The 10 Best Counties To Live In California For 2021


Using science and data, we can tell you which counties in California have the most for people looking to make the move to California.

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the best counties to live in California.

Some of you might be asking yourself, at this very moment: is California a good place?

The answer is unequivocally yes... if you know where to locate the best places to live in California.

Lucky for you, we're here to help you identify the best counties to live in the Golden State based on the most recently available data from the Census. And this isn't our first rodeo -- we've been helping people find the best places to live in America for years.

So, the question becomes, if you wanted to relocate to the best part of California, where would you go? To answer that we looked at crime, cost of living, and demographic data for all 58 counties in the state.

After the analytic dust settled, we identified the 10 best counties to live in Golden State for 2021.

Marin County is the county to be when it comes to living the good life in California. And you might want to avoid Kern County if you can -- at least according to the data.

So if you're thinking of making the move California, we've got you covered. Keep on reading for a detailed methodology.

Or, check out the best places to live in California and the cheapest places to live in California.

The Best Counties To Live In California For 2021

1. Marin County

Belvedere, CA

Biggest Place: San Rafael

Population: 259,943
Median Income: $115,246 (3rd best)
Median Home Price: $995,800.0 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 371.1% (2nd best)
More on Marin County: PhotosData

2. Placer County

Auburn, CA

Biggest Place: Roseville

Population: 385,512
Median Income: $89,691 (8th best)
Median Home Price: $471,500.0 (18th best)
Unemployment Rate: 424.3% (7th best)
More on Placer County: PhotosData

3. Sonoma County

Cloverdale, CA

Source: Public domain

Biggest Place: Santa Rosa

Population: 499,772
Median Income: $81,018 (15th best)
Median Home Price: $609,600.0 (10th best)
Unemployment Rate: 435.4% (10th best)
More on Sonoma County: PhotosData

4. Napa County

American Canyon, CA

Biggest Place: Napa

Population: 139,623
Median Income: $88,596 (9th best)
Median Home Price: $635,900.0 (8th best)
Unemployment Rate: 447.3% (11th best)
More on Napa County: PhotosData

5. El Dorado County

Placerville, CA

Biggest Place: El Dorado Hills

Population: 188,563
Median Income: $83,377 (12th best)
Median Home Price: $460,900.0 (19th best)
Unemployment Rate: 546.2% (23rd best)
More on El Dorado County: PhotosData

6. San Mateo County

Atherton, CA

Source: Public domain

Biggest Place: Daly City

Population: 767,423
Median Income: $122,641 (2nd best)
Median Home Price: $1,089,400.0 (2nd best)
Unemployment Rate: 373.8% (3rd best)
More on San Mateo County: PhotosData

7. San Luis Obispo County

Arroyo Grande, CA

Biggest Place: San Luis Obispo

Population: 282,165
Median Income: $73,518 (18th best)
Median Home Price: $574,000.0 (14th best)
Unemployment Rate: 403.0% (4th best)
More on San Luis Obispo County: PhotosData

8. San Francisco County

San Francisco, CA

Biggest Place: San Francisco

Population: 874,961
Median Income: $112,449 (4th best)
Median Home Price: $1,097,800.0 (best)
Unemployment Rate: 421.6% (6th best)
More on San Francisco County: PhotosData

9. Santa Clara County

Burbank, CA

Source: Public domain

Biggest Place: San Jose

Population: 1,927,470
Median Income: $124,055 (best)
Median Home Price: $984,000.0 (4th best)
Unemployment Rate: 427.6% (8th best)
More on Santa Clara County: PhotosData

10. Orange County

Aliso Viejo, CA

Biggest Place: Anaheim

Population: 3,168,044
Median Income: $90,234 (7th best)
Median Home Price: $679,300.0 (7th best)
Unemployment Rate: 462.3% (14th best)
More on Orange County: PhotosData

How do you determine which California county is the best?

To give you the best county in California, we have to look at a handful of metrics that signal the quality of a place. To do that, we need to make some assumptions about what's a "best county" and what isn't. And, for reference, we are trying to make the kind of argument you'd make at a bar using facts, don't take this analysis to court.

With that in mind, we went to two of the best sources of data on the internet; the American Community Survey data and FBI Crime data for the most recent time period.

We paid particular attention to:

  • Violent Crime Rates
  • Property Crime Rates
  • Median Home Values
  • Median Income
  • Unemployment Rates
  • Adult Education Levels
  • Health Insurance Coverage
  • Poverty Rates

We then ranked each county in California across each of the criteria from one to 58, with one being the best.

