• Mickey McGlasson & Chris Worley

Top 10 Large Counties in 2021

The 2021 list of top counties in the US is here! Learn more about what the Community Index is and what the 2021 list is all about here. Below is our list of the top 10 large counties (population above 500k) across the US, that we ranked using indicator data to measure community vibrancy and economic success.


1. Seattle, WA (King County)

Seattle, Washington (King County) is in the top spot for large regions. King County performs in the top ten percent in investment, sustainability, and talent and above average in diversity and place. A density of high-tech industries, a variety of cultural assets, access to green space, and strong public transportation all make Seattle an attractive place to call home.




2. Honolulu, HI (Honolulu, Maui, Hawaii, and Kauai Counties)

Coming in second for large-sized regions is Honolulu, HI. The four counties of Honolulu, Maui, Hawaii, and Kauai score in the top ten percent in talent and diversity, with a particularly strong score in place. Located in a beautiful island setting, Honolulu and other areas across the state generate much of their economic activity from tourism. The state has a deep commitment to improving the lives of native Hawaiians and supporting equality for women and girls in the State, through initiatives like the Office for Hawaiian Affairs and the Hawaii State Commission on Status of Women.




3. Oakland and San Francisco, CA (Alameda and San Francisco Counties)

Number three on our large-sized list is Oakland and San Francisco (Alameda and San Francisco Counties). As the tech and finance hub of northern California, it’s no surprise that the region scores in the top ten percent for investment and sustainability. The strong arts and culture scene, sunny days, and proximity to both mountains and ocean makes the bay area a highly desirable destination.



4. Bethesda and Frederick, MD (Montgomery and Frederick Counties)

Bethesda and Frederick, Maryland come in at number four on our large-sized list. Both counties are located outside of Washington, D.C., with easy access to the city via the Washington Metro and the MARC Commuter Rail. Residents can also visit the Eastern Shore in just a few hours’ drive to enjoy sailing, crabbing, and boating on the Chesapeake Bay. These communities score high on every category of indicator, and indeed offer diverse opportunities for residents, including access to breweries, orchards, and wineries; outdoor recreation, parks, and the Appalachian Trail; historic museums; and world class music venues and theaters.




5. Colorado Springs, CO (El Paso County)

El Paso County, Colorado—home to the city of Colorado Springs—makes our top five list of large-sized counties, rating in the top ten percent in diversity and above average in every other category. Located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs boasts unmatchable opportunities for outdoor recreation, stunning views, and fresh mountain air. Home to 24 national sports governing bodies, like the US Olympic Training Center and USA Hockey, Colorado Springs is also home to the US Air Force Academy. The city has a long list of accolades, among them “most desirable place to live in the US” (US News 2018) and “fastest-growing city for millennials” (The Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, 2019).




6. Columbus, OH (Franklin County)

The most populous city in Ohio and the state capital, Columbus ranks sixth on our list. Scoring in the top ten percent on sustainability and place, Franklin County is home to the world’s largest private research and development foundation, Battelle. The Columbus area is home to a wealth of educational institutions, including Ohio State University, ensuring a wide array of cultural opportunities for residents.




7. Portland, OR (Multnomah County)

Multnomah County—home to Portland, Oregon—comes in at number seven on our list of large-sized counties. The Portland region scores in the top ten percent in investment, sustainability, and talent. With a robust start-up and entrepreneurial culture, the county of Multnomah has become an economic powerhouse in the state. Along with economic strength, Portland boasts above-average scores in diversity and place. The legacy of sports culture and business as well as a lively arts scene continues to draw residents to Portland.




8. Tucson, AZ (Pima County, Arizona)

Number eight on our large-sized county list is Pima County, home to Tucson, Arizona. With high scores in every category, the region scores particularly well in place. Home to the University of Arizona, Pima County boasts both cultural opportunities aplenty and 350 days of sunshine a year! Pima County is home to a diverse population, with almost a third of residents identifying as Hispanic or Latino.




9. Chicago, IL (Cook County)

Cook County comes in at our ninth spot for large-sized counties, with strong performances in all categories. Chicago is among the most populous cities in the country and is an economic engine for the Midwest. Nestled on the banks of Lake Michigan, the “windy city” is known for its strong cultural and educational institutions, reputation as a world financial hub, and—of course—world-class deep dish pizza.




10. Bakersfield and Santa Barbara, CA (Kern and Santa Barbara Counties)

Kern and Santa Barbara Counties are number ten on our list of large-sized counties. Bakersfield and Santa Barbara, both about two hours from Los Angeles, have strong industry presences in agriculture and energy production, as well as easy access to an array of outdoor opportunities, including the mountains and the beach. They both score particularly high in investment, talent, and place.


Click here to learn more about how each of these communities are ranked.

Curious about where your community ranks? Check out the 2021 Community Index!

Wondering what to do to move your community up on the list? Get in touch!

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