Special Report

The Best Counties to Live In

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15. Hamilton County, Indiana
> Poverty rate: 4.6%
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 59.3%
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.9 years
> Total population: 323,117
> Largest place in county: Carmel

Hamilton County, Indiana, located just north of Indianapolis, is the only county in the state to rank among the 50 best places to live in the country. Of all 92 counties in Indiana, Hamilton has the lowest poverty rate — which, at 4.6%, is nearly one-third the comparable national poverty rate of 13.4%. The 59.3% share of adults living in the county with at least a bachelor’s degree is also the highest among all counties in the state and well above the 32.1% share nationwide.

Across broad populations, high poverty rates appear to contribute to negative health outcomes, while greater education tends to lead to healthier lifestyles and outcomes. Not surprisingly, at 81.9 years, life expectancy at birth in Hamilton County is well above the comparable 79.1 year national average.

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14. Montgomery County, Maryland
> Poverty rate: 6.8%
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 58.9%
> Life expectancy at birth: 84.4 years
> Total population: 1,043,530
> Largest place in county: Silver Spring

Montgomery County, Maryland, is one of several of the top 50 best places to live in the United States located within commuting distance of the nation’s capital. With access to jobs in the District of Columbia — many of which are high paying — unemployment stood at just 5.8% in the county as of January 2021, a full percentage point below the comparable 6.8% national jobless rate. With a strong job market, only 6.8% of Montgomery County residents live below the poverty line — well below the 13.4% national poverty rate.

Montgomery County ranks among the best places to live also because of health outcomes in the area. Life expectancy at birth in the county is 84.4 years, about five and a half years longer than the national average.

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13. Williamson County, Tennessee
> Poverty rate: 4.4%
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 59.8%
> Life expectancy at birth: 82.0 years
> Total population: 225,389
> Largest place in county: Franklin

Williamson County, located just south of Nashville, is the only county in Tennessee to rank among the 50 best counties to live. With a median household income of $112,962 in the county, more than $50,000 higher than the U.S. median household income, Williamson is the wealthiest county in the state and one of the 20 most affluent in the entire nation.

Williamson County residents also tend to have good health outcomes. The area’s life expectancy at birth is 82.0 years, nearly three years longer than the average nationwide. Area residents are also less likely to smoke or lead a sedentary lifestyle than the typical American. Williamson County is one of the fastest growing places in the U.S. The county’s population increased 16.2% from 2014 to 2019, nearly five times the national population growth rate during that time.

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12. Marin County, California
> Poverty rate: 7.2%
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 59.5%
> Life expectancy at birth: 85.4 years
> Total population: 259,943
> Largest place in county: San Rafael

Marin County, California, located on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, is one several counties in the Bay Area to rank among the 50 best places to live in the country. The county’s population is highly educated with 59.5% of adult residents holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to just 32.1% of all American adults.

Incomes tend to rise with educational attainment, and in Marin County, most households earn over $115,000 a year. Meanwhile, most U.S. households earn less than $63,000. Financial security in the area is further underscored by low poverty. Just 7.2% of the population live below the poverty line, compared to 13.4% of the U.S. population.

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11. Douglas County, Colorado
> Poverty rate: 3.1%
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 58.0%
> Life expectancy at birth: 84.0 years
> Total population: 336,041
> Largest place in county: Highlands Ranch

Douglas County, Colorado, located just south of Denver, ranks as one of the best places to live in America in large part because of the health outcomes and prosperity of its residents. With a median household income is just under $120,000, Douglas is one of the 10 wealthiest counties in America. Just 3.1% of area residents live below the poverty line — the fourth lowest percentage out of more than 3,100 U.S. counties.

Douglas County residents tend to have some of the better health outcomes and healthiest lifestyles of anywhere in America. Less than 20% of the population aged 20 and older are obese, compared to 29% of all Americans that age group. Also, just 10.6% of county residents reported no leisure time physical activity, less than half of the U.S. inactivity rate of 23.3%. Partially as a result, life expectancy at birth in the county is 84 years, five years longer than the national average.

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