Best counties to live in Iowa

Written by:
June 17, 2021
Carl Wycoff // Wikimedia Commons

Best counties to live in Iowa

What makes a particular county the best? Oftentimes, it's a good mix of opportunities for fun outdoor activities and cultural attractions. Throw in some historical sites, good schools, job opportunities, and affordable housing, and the county will most likely have happy residents.

Stacker compiled a list of the best counties to live in Iowa using rankings from Niche. Niche ranks counties by a variety of factors including: public schools, educational attainment, cost of living, and housing.

Many counties on the list are experiencing growth due to their job opportunities, education, or home values. Others are adored for their historic or well-designed value, or devotion to cultural opportunities. Keep reading to see if your county made the list.

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Ann Sullivan-Larson // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Hamilton County

- Population: 14,997
- Median home value: $106,100 (72% own)
- Median rent: $709 (28% rent)
- Median household income: $60,910
- Top public schools: Northeast Hamilton Elementary School (A), South Hamilton Elementary School (B+), Stratford Elementary School (B+)
- Top private schools: St. Thomas Aquinas School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Webster City (B+), Lyon Township (B+), Webster Township (B+)
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Library of Congress // Wikimedia Commons

#24. Boone County

- Population: 26,370
- Median home value: $132,700 (78% own)
- Median rent: $742 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $64,000
- Top public schools: Ogden Middle School (A), Howe Elementary School (B+), Ogden High School (B+)
- Top private schools: Woodward Academy (B), Sacred Heart School (unavailable), Trinity Lutheran School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Boone (B), Colfax Township (A), Jackson Township (B+)
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Smallbones // Wikimedia Commons

#23. Poweshiek County

- Population: 18,388
- Median home value: $141,100 (69% own)
- Median rent: $719 (31% rent)
- Median household income: $53,852
- Top public schools: Grinnell Community Senior High School (A), Davis Elementary School (A), Grinnell Community Middle School (A)
- Top private schools: Central Iowa Christian School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Grinnell (A), Grant Township (B+), Jackson Township (B+)
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Ann Sullivan-Larson // Wikimedia Commons

#22. Hancock County

- Population: 10,802
- Median home value: $102,200 (77% own)
- Median rent: $642 (23% rent)
- Median household income: $61,761
- Top public schools: West Hancock Middle School (B+), West Hancock High School (B), Garner-Hayfield-Ventura High School (B)
- Top private schools: Kanawha Christian School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Forest City (A), Garner (A), Orthel Township (A)
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Scott Romine // Wikimedia Commons

#21. Plymouth County

- Population: 25,068
- Median home value: $163,500 (78% own)
- Median rent: $660 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $67,297
- Top public schools: Le Mars Middle School (A), Hinton Middle School (A), Akron Westfield Elementary School (B+)
- Top private schools: Gehlen Catholic Schools (A), St. Mary's High School (B), St. Catherine-St. Mary's Grade School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Le Mars (B+), Union Township (A), Hinton (B+)
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Daniel Hartwig // Wikimedia Commons

#20. Marshall County

- Population: 39,964
- Median home value: $106,000 (70% own)
- Median rent: $689 (30% rent)
- Median household income: $56,437
- Top public schools: East Marshall Middle School (B+), West Marshall Middle School (B+), East Marshall Elementary School (B+)
- Top private schools: Marshalltown Area Catholic School (unavailable), Marshalltown Christian School (unavailable), Clemons Lutheran School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Marshalltown (B), Vienna Township (A), State Center Township (B)
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Nst101 // Wikimedia Commons

#19. Carroll County

- Population: 20,281
- Median home value: $138,900 (76% own)
- Median rent: $621 (24% rent)
- Median household income: $59,212
- Top public schools: Carroll Middle School (A), Irwin Elementary School (B+), Coon Rapids-Bayard Elementary School (B+)
- Top private schools: Kuemper Catholic School (B)
- Top places to live: Carroll (B+), Washington Township (B+), Breda (B+)
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Scott A. Miller // Wikimedia Commons

