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America's Best Affordable Places 2011

  1. High Quality of Life, Low Cost
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    High Quality of Life, Low Cost

    With the economic recovery yet to gain speed, affordable living has become an important consideration for many Americans. Areas that are not only within means, but also safe and close to a steady job market are becoming more attractive to cost-conscious consumers. Bloomberg Rankings analyzed data on more than 3,000 counties nationwide to select the best affordable place in each state. Metrics such as income, housing expenditure, commute time, educational attainment, ethnic diversity, air quality, unemployment, poverty, and crime were evaluated. The resulting ranking aims not to single out communities with high-end homes or luxurious living, but to focus instead on desirable places that offer a good quality of life and are affordable to people who earn the area's median income. (As quality of life is highly localized, many counties cover a range of neighborhoods, both affordable and expensive.) This list of best places ranges from large urban areas such as Arizona's Maricopa County to sparsely populated suburban and rural counties such as York County in Nebraska. After all, nice places can come in all sizes.

    *Ranking completed by Bloomberg Rankings
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  2. Best Affordable Place in Alabama: Lee County
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    Best Affordable Place in Alabama: Lee County

    Population: 139,307
    Median family income: $57,656
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 28.7 percent
    Unemployment: 8.3 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 30.7 percent
    Major cities: Auburn, Opelika

    Lee County, located in eastern Alabama near Georgia, is known for being home to Auburn University, the state's largest university and the area's biggest employer, according to the county website. The nearby city of Opelika, which has a population of just over 26,000, is also home to the East Alabama Medical Center. Health and education are major employers in the county, U.S. Census Bureau data show.

    Sourcing on all slides: Population, median family income, housing expenditure, education: U.S. Census Bureau

    Unemployment: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    Provided by Bloomberg Rankings
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  3. Best Affordable Place in Alaska: Fairbanks North Star Borough
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    Best Affordable Place in Alaska: Fairbanks North Star Borough

    Population: 98,357
    Median family income: $76,601
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 31.7 percent
    Unemployment: 7.8 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 26.3 percent
    Major cities: Fairbanks, College, Eielson Air Force Base

    The Fairbanks area offers an abundance of outdoor recreation, including viewing the northern lights. The cost of living in Alaska's second-largest city, after Anchorage, is lower than that of many communities in the state and is comparable to Boston, states the city's website. About 3,000 military people work at Eielson Air Force Base, according to materials on the base's website. Census data show that the government and the health-care, education, and retail industries are major employers in Fairbanks North Star Borough.
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  4. Best Affordable Place in Arizona: Maricopa County
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    Best Affordable Place in Arizona: Maricopa County

    Population: 4,063,802
    Median family income: $65,242
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 38.6 percent
    Unemployment: 9.1 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 28 percent
    Major city: Phoenix

    Exclusive areas such as Scottsdale and Paradise Valley may be well-known in Maricopa County, but there are many less-expensive communities such as Gilbert, Chandler, and Tempe, which also have highly ranked schools, according to greatschools.org.
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  5. Best Affordable Place in Arkansas: Pulaski County
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    Best Affordable Place in Arkansas: Pulaski County

    Population: 383,347
    Median family income: $57,324
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 26.2 percent
    Unemployment: 7.3 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 31 percent
    Major cities: Little Rock, North Little Rock, Jacksonville

    The Arkansas River runs through Pulaski County, providing opportunities for boating, fishing, and hiking. U.S. Census data show that the health-care and retail sectors are major employers in the area, which is located in the geographic center of Arkansas. According to the county website, medical facilities and practices employ more than 34,000 people in Pulaski County. Little Rock is home to such major health facilities as the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Baptist Medical Center, John McClelland Veteran's Affairs Hospital, St. Vincent Infirmary Center, and the Arkansas Heart Hospital.
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  6. Best Affordable Place in California: Orange County
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    Best Affordable Place in California: Orange County

