Special Report

The Best Counties to Live In

Source: Michael Feist / Wikimedia Commons

45. San Juan County, Washington
> Poverty rate: 10.2%
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 49.8%
> Life expectancy at birth: 85.5 years
> Total population: 16,788
> Largest place in county: Friday Harbor

San Juan County, Washington, encompases a cluster of islands in Puget Sound, northwest of Seattle. Life expectancy in the county is 85.5 years at birth, over six years longer than the national average.

The county’s high average life expectancy is attributable in part to healthy behaviors. Adults in San Juan County are far less likely to smoke or be obese and more likely to exercise regularly than the typical American adult. Across broad populations, higher educational attainment is tied to healthier lifestyles and better health outcomes. In San Juan County, about half of the 25 and older population have a bachelor’s degree or higher, well above the comparable national share of about one-third.

Source: jble.af.mil

44. York County, Virginia
> Poverty rate: 4.9%
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 47.1%
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.7 years
> Total population: 67,982
> Largest place in county: Yorktown

York County, Virginia, is located in the eastern part of the state along the York River, near where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay. A wealthy area, the typical household in York County earns just over $92,000 a year — nearly $30,000 more than the typical American household. In addition, the area has a low poverty rate. Just 4.9% of the local population live below the poverty line, compared to 13.4% of all Americans who do.

Americans with greater financial security are better able to afford adequate health care and a wider variety of healthy lifestyle options. Partially as a result, places with low poverty rates also tend to have higher than average life expectancies. In York County, life expectancy at birth is 82.7 years, more than three years higher than the national average.

Source: grantreig / iStock via Getty Images

43. Nantucket County, Massachusetts
> Poverty rate: 8.7%
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 52.8%
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.8 years
> Total population: 11,168
> Largest place in county: Nantucket

Nantucket County, Massachusetts, which encompasses the island of Nantucket, is one of the best places to live in the United States. Life expectancy at birth on the island is nearly 83 years — four years more than the comparable national average.

The county’s high average life expectancy is attributable in part to healthy behaviors. Adults in Nantucket County are far less likely to smoke or be obese and more likely to exercise regularly than the typical American adult. Across broad populations, higher educational attainment is tied to healthier lifestyles and better outcomes. In Nantucket, over half of the 25 and older population have a bachelor’s degree or higher, well above the comparable national share of less than one-third.

Source: Martin Prochnik / Flickr

42. Fairfax, Virginia
> Poverty rate: 9.3%
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 60.8%
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.9 years
> Total population: 23,531
> Largest place in county: Fairfax

Fairfax is an independent city in northeastern Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C. The city ranks among the best places to live in the United States largely because of its well-educated population. Nearly 61% of adults living in Fairfax have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 32.1% of adults nationwide.

College-educated adults are less likely to face unemployment and financial hardship than workers with no more than a high school diploma. In Fairfax, just 4.7% of the labor force are unemployed, compared to the 6.8% national jobless rate, and only 9.3% of the population live below the poverty line, compared to the 13.4% national poverty rate.

Source: n8nhale / Flickr

41. Ozaukee County, Wisconsin
> Poverty rate: 5.3%
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 49.0%
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.3 years
> Total population: 88,597
> Largest place in county: Mequon

Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, is located along the shore of Lake Michigan, just north of Milwaukee. County residents are more likely to be relatively financially secure than those in nearly any other part of the state. Just 5.3% of the local population live below the poverty line, and 12.4% of households earn at least $200,000 a year — compared to the nationwide shares of 13.4% and 7.7%, respectively.

College-educated adults are less likely to live in poverty and earn about 67% more on average than workers with no more than a high school diploma. In Ozaukee County, 49.0% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 32.1% of adults nationwide.

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