The Best County to Live In Every State

Underpinned by a diverse and highly developed economy, the United States is the wealthiest country in the world. According to the World Bank, American GDP topped $23 trillion in 2021, 31% more than China, the world’s second-largest economy. However, when it comes to gauging development, economic output alone does not tell the whole story. 

To address the shortcomings of standard development measures, like GDP, the United Nations Development Programme created the Human Development Index, or HDI. The HDI’s intended purpose is to provide a more comprehensive measure, one that centers on the capabilities and quality of life of individuals within a given country or region. The three main components of the HDI are life expectancy at birth, educational attainment, and financial stability. 

Applying these measures at the local level across the United States reveals that quality of life is far higher in some parts of the country than in others.

Using an index inspired by the HDI, 24/7 Wall St. identified the best county or county equivalent to live in in each state. Counties are ranked on a combination of three measures – average life expectancy at birth, the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree, and the poverty rate. 

Nationwide, 33.7% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, 12.6% of the population live below the poverty line, and average life expectancy at birth stands at 79.1 years. In the vast majority of states – even those where these indicators lag well behind the national average – there is at least one county, or county equivalent, where the population is healthier, better educated, and more financially secure than the U.S. population as a whole. 

Though spread across the country, many of the places on this list share some common features. For one, these counties often excel in other socioeconomic measures beyond those used in the index. For example, in all but a handful of these places, the median household income exceeds $69,021, which is what the typical American household earns annually. (Here is a look at the richest cities in America.

Click here to see the best county to live in, in every state.

Click here for a detailed methodology.

Additionally, many of these counties either contain a major city, or are in close proximity to one. Cities that are within commuting distance of counties on this list include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. These major urban areas have high concentrations of job opportunities that contribute to greater financial security among residents and require a well-educated workforce. (Here is a look at the cheapest cities to buy a home.)

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