    Population: 3,058,905
    Median family income: $83,338
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 50.1 percent
    Unemployment: 9.2 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 35.2 percent
    Major cities: Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine

    Orange County may be known for high-end beach communities such as Laguna Beach and Newport Beach, but there are more affordable communities in areas such as Anaheim and Irvine, according to the Orange County Business Council. Orange County has 42 miles of coastline, three harbors, and 25 urban and wilderness parks, including 230 miles of riding and hiking trails, according to the county website.
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  7. Best Affordable Place in Colorado: Larimer County
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    Best Affordable Place in Colorado: Larimer County

    Population: 301,307
    Median family income: $73,006
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 37 percent
    Unemployment: 8.5 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 41.4 percent
    Major cities: Fort Collins, Loveland

    Located in north central Colorado and home to an Anheuser-Busch (BUD) brewery, Larimer County has an abundance of outdoor park areas such as Poudre River Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park. Main employers also include Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Celestica (CLS), LSI Logic, Water Pik Technologies, and Colorado State University, according to the county website.
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  8. Best Affordable Place in Connecticut: Tolland County
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    Best Affordable Place in Connecticut: Tolland County

    Population: 151,060
    Median family income: $91,048
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 30.4 percent
    Unemployment: 8.1 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 36 percent
    Major cities: Mansfield, Vernon

    Tolland County is Connecticut's youngest, with residents' median age at 38 years, according to U.S. Census 2010 data. About one-quarter of the population is aged 19 or less. Many residents commute to state capital Hartford, located just beyond the county line and about 15 miles from the county's largest city, Vernon. Residents in Vernon, which has a population of slightly fewer than 30,000, can enjoy the benefits of suburban life while remaining close to business districts in Hartford or Springfield, Mass., according to Vernon's website.
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  9. Best Affordable Place in Delaware: New Castle County
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    Best Affordable Place in Delaware: New Castle County

    Population: 536,826
    Median family income: $78,052
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 31.1 percent
    Unemployment: 8.8 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 32.1 percent
    Major cities: New Castle, Wilmington, Brandywine

    The state's most affluent county, New Castle County, is also home to Delaware's largest city, Wilmington. The county offers an attractive variety of housing in urban areas, in small towns such as Newark, Delaware City, and New Castle, and in suburbs that include Pike Creek, Hockessin, and Brandywine Hundred, according to the county chamber of commerce.
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  10. Best Affordable Place in Florida: Broward County
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    Best Affordable Place in Florida: Broward County

    Population: 1,788,118
    Median family income: $62,518
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 53.9 percent
    Unemployment: 10.5 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 29.3 percent
    Major cities: Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs, Hollywood, Pembroke Pines

    This part of south Florida may seem like a rough place in TV shows such as TLC's Police Women of Broward County, but the county also has safe areas with good schools, such as Cooper City, Weston, and Davie, according to greatschools.org. The retail and health-care industries are the major employers in the county, U.S. Census data show, and Fort Lauderdale's beaches draw many visitors.
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  11. Best Affordable Place in Georgia: Coweta County
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    Best Affordable Place in Georgia: Coweta County

    Population: 129,433
    Median family income: $68,212
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 30.3 percent
    Unemployment: 9.8 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 24.7 percent
    Major city: Newnan

    While Coweta County is largely rural, it offers easy access to Atlanta. Located southwest of the Big Peach, the county is home to Yamaha Motor Manufacturing, one of the area's largest employers, according to the Newnan Coweta Chamber of Commerce. Coweta's population has expanded rapidly, growing by 65.7 percent from 1990 to 2000, and by 42.7 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the county.
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  12. Best Affordable Place in Hawaii: Maui County
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    Best Affordable Place in Hawaii: Maui County

    Population: 146,584
    Median family income: $72,367
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 50.7 percent
    Unemployment: 7.9 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 25.8 percent
    Major cities: Wailuku, Kahului

