Affordable places in Colorado with high quality of life

Using several quality of life variables and GIS, I seek to find counties in Colorado that have high quality of life and lower cost of living.


In this project, I seek to find the best places in Colorado to live that are also affordable. These places in Colorado have high quality of living, based on factors such as access to public land, weather, and crime and have lower housing costs.

(Click on each county to see its score by variable. Darker counties have a higher quality of life score).

Quality of Life Variables

  1. Percent Non-Driving Commuters (How popular is biking, walking or taking a bus to work?)
  2. Average Commute Time
  3. Percent of Public Land by County
  4. Sunny Days
  5. Education Index
  6. Crime Index
  7. Combined Quality of Life Index
  8. Median Rent ($)


I collected Census data from American Communities Survey. I joined data to a shapefile of Colorado Counties to display livability factors in a map format. For each variable, I used a histogram and divided the data into quintiles.

Each county received a score of -2, -1, 0, 1 or 2 for each variable.

Lowest quintile = -2

2nd Quintile = -1

Middle Quintile = 0

4th quintile = 1

Highest Quintile = 2

Using this ranking system, which weights all variables equally and linearly, I determined a combined score by county. This variable is called “Total” in the attribute table. Counties with higher scores have higher quality of life.

Photo by Michael Kirsh


This map highlights that some of the most desirable counties in Colorado are far from the Front Range. The highest-ranking counties are clustered in Southwest Colorado. This is interesting considering that many of these counties also have lower rents and cost of living.

This map is limited by the variables included. I chose eight variables which interested me. These variables do not paint a complete picture. In particular, this map excludes many economic variables, such as job availability, which are important to many people.

A different version of this map could include a different scoring system with different weights for various variables.

I was surprised by the results of this map since it contradicts population growth trends.

Data from American Communities Survey, 2020.