Taking the average rank across all criteria, we created a quality of life score with the county posting the lowest overall score being the "Best County To Live In California".

The result is some of the safest, quiet, and best counties to raise a family in the Golden State.

Read on to see why Marin County is the best county, while Kern County is probably in contention for being the worst county in California.

There You Have It - The Best Counties In California To Call Home For 2018

It turns out living in California can vary from one part of the state to the next -- who woulda thought?

But now you the know the really good parts and the parts to avoid and that's why you came here to learn at the end of the day. And for that, you are welcome.

Here's a look at the worst counties in California according to the data:

  1. Kern County
  2. Merced County
  3. Tehama County

For more California reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Best Counties In California

County Rank Population Median Income Median Home Price
Marin County 1 259,943 $115,246 $995,800.0
Placer County 2 385,512 $89,691 $471,500.0
Sonoma County 3 499,772 $81,018 $609,600.0
Napa County 4 139,623 $88,596 $635,900.0
El Dorado County 5 188,563 $83,377 $460,900.0
San Mateo County 6 767,423 $122,641 $1,089,400.0
San Luis Obispo County 7 282,165 $73,518 $574,000.0
San Francisco County 8 874,961 $112,449 $1,097,800.0
Santa Clara County 9 1,927,470 $124,055 $984,000.0
Orange County 10 3,168,044 $90,234 $679,300.0
Contra Costa County 11 1,142,251 $99,716 $625,800.0
Ventura County 12 847,263 $88,131 $588,400.0
San Benito County 13 60,376 $86,958 $551,500.0
Alameda County 14 1,656,754 $99,406 $769,300.0
Nevada County 15 99,244 $66,096 $431,000.0
Santa Cruz County 16 273,962 $82,234 $756,600.0
Calaveras County 17 45,514 $63,158 $319,500.0
Plumas County 18 18,660 $55,359 $242,300.0
Solano County 19 441,829 $81,472 $406,900.0
Amador County 20 38,429 $62,772 $313,700.0
San Diego County 21 3,316,073 $78,980 $563,700.0
Mono County 22 14,310 $62,260 $312,500.0
Yolo County 23 217,352 $70,228 $424,900.0
Tuolumne County 24 54,045 $60,108 $289,200.0
Inyo County 25 17,977 $57,316 $269,100.0
Sacramento County 26 1,524,553 $67,151 $351,900.0
Monterey County 27 433,410 $71,015 $516,600.0
Santa Barbara County 28 444,829 $74,624 $577,400.0
Colusa County 29 21,454 $59,401 $265,200.0
Shasta County 30 179,212 $54,667 $252,300.0
Sierra County 31 3,040 $52,148 $231,400.0
Lassen County 32 30,818 $56,352 $203,000.0
Riverside County 33 2,411,439 $67,005 $350,100.0
Mariposa County 34 17,420 $48,820 $275,700.0
San Joaquin County 35 742,603 $64,432 $342,100.0
Stanislaus County 36 543,194 $60,704 $291,600.0
Glenn County 37 27,976 $49,633 $233,200.0
Siskiyou County 38 43,468 $45,241 $198,900.0
Kings County 39 150,691 $57,848 $215,900.0
Butte County 40 225,817 $52,537 $271,700.0
Alpine County 41 1,039 $63,750 $365,300.0
Los Angeles County 42 10,081,570 $68,044 $583,200.0
Mendocino County 43 87,224 $51,416 $377,500.0
Yuba County 44 76,360 $58,054 $257,100.0
San Bernardino County 45 2,149,031 $63,362 $328,200.0
Madera County 46 155,433 $57,585 $251,200.0
Fresno County 47 984,521 $53,969 $255,000.0
Humboldt County 48 135,940 $48,041 $313,200.0
Modoc County 49 8,907 $45,507 $140,600.0
Lake County 50 64,195 $47,040 $219,400.0
Sutter County 51 96,109 $59,050 $279,400.0
Trinity County 52 12,700 $40,846 $287,700.0
Imperial County 53 180,701 $47,622 $195,800.0
Tulare County 54 461,898 $49,687 $205,000.0
Del Norte County 55 27,495 $45,283 $218,800.0
Tehama County 56 63,912 $44,514 $215,900.0
Merced County 57 271,382 $53,672 $252,700.0
Kern County 58 887,641 $53,350 $213,900.0

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.

One thought on “The 10 Best Counties To Live In California For 2021

  1. He doesnt even have all of californias counties listed,what about calaveras county? Did you overlook that county,because I didnt see it on the list. If theres going to be a list of counties ,each numbered from best to worst,at least make sure all the counties in the state are listed

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