    The cost of living across Hawaii is high, but homes are less expensive in parts of Maui County, which includes the islands of Maui, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, and Molokini. According to Hawaii Life Real Estate Services, Kahana Ridge is a popular, affordable neighborhood with newer homes, convenient location, outer-island views, and proximity to beaches and ocean.
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  13. Best Affordable Place in Idaho: Ada County
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    Best Affordable Place in Idaho: Ada County

    Population: 388,624
    Median family income: $66,930
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 32.1 percent
    Unemployment: 9.7 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 34.2 percent
    Major cities: Boise, Meridian, Eagle

    Ada County, home to the capital city of Boise, offers good jobs, affordable housing, and safe communities, according to the county website. U.S. Census Bureau data show that the retail and health-care sectors are major employers in the area. Ada County was recently named a bike-friendly city by the League of American Bicyclists, reported idahostatesman.com.
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  14. Best Affordable Place in Illinois: Woodford County
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    Best Affordable Place in Illinois: Woodford County

    Population: 38,676
    Median family income: $73,460
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 22.7 percent
    Unemployment: 8.1 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 25.1 percent
    Major cities: Eureka, Germantown Hills

    Woodford County is a sparsely populated area in rural central Illinois. It has a low crime rate, and ratings on greatschools.org show that Eureka and Germantown Hills have highly ranked schools. The nearest big city is Peoria, located in an adjacent county with a population of more than 115,000. Among the businesses based in Peoria, is the world headquarters of tractormaker Caterpillar (CAT).
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  15. Best Affordable Place in Indiana: Bartholomew County
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    Best Affordable Place in Indiana: Bartholomew County

    Population: 76,185
    Median family income: $64,075
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 20.6 percent
    Unemployment: 8.3 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 25.8 percent
    Major city: Columbus

    The main city in Bartholomew County, located in southern Indiana, is Columbus, with a population of about 40,000. The city is known for being safe and having impressive examples of modern architecture, including more than 70 buildings and pieces of public art by internationally noted architects and artists that include I.M. Pei, Dale Chihuly, Eliel Saarinen, John Carl Warnecke, Henry Moore, Harry Weese, and Eero Saarinen, according to the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce. Zillow.com estimates that the median home list price in the city in April 2011 stood at $138,900.
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  16. Best Affordable Place in Iowa: Story County
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    Best Affordable Place in Iowa: Story County

    Population: 87,699
    Median family income: $73,702
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 21.1 percent
    Unemployment: 5 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 45.4 percent
    Major cities:
    Ames, Nevada

    Story County, north of Des Moines, is home to Iowa State University in Ames. Education, health care, and government are the largest employers in the county, show U.S. Census data. Ames also has several highly ranked public schools, according to greatschools.org, including Ames High School, Ames Middle School, and Fellow Elementary School.
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  17. Best Affordable Place in Kansas: McPherson County
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    Best Affordable Place in Kansas: McPherson County

    Population: 28,851
    Median family income: $64,280
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 19.5 percent
    Unemployment: 5.4 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 24.3 percent
    Major cities: McPherson, Lindsborg

    Manufacturing and health care are the major employers in McPherson County, show U.S. Census data. The city of McPherson is the county's largest city, located about 60 miles north of Wichita. It has a safe, family-friendly atmosphere and offers 12 parks, two golf courses, and a country club for recreation, according to the city website. The McPherson Unified School District 418 is one of the leading school districts in Kansas, according to the district website.
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  18. Best Affordable Place in Kentucky: Franklin County
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    Best Affordable Place in Kentucky: Franklin County

    Population: 49,004
    Median family income: $62,730
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 22.8 percent
    Unemployment: 10.1 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 27.3 percent
    Major city: Frankfort

