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Best county to raise a family in every state

Written by:
August 24, 2020

Best county to raise a family in every state

Known in other parts of the world as shires, provinces, or territories, the United States’ counties (also known in certain states as boroughs or parishes) date back to the 1600s, when settlers first came to find freedom from British rule. Today, those counties remain, with the 50 states divided into several, each with its own unique makeup.

For couples looking to find a home to raise a family, the county they choose is an important decision. Most families place affordable homes, safe neighborhoods, a quality school system, and family-friendly activities at the top of their wishlists. After all, everyone wants a bit of the American dream.

Stacker compiled a list of the best counties to raise a family in every state using Niche 2020 rankings. Niche ranks counties by a variety of factors including income, housing, and public schools. More details on their methodology can be found here.

These 50 U.S. counties are the best places to raise a family. They feature the top schools in their respective states and fun, family-friendly activities for every season. From annual summer fairs to fall festivals, winter ski adventures, and spring bike rides, there is something to satisfy both parents and kids. Home to everything from the oldest Fourth of July Parade to the world’s largest space attraction, they are as diverse as the United States and the many families who call them home. Some lie along scenic coastlines, while others offer mountainous terrain. One county offers fishing villages surrounded by local wildlife. Another features a booming economy, thanks to the prosperous technology companies where many of its residents work. One New England county offers not only some of the best public schools in the state but also the best private boarding school in the country.

From east to west and north to south, join Stacker as we explore the best counties to raise a family. Maybe you’ll find one that suits your brood.

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Alabama: Madison County

- Population: 357,560
- Median household income: $63,417

Located in the scenic Tennessee Valley, Madison County, Alabama, offers affordable housing, and over 67% of its residents own their homes. In addition to the many family-friendly recreational activities provided by its access to the Tennessee River, including picnics, camping, and hiking, Madison County also has the world’s largest space attraction, The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.

Alaska: Kodiak Island Borough

- Population: 13,649
- Median household income: $78,281

For those who want to raise their families nestled in a tranquil Alaskan fishing village surrounded by local wildlife, Kodiak Island Borough may be the perfect home. With the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge and over 3,000 Kodiak brown bears, the borough, situated in the Gulf of Alaska, also features the largest fishing port in the state. It also offers the best public schools of all 15 counties in Alaska, as well as many family activities including Salmon Camp, an award-winning science camp, and the Kodiak Crab Festival.

Arizona: Maricopa County

- Population: 4.3 million
- Median household income: $61,606

Maricopa County, Arizona, is the fastest growing county in the U.S. Offering those raising families over 120,000 acres of open space, it has one of the largest regional park systems in the country. With everything from well-known cities like Scottsdale and the county seat, Phoenix, to quaint towns with cool names like Carefree and Paradise Valley, and the ghost towns of Sundad and Vulture City, Maricopa County offers a little bit of everything. Families can also enjoy activities for all ages, including botanical gardens, mountains, and amusement parks.

Arkansas: Benton County

- Population: 258,980
- Median household income: $64,141

With a median household income higher than the national average and affordable homes, Benton County, Arkansas, is a great place to call home. The Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce calls the city of Bentonville the mountain biking capital of the world. It’s easy to spend quality family time in the great outdoors on scenic walking trails, in a drive-through wilderness safari, or exploring a local cave.

California: Santa Clara County

- Population: 1.9 million
- Median household income: $116,178

Home to Silicon Valley and many of the largest technology companies in the world, including Google, Apple, and Yahoo, Santa Clara County has a booming and robust economy. It’s not only a great place to work, but its top-notch public education system makes this a desirable place to raise a family. Santa Clara County also offers an eclectic mix of neighborhoods, from walkable urban centers with access to family-friendly shops and restaurants, to suburban residential areas with walking paths and playgrounds.

Colorado: Douglas County

- Population: 328,614
- Median household income: $115,314

Of the 843 miles that make up Douglas County, 63,037 acres are permanently-protected land. It is truly a place for recreation, offering more than 146,000 acres for outdoor enthusiasts, including two state parks and a recreation area. With all the outdoor recreation opportunities and a low crime rate, it should come as no surprise that Douglas county ranked as the healthiest county in the state for the fourth consecutive year.

