Special Report

25 Best Counties to Live In

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5. Loudoun County, Virginia
> Largest place in county: Leesburg
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 59.8%
> Poverty rate: 3.7%
> Life expectancy: 83.2 years
> Median household income: $129,588

Located across the Potomac River from Montgomery County, Maryland, another county on this list, Loudoun County, Virginia, is one of several counties within commuting distance of Washington D.C. to rank on this list. Proximity to the numerous jobs supported by the federal government partially explains the area’s 2.4% unemployment rate, one of the lowest of any county and well below the 4.0% national rate.

Many of the types of jobs in and around Loudoun County are high skilled and high paying. Nearly 60% of area adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher — roughly double the 30.9% national percentage — and the typical area household has an income of about $130,000 a year, the highest of any U.S. county by more than $12,000.

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4. Douglas County, Colorado
> Largest place in county: Highlands Ranch
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 58.0%
> Poverty rate: 3.6%
> Life expectancy: 83.7 years
> Median household income: $111,154

Bisected by Interstate 25, Douglas County sits in between Colorado Springs and Denver. Like the other four counties in Colorado to rank on this list, Douglas is home to a wealthy, well-educated, active population. Most households in the area earn well over $100,000 a year and 58% of adults in Douglas County have a four-year college degree — a far greater share than the 30.9% average nationwide. Just 9.6% of adults report no leisure time physical activity, the fourth smallest share of any U.S. county.

Like many of the best counties to live in based on education, poverty, and life expectancy, Douglas County is growing rapidly. In the last five years, the county’s population grew by 11.9%, more than three times as fast as the 3.8% national population growth rate over the same period.

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3. Los Alamos County, New Mexico
> Largest place in county: Los Alamos
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 65.5%
> Poverty rate: 5.1%
> Life expectancy: 83.5 years
> Median household income: $110,190

With the eighth highest median household income in the country, Los Alamos County, New Mexico, is a huge outlier in its state. The typical county household has an annual income of $110,190, over $63,000 more than the median for New Mexico as a whole. Los Alamos County is best known as the home of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which helped develop the nuclear bomb. The lab is the community’s lifeblood, as the county has just over 18,000 residents and the lab has nearly 13,000 employees. Nearly two-thirds of the county’s residents hold at least a bachelor’s degree — the second largest share of any U.S. county — as many of the jobs at Los Alamos require an advanced education.

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2. Arlington County, Virginia
> Largest place in county: Arlington
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 74.1%
> Poverty rate: 8.2%
> Life expectancy: 82.8 years
> Median household income: $112,138

Home to the Pentagon, Arlington County, Virginia, sits directly across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. Like other counties on the outskirts of the nation’s capital, Arlington is home to a well-educated and wealthy population. Nearly three out of every four adults in Arlington have a bachelor’s degree or higher, the largest share of any county in the country. Incomes typically increase with educational attainment, and in Arlington, about 22% of all households earn at least $200,000 a year, more than three times the 6.3% share of households nationwide.

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1. Pitkin County, Colorado
> Largest place in county: Aspen
> Bachelor’s degree attainment rate: 61.2%
> Poverty rate: 7.1%
> Life expectancy: 86.5 years
> Median household income: $67,755

With one of the healthiest and best-educated populations nationwide, Pitkin County, Colorado, ranks as the best place to live in the United States. Life expectancy in the county is 86.5 years — more than seven years longer than the national average and second longest of any U.S. county. The county’s near nation-leading average life expectancy is partially attributable to the high educational attainment. College graduates tend to live longer than those with lower educational attainment, and in Pitkin County, 61.2% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, nearly double the 30.9% share nationwide.

Situated in the Rocky Mountains southwest of Denver, Pitkin County is also home to several upscale resort towns, including Aspen and Snowmass Village.

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