    Franklin County contains Frankfort, the state capital and home to Kentucky State University. The area has acres of bluegrass, farmland, distilleries, museums, and a variety of festivals, celebrations, and special events, according to the county website. U.S. Census data show that the county's main employers are government and health care.
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  19. Best Affordable Place in Louisiana: Lafayette Parish
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    Best Affordable Place in Louisiana: Lafayette Parish

    Population: 212,684
    Median family income: $59,910
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 25.4 percent
    Unemployment: 6.6 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 27.7 percent
    Major cities: Lafayette, Scott

    The population of Lafayette Parish has expanded quickly, growing by 16.3 percent from 2000 to 2010, above its 15.6 percent growth rate from 1990 to 2000, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The area has several communities that have been recognized for quality of life, including Youngsville, Lafayette, and Broussard.
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  20. Best Affordable Place in Maine: Cumberland County
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    Best Affordable Place in Maine: Cumberland County

    Population: 276,529
    Median family income: $68,707
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 37.3 percent
    Unemployment: 6.4 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 38.3 percent
    Major cities: Portland, South Portland, Yarmouth

    Luxury homes can be found in Cumberland County areas such as Freeport, Falmouth, and Yarmouth, shows a search on luxuryportfolio.com, but Zillow.com estimates the median list price in the area is about $250,000. The Portland area is the state's main economic hub and provides high-quality, affordable housing and excellent school systems, according to Maine Medical Center. It also has a low violent crime rate—not to mention great shopping: Freeport is home to L.L. Bean and numerous outlet stores.
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  21. Best Affordable Place in Maryland: Anne Arundel County
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    Best Affordable Place in Maryland: Anne Arundel County

    Population: 524,834
    Median family income: $94,950
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 34.1 percent
    Unemployment: 6.7 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 35.3 percent
    Major cities: Annapolis, Severn, Glen Burnie

    Anne Arundel County is home to Maryland's capital, Annapolis. The area's location at Chesapeake Bay enhances quality of life and its proximity to Baltimore and Washington make it "a great place to live, work, and raise a family," according to the county website. Zillow.com estimates that the median home value in the county was $290,000 in March. The county is named for the wife of the second Lord Baltimore, founder of the Maryland colony.
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  22. Best Affordable Place in Massachusetts: Middlesex County
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    Best Affordable Place in Massachusetts: Middlesex County

    Population: 1,516,942
    Median family income: $96,325
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 38.8 percent
    Unemployment: 7 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 48.4 percent
    Major cities: Cambridge, Newton

    There are many expensive parts of Middlesex County, located near Boston, such as Weston and Lincoln. The area also has more affordable suburbs such as Tewksbury and Stoneham. The median home value in the county was $334,300 in March, estimates Zillow.com.
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  23. Best Affordable Place in Michigan: Marquette County
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    Best Affordable Place in Michigan: Marquette County

    Population: 66,040
    Median family income: $60,084
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 20.9 percent
    Unemployment: 9.5 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 28.6 percent
    Major cities: Marquette, Ishpeming

    Apartment rentals in Marquette County start at around $350 per month. Home prices range from $40,000 for older homes to more than $80,000 for newer homes and at least $100,000 for waterfront homes, according to the Lake Superior Community Partnership. Major employers include Marquette General Health System, Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF), Michigan Operations, and Northern Michigan University, show data from the partnership.
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  24. Best Affordable Place in Minnesota: Olmsted County
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    Best Affordable Place in Minnesota: Olmsted County

    Population: 145,269
    Median family income: $79,458
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 25.6 percent
    Unemployment: 5.9 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 39.3 percent
    Major cities: Rochester, Marion

    The largest city in Olmsted County is Rochester, home to the Mayo Clinic, earning the area the title, Med City. According to greatschools.org, Century Senior High School, Washington Elementary School, and Friedell Middle School are among the city's most highly ranked. The median home list price in Rochester was $145,900 in April, according to Zillow.com.
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  25. Best Affordable Place in Mississippi: Lee County
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    Best Affordable Place in Mississippi: Lee County

