: $62,243

San Miguel County is located in southwestern Colorado, along the Utah state border. While the county’s median annual household income of $62,243 is only marginally higher than the national median of $57,652, serious financial hardship is far less common in San Miguel than it is nationwide. Just 10.5% of county residents live below the poverty line, well below the 14.6% national poverty rate.

San Miguel is one of the best educated counties in the United States. Among residents 25 and older, 54.1% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Nationwide, just 30.9% of adults have a bachelor’s degree.

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18. Johnson County, Kansas
> Largest place in county: Overland Park
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 54.6%
> Poverty rate: 5.6%
> Life expectancy: 81.7 years
> Median household income: $81,121

Johnson County makes up the southwestern part of the Kansas City metropolitan area and borders Missouri. With 54.6% of adult residents holding at least a bachelor’s degree, the area is one of the best educated in the country. For comparison, 30.9% of American adults hold a four-year college degree.

Johnson County residents are among the least likely to live below the poverty line. The area’s poverty rate of just 5.6% is a full 9 percentage points below the U.S. poverty rate. Although the area’s $81,121 median household income is lower than that of most counties on this list, it is still one of the 100 highest among U.S. counties, and more than $23,000 above the U.S. median.

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17. Hunterdon County, New Jersey
> Largest place in county: Flemington
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 50.7%
> Poverty rate: 4.5%
> Life expectancy: 82.5 years
> Median household income: $110,969

Hunterdon County is located in western New Jersey along the Pennsylvania state border, just north of Trenton. In Hunterdon, incomes are high and poverty is scarce. The typical household has an annual income of $110,969, nearly double the typical American household income. Additionally, just 4.5% of area residents live below the poverty line, less than a third of the 14.6% national poverty rate.

Across broad populations, incomes tend to rise with educational attainment. In Hunterdon County, over half of all adults have a bachelor’s degree. Nationwide, fewer than one in three adults have a four-year college degree.

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16. Morris County, New Jersey
> Largest place in county: Morristown
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 52.6%
> Poverty rate: 4.6%
> Life expectancy: 82.0 years
> Median household income: $107,034

One of several counties within commuting distance of New York City to rank among the best places to live based on education, poverty, and life expectancy. Morris County is located approximately 40 miles west of Manhattan and is one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. Over half of all households have an annual income above $107,000 a year, and more than one in every five earn at least $200,000.

Wealthier Americans have access to a greater range of health care options as well as options related to diet and lifestyle, and as a result, they often have longer and healthier lives. In Morris County, just 18.4% of adults do not exercise and only 22.0% are obese — far less than the national inactivity rate of 22.0% and obesity rate of 29.0%. The county’s average life expectancy is 82 years, about three years longer than the average nationwide.