Loudoun, Fairfax top happiest place in America rankings

CHANTILLY, Va. — As if it needs another reason to smile, for the second year in a row Loudoun County, Virginia, is ranked as the “happiest county in America,” in a study by financial planning company SmartAssets.

And, neighboring Fairfax County has taken its happiness up a notch over last year’s study, landing at No. 2 for 2016.

Not to be outdone, Maryland’s Howard County is No. 7 and its Montgomery County is No. 19.

The SmartAsset study looks at unemployment, poverty, marriage and bankruptcy rates, combined with life expectancy and physical activity to come up with its rankings.

Loudoun County’s employment rate and poverty rate are both under 4 percent, with Loudoun’s poverty rate being the lowest of any county in the study. Of the nearly 1,000 counties in the study, Loudoun had the fourth-highest income ratio, 2.5, which means the median income is more than twice the cost of living.

Fairfax County, with more than 1.1 million residents is Virginia’s most populous county, and is the largest to rank in the top 25 of the SmartAsset analysis. Fairfax is one of the few U.S. counties with a median household income of more than $100,000, and residents have an average life expectancy of just over 83 years — third highest of any U.S. county.

In Maryland, Howard County has the fifth lowest poverty rate of the nearly 1,000 counties in the study, with just with just 4.6 percent of the population below the poverty line. While the quality of public education isn’t factored into the analysis, Howard’s graduation rate of almost 93 percent is well above both state and national averages.

Montgomery County tops the study in life expectancy, with residents living an average 83.3 years.

Arlington County in Virginia ranked No. 15 in the 2015 rankings, but dropped out of the top 25 rankings in the current study.

Here are the top 10 happiest counties in the U.S., according to the study:

  1. Loudoun, Virginia
  2. Fairfax, Virginia
  3. Carver, Minnesota
  4. York, Virginia
  5. Chester, Pennsylvania
  6. Hunterdon, New Jersey
  7. Howard, Maryland
  8. Douglas, Colorado
  9. Somerset, New Jersey
  10. Ozaukee, Wisconsin

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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