    Population: 82,390
    Median family income: $50,124
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 28.3 percent
    Unemployment: 10.1 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 21.5 percent
    Major cities: Tupelo, Baldwyn, Verona

    Major industries in Lee County, located in the northeast part of the state and home to a Toyota Plant (TM) in Blue Springs, include the manufacturing, health-care, and retail sectors, show U.S. Census data. Lee County's largest city, Tupelo, is best known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley.
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  26. Best Affordable Place in Missouri: Cole County
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    Best Affordable Place in Missouri: Cole County

    Population: 75,943
    Median family income: $68,482
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 21.6 percent
    Unemployment: 7.5 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 30.4 percent
    Major cities: Jefferson City, Saint Martins

    Cole County, in central Missouri, is home to the state capital, Jefferson City. Government, health care, and education are major employers in the area, show U.S. Census data. Cole County's cost of living is 12.5 percent lower than the U.S. average, according to Sperling's BestPlaces.
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  27. Best Affordable Place in Montana: Yellowstone County
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    Best Affordable Place in Montana: Yellowstone County

    Population: 146,576
    Median family income: $60,630
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 28.6 percent
    Unemployment: 6.3 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 27.7 percent
    Major city: Billings

    Home to Montana's largest city, Billings, Yellowstone County was named for the Yellowstone River that runs through it. The area has many natural park areas, including Pompeys Pillar National Monument, a sandstone rock formation, and Nez Perce National Historical Park, which spreads into Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Billings is known for its quiet neighborhoods and business districts, the city website states.
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  28. Best Affordable Place in Nebraska: York County
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    Best Affordable Place in Nebraska: York County

    Population: 13,754
    Median family income: $62,947
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 33.1 percent
    Unemployment: 11.5 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 18.2 percent
    Major cities: York, Henderson

    The York area, about an hour's drive southwest of Omaha, has an active business community and many recreational and cultural opportunities, states the York Area Chamber of Commerce website. Major employers in this small county include York General Healthcare and York Public Schools, according to the York County Development Corp., and the cost of living is lower than in many other areas of the Midwest.
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  29. Best Affordable Place in Nevada: Churchill County
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    Best Affordable Place in Nevada: Churchill County

    Population: 24,376
    Median family income: $62,947
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 33.1 percent
    Unemployment: 11.5 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 18.2 percent
    Major city: Fallon

    Fallon, the principal city and county seat, "offers a warm hometown atmosphere and an economic climate where businesses can prosper," according to the Churchill Economic Development Authority. Major employers include the Churchill County School District, Churchill Community Hospital, and the county, show data from the Nevada Department of Employment.
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  30. Best Affordable Place in New Hampshire: Rockingham County
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    Best Affordable Place in New Hampshire: Rockingham County

    Population: 298,734
    Median family income: $88,482
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 41.3 percent
    Unemployment: 6.4 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 36 percent
    Major cities: Derry, Portsmouth, Londonderry, Brentwood

    Rockingham County contains the state's entire coastal area, which measures about 18 miles and provides a range of boating, fishing, and swimming opportunities, as well as scenic views. Rockingham is also New Hampshire's healthiest county, according to a report by the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
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  31. Best Affordable Place in New Jersey: Bergen County
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    Best Affordable Place in New Jersey: Bergen County

    Population: 900,766
    Median family income: $99,398
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 47.7 percent
    Unemployment: 8 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 44.2 percent
    Major cities: Fort Lee, Hackensack, Teaneck

    While Bergen County may be known for such wealthy communities as Alpine, Saddle River, Franklin Lakes, and Englewood Cliffs, the area has more affordable areas, such as Fair Lawn, Ridgefield Park, and Leonia. Many residents in the county commute to nearby New York, U.S. Census data show.
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  32. Best Affordable Place in New Mexico: Bernalillo County
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    Best Affordable Place in New Mexico: Bernalillo County