Connecticut: Fairfield County

- Population: 944,348
- Median household income: $92,969

Known as the Gold Coast, Fairfield County is home to several of the state's most-affluent communities including New Canaan and Darien. Though several films focusing on disillusionment about the American dream and family were filmed in Fairfield County, including “The Stepford Wives” and “The Ice Storm,” in truth it’s a wonderful place to raise a family. Its close proximity to New York City allows for unlimited employment and entertainment opportunities for all ages, though the county itself is home to four of the state’s largest cities, several major employers, and a wonderful public school system.

Delaware: New Castle County

- Population: 555,133
- Median household income: $70,996

New Castle County, Delaware, offers affordable homes and an above-average public school system. Known for its regional and recreational parks, the county offers many outdoor, family-friendly activities. Whether it’s enjoying the historic Rockwood Park & Museum, a family dog walk with Fido at the local "Bark Park," or catching up with the minor league baseball team, there is always something for families to do in New Castle County.

Florida: Seminole County

- Population: 455,086
- Median household income: $63,760

Seminole County provides affordable housing and excellent schools in an area with warm year-round temperatures. It boasts an attractive array of waterways and is in close proximity to Walt Disney World and Florida's beaches, making the county a good choice for raising a family in a community that doesn't feel touristy but is still a short drive away to tourist destinations. 

Georgia: Oconee County

- Population: 37,017
- Median household income: $88,308

In addition to affordable home prices and low crime rates, 83% of residents in Oconee County, Georgia, own their homes. Antiques, Clydesdale horses, rivers, and a historic covered bridge are some of the exciting family offerings in Oconee County.

Hawaii: Honolulu County

- Population: 987,638
- Median household income: $82,906

Named as the #1 healthiest county in Hawaii, Honolulu County’s moderate climate makes it possible to soak up Vitamin D and enjoy outdoor activities like surfing and boating all year long. Known for the many open markets where local farmers and fishermen sell produce and seafood, as well as the community gardens, the county offers a healthy, family-friendly way of life.

Idaho: Ada County

- Population: 446,052
- Median household income: $63,137

With an average commute time of around 20 minutes, Ada County, Idaho, is not only a convenient place to work, but one that allows for ample family time. Featuring fantastic schools, a river to float on, and walkable outdoor spaces and recreation areas, including an area with access to the Oregon Trail ruts left by early American pioneers, Ada County is a safe and family-friendly place to call home.

Illinois: DuPage County

- Population: 931,743
- Median household income: $88,711

Known for its safe suburban neighborhoods, charming downtown areas, and a wonderful public school system, DuPage County is an ideal place to raise a family. It is also filled with urban parks, an arboretum, and a children’s museum. The DuPage Forest Preserve offers families 26,000 acres, 145 miles of trails, and 60 preserves for hiking, camping, and biking.

Indiana: Hamilton County

- Population: 316,095
- Median household income: $94,644

Offering a friendly Midwestern vibe and a small-town feel, Hamilton County, Indiana, is well-loved by local residents. A community calendar packed with family-friendly events like a fall festival, summer concerts, and a monarch butterfly migration celebration make Hamilton County a wonderful place for kids and parents alike.

Iowa: Dallas County

- Population: 84,002
- Median household income: $84,790

Dallas County, Iowa, has low crime rates and affordable homes. Excellent schools help 98.4% of students graduate from high school. A perfect blend of history, including two old train depots, and outdoor opportunities, featuring several wildlife areas, make Dallas County a great place for families to find adventure.

Kansas: Johnson County

- Population: 585,502
- Median household income: $84,915

Both family-friendly and affordable, Johnson County, Kansas, is truly a nice place to live. An active parks and recreation department provides a robust schedule of activities and educational opportunities for kids and families.