#18. Buena Vista County

- Population: 20,058
- Median home value: $115,600 (65% own)
- Median rent: $706 (35% rent)
- Median household income: $57,125
- Top public schools: Albert City-Truesdale Elementary School (B+), Alta Aurelia High School (B+), Newell-Fonda High School (B)
- Top private schools: St. Mary's Schools (A)
- Top places to live: Storm Lake (B+), Hayes Township (B+), Washington Township (B+)
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David Wilson // Wikimedia

#17. Black Hawk County

- Population: 132,393
- Median home value: $147,500 (65% own)
- Median rent: $801 (35% rent)
- Median household income: $53,539
- Top public schools: Helen A. Hansen Elementary School (A), Holmes Junior High School (A), Peet Junior High School (A)
- Top private schools: Waterloo Christian School (A), Valley Lutheran School (B+), Columbus Catholic School (B+)
- Top places to live: Cedar Falls (A), Hudson (B+), Waterloo (B)
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TheCatalyst31 // Wikimedia Commons

#16. Dickinson County

- Population: 17,127
- Median home value: $194,300 (79% own)
- Median rent: $844 (21% rent)
- Median household income: $59,969
- Top public schools: Harris-Lake Park Elementary School (B+), Spirit Lake Middle School (B+), Spirit Lake High School (B+)
- Top private schools:
- Top places to live: Spirit Lake (A), Milford (B), Arnolds Park (B)
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Lynn Betts // Wikimedia Commons

#15. Warren County

- Population: 50,076
- Median home value: $187,200 (79% own)
- Median rent: $807 (21% rent)
- Median household income: $77,048
- Top public schools: Irving Elementary School (A), Norwalk Senior High School (A), Whittier Elementary School (B+)
- Top private schools: Victory Christian Academy (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Norwalk (A), Indianola (B+), Carlisle (B+)
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en:User:Cburnett // Wikimedia Commons

#14. Marion County

- Population: 33,172
- Median home value: $157,300 (71% own)
- Median rent: $721 (29% rent)
- Median household income: $61,038
- Top public schools: Pella Middle School (A), Lincoln Elementary School (A), Jefferson Intermediate School (A)
- Top private schools: Pella Christian High School (A), Pella Christian Grade School (unavailable), Peoria Christian School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Pella (A), Knoxville (B), Lake Prairie Township (A)
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Lolwhynot3498 // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Grundy County

- Population: 12,299
- Median home value: $130,200 (82% own)
- Median rent: $633 (18% rent)
- Median household income: $68,038
- Top public schools: Grundy Center Elementary School (A), Grundy Center Middle School (B+), Dike Elementary School (B+)
- Top private schools: Timothy Christian School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Grant Township (A), Dike (A), Washington Township (A)
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Jonathunder // Wikimedia Commons

#12. Winneshiek County

- Population: 20,262
- Median home value: $177,300 (79% own)
- Median rent: $702 (21% rent)
- Median household income: $65,263
- Top public schools: Decorah High School (A), Decorah Middle School (A), Carrie Lee Elementary School (A)
- Top private schools: St. Benedict School (unavailable), CFS (Calmar/Festina/Spillville) Catholic School (unavailable), De Sales School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Decorah (A), Decorah Township (A), Springfield Township (A)
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Jim Roberts // Wikimedia Commons

#11. Bremer County

- Population: 24,864
- Median home value: $165,700 (83% own)
- Median rent: $661 (17% rent)
- Median household income: $70,395
- Top public schools: Denver Middle School (A), Denver Elementary School (A), Waverly-Shell Rock Middle School (A)
- Top private schools: St. Paul's Lutheran School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Waverly (A), Jefferson Township (A), Denver (A)
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Tony Webster // Wikicommons

#10. Woodbury County

- Population: 102,586
- Median home value: $123,300 (66% own)
- Median rent: $787 (34% rent)
- Median household income: $59,224
- Top public schools: Bronson Elementary School (A), Sergeant Bluff-Luton Senior High School (A), Woodbury Central High School (A)
- Top private schools: Bishop Heelan Catholic High School (A), Siouxland Community Christian School (B), Mater Dei School Nativity Center (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Sergeant Bluff (A), Sioux City (B+), Woodbury Township (A)
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en:User:Cburnett // Wikimedia Commons