    Population: 648,641
    Median family income: $58,314
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 34.8 percent
    Unemployment: 8.8 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 31.6 percent
    Major city: Albuquerque

    Bernalillo County is located in central New Mexico and stretches from the East Mountain area to the Volcano Cliffs. The city of Albuquerque has 800 neighborhood parks, more than 80 miles of running and biking trails, 220 outdoor tennis courts, 23 ball fields, and year-round golf on 15 golf courses, according to the city's website.
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  33. Best Affordable Place in New York: Onondaga County
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    Best Affordable Place in New York: Onondaga County

    Population: 455,912
    Median family income: $65,458
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 26.4 percent
    Unemployment: 8.2 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 31.5 percent
    Major cities: Syracuse, Salina, Clay

    With a cost of living about 18 percent below the U.S. average, according to Sperling's BestPlaces, Syracuse is an affordable city. While its population shrank slightly in the past 10 years, according to 2010 U.S. Census data, other areas in the county have grown, including Pompey, Cicero, and Lysander. Upstate University Health System and Syracuse University are among the area's major employers, according to the county website.
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  34. Best Affordable Place in North Carolina: Buncombe County
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    Best Affordable Place in North Carolina: Buncombe County

    Population: 233,296
    Median family income: $55,394
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 33.5 percent
    Unemployment: 8.4 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 30.6 percent
    Major cities: Asheville, Biltmore Forest, Leicester

    Buncombe County lies in the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina. The cost of living in Asheville and Buncombe County are on par with the national average, according to Sperling's BestPlaces. SAT scores in the Buncombe County School system consistently rank among the top five in North Carolina, states the school district website.
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  35. Best Affordable Place in North Dakota: Cass County
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    Best Affordable Place in North Dakota: Cass County

    Population: 145,303
    Median family income: $67,120
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 23.6 percent
    Unemployment: 4.2 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 34.7 percent
    Major cities: Fargo, West Fargo

    Cass County is No. 1 in this year's ranking of best places. The cost of living in the area is about 12 percent lower than the U.S. average, according to Sperling's BestPlaces, the crime rate is low, and the job market is strong. The Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corp. states on its website: "North Dakota boasts the lowest overall crime rate and the lowest violent crime rate in the nation. The air and water are clean, it's easy to navigate, housing is plentiful and affordable, and schools and medical facilities are outstanding." ACT scores in Fargo public schools are consistently higher than state and national averages, according to Fargo School District No. 1.
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  36. Best Affordable Place in Ohio: Greene County
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    Best Affordable Place in Ohio: Greene County

    Population: 159,384
    Median family income: $70,662
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 24.3 percent
    Unemployment: 9.7 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 33.4 percent
    Major cities: Xenia, Beavercreek

    The heart of Greene County's economy is Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which has attracted high-tech businesses, according to the Dayton Development Coalition. With a cost of living among the lowest in the country, Greene County has 35 parks, as well as large state parks and nature preserves.
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  37. Best Affordable Place in Oklahoma: Cleveland County
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    Best Affordable Place in Oklahoma: Cleveland County

    Population: 248,408
    Median family income: $64,350
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 23.3 percent
    Unemployment: 5.7 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 30.1 percent
    Major cities: Norman, Moore

    Cleveland County is Oklahoma's third-largest in population and second-fastest-growing county, according to the Greater Oklahoma City Partnership. Farming, oil production, and horse breeding are important area industries, according to the county. The cost of living in Norman, the area's largest city and home to the University of Oklahoma, is 15 percent below the U.S. average and the district has several good schools, according to greatschools.org.
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  38. Best Affordable Place in Oregon: Benton County
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    Best Affordable Place in Oregon: Benton County

    Population: 82,792
    Median family income: $69,705
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 31.2 percent
    Unemployment: 7 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 47.7 percent
    Major cities: Corvallis, Philomath

