Special Report

25 Best Counties to Live In

Source: Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD / Wikimedia Commons

15. Somerset County, New Jersey
> Largest place in county: Somerset
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 53.1%
> Poverty rate: 4.8%
> Life expectancy: 82.0 years
> Median household income: $106,046

Somerset County, New Jersey, is among the wealthiest places in the country, as it is one of fewer than two dozen American counties in which the typical household has an annual income of at least $100,000. The area’s high incomes are likely bolstered by the fact that more than half of adult residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, qualifying them for a broader range of well-paying jobs. The county is only about 60 miles from New York City, and many Somerset residents likely commute to jobs in the city.

Individuals with higher incomes and greater educational attainment tend to have better health behaviors and outcomes, and in Somerset County just 17.1% of adults do not exercise — far less than the 22.0% national inactivity rate. Life expectancy at birth in Somerset is 82 years, nearly three years longer than the U.S. average.

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14. Montgomery County, Maryland
> Largest place in county: Silver Spring
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 58.3%
> Poverty rate: 7.0%
> Life expectancy: 81.5 years
> Median household income: $103,178

Home to the federal government and the countless jobs it supports, parts of Washington D.C. and the surrounding area are among the wealthiest in the country. Montgomery County, Maryland, is one of them. The county is home to several D.C. commuter towns, including Bethesda and Rockville, and the headquarters of several major corporations, including Lockheed Martin, the largest defense contractor in the world.

Montgomery has one of the wealthiest and best educated populations of any U.S. county. Most households in the area earn over $100,000 a year, and 58.3% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, nearly double the 30.9% of adults nationwide.

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13. Eagle County, Colorado
> Largest place in county: Edwards
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 45.1%
> Poverty rate: 7.7%
> Life expectancy: 85.9 years
> Median household income: $83,803

Home to the city of Vail, and located near the well-known skiing towns of Aspen and Breckenridge, Eagle County is one of the wealthiest, best-educated, and healthiest counties in the country. Just 9.3% of county residents do not exercise, the second smallest share of any U.S. county. Additionally, the county’s life expectancy of nearly 86 years is about seven years longer than the national average.

The long life expectancy in Eagle County may be closely tied to the high incomes as wealthier Americans have access to a greater range of healthy options related to diet and lifestyle. The typical household in the county earns $83,803 a year, about $26,000 more than the typical American household.

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12. Hamilton County, Indiana
> Largest place in county: Carmel
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 57.5%
> Poverty rate: 5.0%
> Life expectancy: 81.8 years
> Median household income: $90,582

Like many of the best counties to live in based on education, poverty, and life expectancy, Hamilton County, Indiana, is located just outside of a major metropolitan area. The county’s close proximity to Indianapolis, the largest city in the state, provides residents with easy access to job opportunities and likely contributes to the county’s low unemployment rate. Just 2.8% of county residents are unemployed, well below the 4.0% national unemployment rate.

The typical household in Hamilton County has an annual income of $90,582, about $33,000 more than the U.S. median. Wealthier individuals are more likely to lead healthy lifestyles, and in the county just 14.0% of adults do not exercise — far less than the 22.0% national inactivity rate. Life expectancy at birth in the county is 81.8 years, nearly three years longer than the U.S. average.

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11. Teton County, Wyoming
> Largest place in county: Jackson
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 54.1%
> Poverty rate: 6.8%
> Life expectancy: 83.5 years
> Median household income: $80,049

With fewer than 23,000 residents, Teton County is one of the least populous places on this list. It largely consists of federal land, like Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. Nearly all residents — 99.7% — have access to locations for physical activity such as parks, and just 12.0% of adults do not exercise — compared to 22.0% of adults nationwide. Life expectancy at birth in the county is 83.5 years, the 16th longest of any U.S. county.

The positive health outcomes in Teton County are likely bolstered by the high area incomes. The typical Teton County household earns $80,049 a year, over $22,000 more than the U.S. median. Just 1.9% of households in the area live on less than $10,000 annually — one of the smallest shares in the country, and well below the 6.7% share nationwide.

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