Kentucky: Oldham County

- Population: 65,374
- Median household income: $97,597

Just 20 miles northeast of Louisville, Oldham County is a safe, affordable, and welcoming place for families. The school district is made up of a preschool, nine elementary schools, four middle schools, three high schools, and an alternative school, as well as centers for careers, the arts, and community education. With a high graduation rate and top scores for proficiency and academics, Oldham County offers top-notch educational options.

Louisiana: Ascension Parish

- Population: 121,176
- Median household income: $76,589

80% of residents in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, own their homes. Its diversity and rich history make it not only a wonderful place to raise a family but an interesting and eclectic one. A waterpark, community theater, and an African American museum round out an extensive, fun, and educational list of things for families to do together in Ascension Parish.

Maine: Cumberland County

- Population: 290,944
- Median household income: $69,708

Not only was Cumberland County voted the best county to raise a family in the state of Maine, it was also voted the best county for outdoor activities in the state, with both winter and summer opportunities that include ski resorts, beaches, and lakes. As the largest of Maine’s 16 counties, it boasts some of the top-rated schools in the state. In fact, four of the top 10 high schools in Maine are located in Cumberland County.

Maryland: Howard County

- Population: 315,327
- Median household income: $117,730

Steeped in a history that predates the arrival of British settlers, Howard County, Maryland, also offers an excellent public school system and safe neighborhoods. Not only does it hold the distinction of being the best county to raise a family in the state, but it is also the state’s best county to buy a house and the best county to live in.

Massachusetts: Middlesex County

- Population: 1.6 million
- Median household income: $97,012

With a deep history offering its residents historic and fun outdoor places to gather, like Minute Man National Park and Walden Woods, it comes as no surprise that Middlesex County is also the best county for outdoor activities in Massachusetts. A high walkability score allows many families to live within a walkable distance to family-friendly places like parks and libraries. Fantastic public schools and safe neighborhoods make this county a true gem.

Michigan: Washtenaw County

- Population: 365,961
- Median household income: $69,434

Home to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County is a bustling area that offers safe towns and excellent schools. Families can come together at one of the many community activities offered by the county's parks and recreation department. Washtenaw County is also famous for its lakes, which offer family fun for all seasons and include everything from family campouts in the summer to ice fishing events in the winter.

Minnesota: Hennepin County

- Population: 1.2 million
- Median household income: $74,113

Just over 77% of the population of Hennepin County, Minnesota, is within a walkable distance to a park. Walkability is just one of the lures for families who call this Minnesota county home. A sense of community, friendly residents, and access to both a major metropolitan hub and surrounding suburban towns make Hennepin County a great place to live.

Mississippi: Madison County

- Population: 103,498
- Median household income: $71,690

A wonderfully diverse and safe place to raise a family, Madison County, Mississippi, also boasts affordable homes with a side of Southern hospitality. Known for its close-knit, family-friendly vibe, Madison County offers family-friendly activities and bustling local businesses.

Missouri: St. Louis County

- Population: 998,684
- Median household income: $65,300

Also voted the #1 county in Missouri for outdoor activities, St. Louis County offers easy access to everything. Affordability and an excellent public school system make this a great place for families. The county even has free activities for every age and sensibility, including a park that is 500 acres larger than New York City’s Central Park, educational museums, and a famous St. Louis landmark with a view.

Montana: Gallatin County

- Population: 104,729
- Median household income: $61,499

The scenic Rocky Mountains provide the backdrop for Gallatin County, Montana. Families who call this county home have easy access to ski the powdery white slopes of one of the largest ski resorts in the United States (located in Gallatin and Madison counties), experience outdoor adventures at Yellowstone National Park (in nearby Gallatin County), and simply enjoy the outdoor wonder that miles of wilderness offer. With safe neighborhoods and good schools, Gallatin County is the perfect family place.

Nebraska: Douglas County

- Population: 554,992
- Median household income: $61,688

Douglas County, Nebraska, has a strong sense of community, Midwestern values, good schools, and affordable homes. The city of Omaha, the largest city in the county (and the state), offers so much to do, with a theater featuring kid-friendly shows, a model railroad garden, and exciting, family-oriented events. It’s no wonder that Douglas County is the #1 county in Nebraska to raise a family.