    Benton County in west Oregon is home to Oregon State University in Corvallis. The university has a student body of nearly 24,000 students, representing a significant share of the city's population. The median home value in Benton County was $242,700 in March, estimates Zillow.com.
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  39. Best Affordable Place in Pennsylvania: Cumberland County
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    Best Affordable Place in Pennsylvania: Cumberland County

    Population: 233,881
    Median family income: $73,878
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 24.9 percent
    Unemployment: 7 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 31.6 percent
    Major cities: Carlisle, Mechanicsburg

    Cumberland County is home to the Carlisle Barracks/U.S. Army War College and the Naval Support Station in Mechanicsburg. Carlisle, the largest city in the county, is home to Penn State's law school. The median home value in the county was $164,300 in March, estimates Zillow.com. Carlisle is located about 22 miles from Harrisburg, the state capital.
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  40. Best Affordable Place in Rhode Island: Kent County
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    Best Affordable Place in Rhode Island: Kent County

    Population: 167,905
    Median family income: $77,194
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 41 percent
    Unemployment: 11 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 28.9 percent
    Major cities: Warwick, East Greenwich

    Kent County, which stretches across central Rhode Island, has many recreational areas along the coast, including state forests and parks. The city of Warwick, on the eastern end, forms a major portion of the county and is the state's second-largest city. Among the chief attractions of the region is Narragansett Bay.
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  41. Best Affordable Place in South Carolina: Greenville County
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    Best Affordable Place in South Carolina: Greenville County

    Population: 457,575
    Median family income: $58,138
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 28.1 percent
    Unemployment: 8.1 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 29.1 percent
    Major cities: Greenville, Greer, Mauldin

    Greenville County is the largest in South Carolina, with a population that increased by about 14 percent in the last decade, show 2010 U.S. Census data. It is home to 13 national Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence and, according to Sperling's BestPlaces, the cost of living is 13 percent lower than the U.S. average.
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  42. Best Affordable Place in South Dakota: Brown County
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    Best Affordable Place in South Dakota: Brown County

    Population: 35,779
    Median family income: $57,264
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 23.4 percent
    Unemployment: 4.2 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 24.1 percent
    Major city: Aberdeen

    Brown County, in northern South Dakota, has a very low unemployment rate and the cost of living is among the country's lowest, at 23 percent below average, according to Sperling's BestPlaces. Hunting, fishing, camping, boating, cross-country skiing, bird-watching, biking, and snowmobiling are popular outdoor activities in Aberdeen, the county's largest city.
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  43. Best Affordable Place in Tennessee: Hamilton County
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    Best Affordable Place in Tennessee: Hamilton County

    Population: 340,877
    Median family income: $58,045
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 29.7 percent
    Unemployment: 8.7 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 26.9 percent
    Major cities: Chattanooga, East Brainerd, East Ridge

    Southeast Tennessee's Hamilton County is home to a Volkswagen plant (VOW:GR) in Chattanooga, its largest city. Chattanooga has won several awards for quality of life, as well as nine Gunther Blue Ribbon Awards for excellence in housing and consolidated planning, according to the city website. The county's cost of living is about 15 percent lower than the U.S. average, according to Sperling's BestPlaces.
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  44. Best Affordable Place in Texas: Travis County
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    Best Affordable Place in Texas: Travis County

    Population: 1,054,052
    Median family income: $69,251
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 33.1 percent
    Unemployment: 7 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 43.1 percent
    Major city: Austin

    The population in this central Texas county, home to the state capital of Austin, exploded in the last few decades. From 2000 to 2010, the population increased by 26.1 percent, show U.S. Census data. Austin itself gained nearly 134,000 people in the last 10 years. The city is also home to the University of Texas at Austin and is known for having a vibrant arts and culture scene.
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  45. Best Affordable Place in Utah: Davis County
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    Best Affordable Place in Utah: Davis County

