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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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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America's Best Affordable Places 2011

High Quality of Life, Low Cost
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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Best Affordable Place in Alabama: Lee County
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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Best Affordable Place in Alaska: Fairbanks North Star Borough
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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Best Affordable Place in Arizona: Maricopa County
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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Best Affordable Place in Arkansas: Pulaski County
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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Best Affordable Place in California: Orange County
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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Best Affordable Place in Colorado: Larimer County
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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Best Affordable Place in Connecticut: Tolland County
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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Best Affordable Place in Delaware: New Castle County
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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Best Affordable Place in Florida: Broward County
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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Best Affordable Place in Georgia: Coweta County
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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Best Affordable Place in Hawaii: Maui County
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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Best Affordable Place in Idaho: Ada County
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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Best Affordable Place in Illinois: Woodford County
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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Best Affordable Place in Indiana: Bartholomew County
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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Best Affordable Place in Iowa: Story County
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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Best Affordable Place in Kansas: McPherson County
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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Best Affordable Place in Kentucky: Franklin County
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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Best Affordable Place in Louisiana: Lafayette Parish
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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Best Affordable Place in Maine: Cumberland County
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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Best Affordable Place in Maryland: Anne Arundel County
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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Best Affordable Place in Massachusetts: Middlesex County
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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Best Affordable Place in Michigan: Marquette County
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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Best Affordable Place in Minnesota: Olmsted County
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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Best Affordable Place in Mississippi: Lee County
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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Best Affordable Place in Missouri: Cole County
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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Best Affordable Place in Montana: Yellowstone County
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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Best Affordable Place in Nebraska: York County
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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Best Affordable Place in Nevada: Churchill County
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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Best Affordable Place in New Hampshire: Rockingham County
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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Best Affordable Place in New Jersey: Bergen County
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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Best Affordable Place in New Mexico: Bernalillo County
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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Best Affordable Place in New York: Onondaga County
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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Best Affordable Place in North Carolina: Buncombe County
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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Best Affordable Place in North Dakota: Cass County
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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Best Affordable Place in Ohio: Greene County
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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Best Affordable Place in Oklahoma: Cleveland County
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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Best Affordable Place in Oregon: Benton County
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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Best Affordable Place in Pennsylvania: Cumberland County
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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Best Affordable Place in Rhode Island: Kent County
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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Best Affordable Place in South Carolina: Greenville County
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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Best Affordable Place in South Dakota: Brown County
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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Best Affordable Place in Tennessee: Hamilton County
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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Best Affordable Place in Texas: Travis County
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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Best Affordable Place in Utah: Davis County
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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Best Affordable Place in Vermont: Windham County
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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Best Affordable Place in Virginia: Goochland County
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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Best Affordable Place in Washington: King County
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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Best Affordable Place in West Virginia: Monongalia County
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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Best Affordable Place in Wisconsin: Winnebago County
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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Best Affordable Place in Wyoming: Sheridan County
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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