Nevada: Washoe County

- Population: 450,486
- Median household income: $61,155

From sleepy suburban towns located on the shores of Lake Tahoe to the biggest little city in the world, Washoe County offers a diverse list of places for families to live. Its access to Lake Tahoe and other natural outdoor wonders affords its residents the opportunity to swim, boat, and hike in some of the most scenic beauty Nevada has to offer.

New Hampshire: Rockingham County

- Population: 305,129
- Median household income: $90,429

Situated along New Hampshire’s coastline, Rockingham County offers some of the best educational opportunities both publicly (with low student-to-teacher ratios) and privately (including one of the country's top boarding schools). Made up of quaint New England towns and seaside communities, it is a safe place to enjoy family-friendly activities like swimming at a coastal resort or riding a historic wooden roller coaster at a local amusement park.

New Jersey: Somerset County

- Population: 330,176
- Median household income: $111,772

A diverse and welcoming community, Somerset County, New Jersey, is both safe and convenient, with a manageable commute time to New York City. With a per-pupil-expenditure much higher than the national median, and top-performing schools, education is paramount in Somerset County. Outdoor activities also rate high here, with many mountains, parks, and lakes for families to enjoy.

New Mexico: Los Alamos County

- Population: 18,356
- Median household income: $115,248

Rated the healthiest community in the United States, 67.7% of Los Alamos County’s residents live within half a mile of a walkable destination, and 74% own their homes. Excellent schools and low crime rates are two other benefits of living in the county. Los Alamos County offers a skatepark, aquatic center, ice rink, and many family-friendly outdoor activities, while leaving plenty of time to do them thanks to a mean travel-to-work time of 16.2 minutes.

New York: Westchester County

- Population: 968,815
- Median household income: $92,758

Set in scenic Hudson Valley, while still offering an easy commute to New York City’s employment and cultural opportunities, Westchester County is an appealing area for families. The county also boasts a median household income well above the national average, a high per-pupil expenditure, and safe neighborhoods.

North Carolina: Wake County

- Population: 1.0 million
- Median household income: $76,956

Wake County, North Carolina, offers families things to do both inside, with museums of science and art plus several just for kids, and outside, thanks to county parks, a river trail, and an arboretum. With a low unemployment rate and many high-tech and biotechnology companies, the county is not only a great place to raise a family but a wonderful place to work as well.

North Dakota: Cass County

- Population: 174,202
- Median household income: $62,031

Affordable homes, low unemployment rates, and wonderful public schools make Cass County, North Dakota, a solid place for families to live. A mean travel-to-work time of 16 minutes allows families to spend more time together. Whether meeting exotic animals at the zoo or playing at one of the local parks, Cass County is a fun place for families.

Ohio: Delaware County

- Population: 197,008
- Median household income: $104,322

Delaware County, Ohio, has a tight-knit feel and offers many local community activities, including an annual county fair. It also has a high community health ranking, safe streets, and amazing schools. With a zoo, caverns and a state park, there is always something to keep families entertained in Delaware County.

Oklahoma: Tulsa County

- Population: 642,781
- Median household income: $53,902

Tulsa County, Oklahoma, is an extremely-affordable place for families to lay down roots. Home to several parks as well as community and recreation centers, it is unsurprisingly the best county for outdoor activities in the state. The city of Tulsa’s bustling downtown also helps to make this a wonderful community to call home.

Oregon: Benton County

- Population: 89,780
- Median household income: $58,655

The local event center and fairground lends Benton County, Oregon, a small-town, community feel that offers many family-friendly activities, including an annual county fair and rodeo. A fantastic public school system and short commute times make Benton County a great place for families.

Pennsylvania: Montgomery County

- Population: 821,301
- Median household income: $88,166

Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, boasts both a healthy economy and population. Its 6,000 acres of public open space help to make this the healthiest county in Pennsylvania. Whether it’s walking on one of the regional trails, playing in one of the nine parks, or learning about the history of this wonderful place, everyone in the family will find something of interest.

