Living in a big city may offer better job opportunities or more weekend activities, but it may not be the healthiest choice you can make.
That’s according to a recent report by US News & World Report, which ranked America’s 500 healthiest counties in categories including population health, education, economic strength and public safety. Midwestern counties topped the list, taking five of the top 10 spots.
Neither the Northeast Coast nor the West Coast appear in the top 10: the top bicoastal qualifier, New Jersey’s Morris County, ranked No. 16.
Here are the top 10 from the report:
- Los Alamos County, New Mexico
- Church in Falls, Virginia
- Douglas County, Colorado
- Morgan County, Utah
- Carver County, Minnesota
- Sioux County, Iowa
- Ozaukee County, Wisconsin
- Hamilton County, Indiana
- Broomfield County, Colorado
- Delaware County, Ohio
Los Alamos County, located northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico, took the top spot for the third year in a row, earning a perfect score of 100 in the “housing” category, which assessed data on the affordability, capacity and quality of housing. The county also scored a 94 in infrastructure and population health, which indicates, among other characteristics, strong access to care for physical and mental health.
US News & World Report also noted in 2020 that Los Alamos County excels in accessibility to healthy foods. The small county may weigh more than its weight: it has a population of just 18,976, according to the 2020 census.
Falls Church, a town just west of Arlington, Va. — and less than 10 miles from downtown Washington DC — nabbed second place, earning perfect scores in both the health of the population and education. The city’s public school system was ranked the best school district in Virginia in 2020 and 2021, according to Niche, an organization that provides in-depth reviews of every school and university in the United States.
In third place, Douglas County in Colorado, located just south of Denver, scored a perfect score in the economic health category, which considered data on employment, income and opportunity. The county’s unemployment rate in May was just 2.3%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Colorado’s other top 10, Broomfield County, also scored highly in economic health, as well as population health and infrastructure.
Notably, the first three counties on the list all directly border counties with larger cities and populations — Santa Fe, Washington DC, and Denver, respectively — but none of the top three are home to those cities themselves.
The ranking assessed nearly 3,000 counties and county equivalents in the United States, comparing 10 different categories associated with community health: population health, equity, education, economy, housing, food and nutrition, environment, public safety, community vitality and infrastructure.
More than a dozen population health and wellness experts took part in an online survey to decide the weight of each category, ranking its importance in relation to community health. The overall score for each county was calculated by averaging the scores from the 10 categories.
Register now: Be smarter about your money and your career with our weekly newsletter