    Population: 304,496
    Median family income: $72,272
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 30.5 percent
    Unemployment: 7.4 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 32.7 percent
    Major cities: Layton, Farmington

    Davis County has experienced rapid growth since the 1940s. The population in 2010 was 306,479, a jump of 28.2 percent over 2000, U.S. Census data show. About one-fourth of all jobs in the area are in government, with a majority of them at the Hill Air Force Base, according to the Davis Chamber of Commerce. Further major employers include the school district, county, and Lagoon (an amusement park).
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  46. Best Affordable Place in Vermont: Windham County
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    Best Affordable Place in Vermont: Windham County

    Population: 43,450
    Median family income: $58,261
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 38.5 percent
    Unemployment: 5.6 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 33.3 percent
    Major cities: Brattleboro, Newfane

    Windham County in southern Vermont offers a variety of outdoor activities, theaters, art galleries, and music centers. Brattleboro, the county's largest city with a population of just over 12,000, is known as an arts community with bookstores, craft stores, galleries, and cafes.
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  47. Best Affordable Place in Virginia: Goochland County
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    Best Affordable Place in Virginia: Goochland County

    Population: 21,398
    Median family income: $86,023
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 28 percent
    Unemployment: 6 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 27.6 percent
    Major cities: Goochland, Maidens

    The population of Goochland County has grown rapidly in the last few decades. The population in 2009 was 21,311, about 26 percent above that in 2000, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates—partly a result of its proximity to Richmond in the east. Goochland is affordable, well-located, and free of the hustle of city and suburban traffic, according to the Goochland County Public Schools website.
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  48. Best Affordable Place in Washington: King County
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    Best Affordable Place in Washington: King County

    Population: 1,948,445
    Median family income: $85,778
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 40.8 percent
    Unemployment: 8.5 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 44.8 percent
    Major cities: Seattle, Bellevue, Federal Way

    While King County is home to Seattle, most of its residents live in suburban areas. The median cost for homes in areas such as Burien and Renton is lower than the rest of the county, data on Zillow.com show. The cost of living in the area is higher than the U.S. average, but is in line with other metropolitan centers that have comparable income levels, according to the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.
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  49. Best Affordable Place in West Virginia: Monongalia County
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    Best Affordable Place in West Virginia: Monongalia County

    Population: 92,246
    Median family income: $58,968
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 20.8 percent
    Unemployment: 6.5 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 34.3 percent
    Major city: Morgantown

    Monongalia County is home to West Virginia University in Morgantown, which is considered the medical, cultural, and commercial hub of the region. Major employers in the area include the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Mylan (MYL), and West Virginia University, according to the Morgantown city website.
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  50. Best Affordable Place in Wisconsin: Winnebago County
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    Best Affordable Place in Wisconsin: Winnebago County

    Population: 163,654
    Median family income: $64,576
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 29 percent
    Unemployment: 6.9 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 24.7 percent
    Major cities: Oshkosh, Menasha, Neenah

    Winnebago County, which borders Lake Winnebago, is home to Oshkosh, one of Bloomberg Businessweek's best places to raise kids in 2010. Students in the Oshkosh Area School District earn high statewide testing scores in reading, math, and social studies, according to the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce. The cost of living in Oshkosh and Winnebago County are lower than the U.S. average, according to Sperling's BestPlaces.
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  51. Best Affordable Place in Wyoming: Sheridan County
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    Best Affordable Place in Wyoming: Sheridan County

    Population: 29,314
    Median family income: $59,369
    Households spending more than 30 percent income on housing: 30.5 percent
    Unemployment: 9 percent
    Adult population with bachelor's degrees: 22.7 percent
    Major city: Sheridan

    Sheridan County is located at the base of the majestic Big Horn Mountains between Yellowstone National Park and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Attractive neighborhoods in the communities of Dayton, Ranchester, and Sheridan are near schools, parks, and churches, according to the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce.

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