By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Adams County ranks 21st out of 102 Illinois counties on the favorable side of a list of "the hardest places to live" in America.
The list was compiled recently by the New York Times, which put together an interactive map comparing all 3,135 counties in the United States.
Under this ranking system, the lower the number the more favorable the ranking.
Nationally, Adams County came in at 929 out of 3,135 counties. That's the best ranking of 13 area counties in West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri. The worst-ranked county locally was Pike County, Mo., which came in at 2,239.
The rankings were based on a combination of factors affecting ease of life:
º Median income;
º College education;
º Unemployment rate;
º Percentage of people on disability;
º Life expectancy;
º Obesity rate.
When added together, Adams County had the most favorable combination of factors in this region, which came as no surprise to Amy Looten, executive director of the Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber sponsors Quincy's annual Dogwood Festival, and the festival's theme this year was "Top of the List." That theme was chosen to recognize Quincy for a series of recent accolades, including being ranked sixth in the list of "The 10 Most Affordable Places in Illinois," as one of the "50 Cities in America that Boomers Never Want to Leave" and as a finalist in Rand McNally's "Best of the Road" competition in the Most Beautiful Small Town category.
Looten said getting listed among the top counties in Illinois in the New York Times ranking is simply another indication Adams County is a great place to live, work and raise a family.
"If you look at it across the country, we've got it pretty good here. We are very, very fortunate," she said. "We certainly know that it's not just Quincy that makes this a great place to live. This is an areawide effort. The smaller communities in our area -- as well as Hannibal (Mo.) and Keokuk (Iowa) -- all go together to make us a great place to live and to work."
One of the factors contributing to Adams County's elevated ranking was the county's median income of $45,691, which was the second-highest in the region behind Ralls County's $50,145.
Among the 13 counties, Ralls County came in right behind Adams County in the region, placing 1,071st nationally.
According to statistics gleaned from the New York Times' website, Adams County led the region with the highest number of college-educated residents, 21 percent. Clark County had the lowest number, 11 percent.
Adams County tied with Hancock County in having the lowest obesity rate, each with 35 percent. The fattest county in the region was Pike County, Mo., which had an obesity rate of 42 percent. Coincidentally, Pike County also had the shortest life expectancy in the region at 76.6 years -- nearly three years behind the leader, Hancock County, with had a life expectancy rate of 79.5. Adams County's rate was 78.4.
Marion County had the highest percent of population on disability at 2.1 percent, while Brown County had the lowest at 0.6 percent.
Brown County led the region with the lowest unemployment rate of 4.4 percent, which was based on unemployment figures from March. Hancock had the highest unemployment rate (9.2), while Adams was in the middle of the pack with 6.2 percent.
All in all, Adams County's collective score put it ahead of the pack regionally and among the top in the state.
"I think that's just wonderful," Looten said. "There are so many reasons that this is a great place to live and to work. It's nice to get that statewide recognition."
Best-ranked Illinois counties out of 3,135 nationally:
1) DuPage County: 69
2) Kendall County: 169
3) Lake County: 181
4) McHenry County: 192
5) Woodford County: 199
6) Monroe County: 214
7) McLean County: 245
8) Jo Daviess County: 359
9) Kane County: 416
10) Piatt County: 473
21) Adams County: 929
Worst-ranked Illinois counties out of 3,135 nationally:
1) Alexander County: 3,105
2) Gallatin County: 2,961
3) Pulaski County: 2,938
4) Hardin County: 2,776
5) Franklin County: 2,688
6) Saline County: 2,670
7) Marion County: 2,544
8) Vermilion County: 2,534
9) Pope County: 2,514
10) Lawrence County: 2,430
Here is a link to the New York Times' interactive map providing data for all 3,135 counties in the U.S.: www.nytimes.com/2014/06/26/upshot/where-are-the-hardest-places-to-live-in-the-us.html?_r=4