#9. Jefferson County

- Population: 18,148
- Median home value: $118,300 (66% own)
- Median rent: $685 (34% rent)
- Median household income: $47,708
- Top public schools: Pekin Middle School (B+), Pekin Elementary School (B+), Washington Elementary School (B)
- Top private schools: Maharishi School (A+)
- Top places to live: Fairfield (A), Center Township (A), Maharishi Vedic City (B+)
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FluffyGryphon // Wikimedia Commons

#8. Dubuque County

- Population: 96,982
- Median home value: $166,800 (73% own)
- Median rent: $783 (27% rent)
- Median household income: $63,031
- Top public schools: Farley Elementary School (A), Epworth Elementary School (A), Dyersville Elementary School (A)
- Top private schools: Wahlert Catholic High School (A), Beckman Catholic School (B+), St. Francis Xavier Elementary School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Asbury (A), Dyersville (A), Dubuque (A)
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Jim Roberts // Wikimedia Commons

#7. Linn County

- Population: 223,861
- Median home value: $157,000 (74% own)
- Median rent: $761 (26% rent)
- Median household income: $64,903
- Top public schools: Indian Creek Elementary School (A), Westfield Elementary School (A), Oak Ridge School (A)
- Top private schools: Xavier High School (A), Cedar Valley Christian School (B), LaSalle Middle School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Mount Vernon (A+), Robins (A), Marion (A)
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formulanone // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Scott County

- Population: 172,446
- Median home value: $163,200 (69% own)
- Median rent: $793 (31% rent)
- Median household income: $61,183
- Top public schools: Hopewell Elementary (A+), Pleasant View Elementary (A+), Pleasant Valley Junior High School (A+)
- Top private schools: Rivermont Collegiate (A+), Assumption High School (A), Morning Star Academy (B+)
- Top places to live: Bettendorf (A+), Le Claire (A+), Eldridge (A)
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Josejuan05 // Wikimedia Commons

#5. Sioux County

- Population: 34,827
- Median home value: $167,500 (80% own)
- Median rent: $726 (20% rent)
- Median household income: $69,844
- Top public schools: Orange City Elementary School (A), Hospers Elementary School (A), MOC-Floyd Valley Middle School (A)
- Top private schools: Unity Christian High School (B+), Western Christian High School (B+), Netherlands Reformed Christian School (C+)
- Top places to live: Orange City (A+), Sioux Center (A), Alton (A)
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Katie Haugland Bowen // Flickr

#4. Polk County

- Population: 479,612
- Median home value: $179,900 (67% own)
- Median rent: $910 (33% rent)
- Median household income: $67,637
- Top public schools: Ankeny Centennial High School (A), Prairie Trail Elementary School (A), Prairie Ridge Middle School (A)
- Top private schools: Dowling Catholic High School (A), Des Moines Christian School (A), Grand View Christian School (A)
- Top places to live: West Des Moines (A+), Linden Heights (A+), Urbandale (A+)
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Billwhittaker // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Johnson County

- Population: 148,577
- Median home value: $227,600 (58% own)
- Median rent: $972 (42% rent)
- Median household income: $62,542
- Top public schools: West Senior High School (A+), Iowa City High School (A), Lincoln Elementary School (A)
- Top private schools: Hillcrest Academy (A), Regina Catholic Education Center (A), Heritage Christian School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: University Heights (A+), Coralville (A+), North Liberty (A+)
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Carl Wycoff // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Story County

- Population: 96,941
- Median home value: $185,800 (54% own)
- Median rent: $905 (46% rent)
- Median household income: $56,756
- Top public schools: Ames High School (A+), Gilbert Intermediate School (A), Gilbert High School (A)
- Top private schools: St. Cecilia Elementary School (unavailable), Ames Christian School (unavailable), Nevada Seventh-day Adventist School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Ames (A+), Gilbert (A), Huxley (A)
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Stephen Matthew Milligan // Wikimedia Commons

#1. Dallas County

- Population: 87,099
- Median home value: $248,100 (74% own)
- Median rent: $1,045 (26% rent)
- Median household income: $88,479
- Top public schools: Grant Ragan Elementary School (A), Eason Elementary School (A), Waukee Middle School (A)
- Top private schools: St. Francis of Assisi School (unavailable), St. Patrick's Catholic School (unavailable), Dallas Center Christian School (unavailable)
- Top places to live: Clive (A+), Waukee (A+), Adel (A)

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