Rhode Island: Bristol County

- Population: 48,900
- Median household income: $75,578

With an annual Fourth of July celebration that dates back to 1785, Bristol County, Rhode Island, offers families a historic, quintessential New England home. Oceanfront parks and scenic bike paths, coupled with safe neighborhoods and great schools, make Bristol County the best in the state to raise a family.

South Carolina: Greenville County

- Population: 498,402
- Median household income: $56,789

Home to a bustling city with a packed events calendar as well as quiet suburban neighborhoods with affordable homes, Greenville County, South Carolina, offers families so much. Good schools, friendly people, and low crime rates round out the many reasons families live and work in Greenville County.

South Dakota: Lincoln County

- Population: 54,914
- Median household income: $81,422

Lincoln County, South Dakota, is a healthy place to live, with a robust economy that features low unemployment rates and high home-ownership rates. The fastest-growing county in the state also offers families a safe place to live.

Tennessee: Williamson County

- Population: 218,648
- Median household income: $109,026

Checking many boxes with a booming economy, low crime rates, and great schools, it’s no wonder that Williamson County is the #1 county to raise a family in Tennessee. Year-round family events, a wellness center, a performing arts center, and an indoor soccer field offer families many options for spending quality time together.

Texas: Collin County

- Population: 944,350
- Median household income: $94,192

Diverse and affordable, Collin County also boasts a higher-than-average median household income and an excellent public school system. Whether it’s swimming at the local lake, playing at one of many town parks, or riding one of the bike trails, the warm Texas days afford many opportunities for families to enjoy a multitude of outdoor activities.

Utah: Davis County

- Population: 340,621
- Median household income: $79,690

Filled with wondrous beauty, Davis County, Utah, offers unique family-friendly activities like a buffalo sightseeing safari on Antelope Island and hikes in cavernous mountains. The county also has excellent schools, a homeownership rate of 78%, and a short mean travel-to-work time.

Vermont: Chittenden County

- Population: 162,052
- Median household income: $69,896

Located between Lake Champlain and the scenic Green Mountains, Chittenden County is a beautiful and healthy place to raise a family. A sleepy, hometown feel makes this a magical place to enjoy the splendor of all four seasons.

Virginia: Loudoun County

- Population: 385,143
- Median household income: $136,268

The wealthiest county in the United States, Loudoun County, Virginia, is also a commutable distance to the nation’s capital. Families love it for the excellent schools and safe neighborhoods. The packed events calendar, including fairs, air shows, and parades, makes it an exciting place to live.

Washington: King County

- Population: 2.2 million
- Median household income: $89,418

Almost half the population of King County, Washington, live within half a mile of a walkable destination. The county seat is the bustling city of Seattle, which features many family-friendly activities including a modern landmark with a view, a permanent farmers market on nine acres, and many parks and museums. It isn’t all about city life in King County, though—there is a diverse mix of urban and suburban neighborhoods. With an amazing public school system, the county offers families a great place to call home.

West Virginia: Monongalia County

- Population: 105,252
- Median household income: $49,926

Filled with both lakes and mountains, Monongalia County, West Virginia, offers a diverse landscape for families. Created in 1776 as the country celebrated its independence, the county is a historic gem. Monongalia is also an affordable place to live, with friendly people, low crime rates, and a quality school system with a high school graduation rate higher than that of the national average.

Wisconsin: Waukesha County

- Population: 398,879
- Median household income: $84,331

A healthy, economically-sound place for families, Waukesha County, Wisconsin, also features short commute times that allow families to spend more time together. Often referred to as Lake Country by local residents for the sheer number of lakes, four-season fun in the county consists of water activities including boating, skating, and fishing.

Wyoming: Teton County

- Population: 23,059
- Median household income: $83,831

Families with a love for the great outdoors will find an ideal home in Teton County, Wyoming. Home to Jackson Hole and a big portion of Yellowstone National Park, Teton County also ranks as one of the healthiest counties in Wyoming. Thanks to a high per-pupil expenditure and high school graduation rate, families also love the public school system. Low crime rates and a bustling economy make Teton County a great place to raise a family.

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