Most Americans have never been to Pennsylvania. However, as the people who live there know, Pennsylvania is an awesome state.
But is it all roses? Definitely not. Just like any other state, Pennsylvania has its trouble spots. This article aims to determine, using science, the absolute worst small towns to live in the Keystone State. Don’t shoot the messenger, this is all using data.
After analyzing more than 346 of Pennsylvania’s smallest cities, we came up with this list as the 10 worst small towns in Pennsylvania where you’d never want to live:
- Bear Lake
Of course, many of these cities would rank highly if they were in other states, since Pennsylvania has its stuff figured out.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers, or scroll to the bottom to see how your town ranked.
How do you decide if a place is lousy or not?
In order to rank the worst small towns to live in Pennsylvania, we had to determine what criteria people like or dislike about a place. It isn’t a stretch to assume that people like low crime, solid education, things to do and a stable economy.
So we scraped the internet for those criteria, and it spit out the answer. Like magic.
How we crunched the numbers
We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using FBI crime data, the Census’s 2010-2014 American Community Survey, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is the criteria we used:
- Population Density (The lower the worse)
- Highest Unemployment Rates
- Low housing costs (meaning there’s no demand)
- Adjusted Median Income (Median income adjusted for the cost of living)
- Education (Number of high school dropouts)
- High Crime
We looked at cities with populations between 100 and 1,000 people, of which, there were a lot – 346 to be exact.
Additional note: We get the crime numbers from the FBI, which gets its crime numbers from the cities themselves. Dropout numbers are based on the adult population, not just the current graduation rates of teenagers.
We begin our tour of crummy small towns in Pennsylvania with Alba, a teeny speck along Route 14 on your way to the New York State line. Besides sheer boredom, Alba has some issues that make it the worst small town in the state.
First off, nearly 14% of the residents here are out of work, which is the 7th highest rate in the state. Homes average only about $50,000 each, and income levels for a family hover around $33,000, meaning if you lived here, there would be a decent chance you’d live in poverty.
2. Bear Lake
Living in a relatively poor place with dirt roads isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world, but we’re guessing most Pennsylvania residents would take a pass, thank you very much.
Here in Bear Lake, more than a third of the population is a high school dropout, though ‘only’ 6% of residents are out of work. If you lived in this tiny place along the New York border, you’d have very few choices for finding a career yourself, unless commuting into Warren (Pop. 9,477) sounds appealing to you.
Little Timblin sits in the hills just a short drive from Punxsutawney. Besides a short time every winter when the place is crawling with tourists, you’d probably be extremely bored here. Very rarely does Google Street View not venture into a place, but we had to get the image above from a real estate listing website, since there were no other pictures available online.
Crime is the 7th highest for all small towns we measured, meaning you’d have a 1 in 32 chance of being the victim of a crime each year. Homes are also the 7th-lowest priced for all places we measured – at $45,000 each.
Little ole’ Westover is about as far removed from civilization as you can get. Think of the hills west of Altoona, where there are most likely more deer than people.
While that might sound appealing to lots of outdoorsy types, consider this: You’d probably hover near the poverty line if you lived here, and only 4 in 5 residents completed high school.
For a hot meal, you’d have to drive all the way to a place called Josie’s in Coalport (Pop. 515). Josie’s doesn’t have a website, so we’re not sure if they’re even open anymore.
Way down near the Maryland/West Virginia border is Ursina, PA, which looks like it would be a pretty place for 6 months a year. For fun, you could play disc golf or eat out at Spittal’s Park Street Pizzeria. Once that novelty wore off, you’d have to take up fishing or hunting to pass the time here.
Home prices average $73,000, which is the highest of any small town on this list. Which means you’d be overpaying significantly to live in…Ursina.
Just north of Oil City is a place called Rouseville, PA. This western Pennsylvania borough sits on the edge of the Allegheny National Forest, which is a nice perk.
Crime is just about as high as you’ll see for small town PA, homes are the 6th cheapest, and more than 11% of the community is out of work.
Talk about cheap living. If you don’t mind living out in the middle of nowhere, and wouldn’t mind paying $42,000 for a house, then there are probably several home owners in Marianna who would like to speak with you.
Most people who live here make the 45-minute commute into Washington, PA for work and fun.
Allenport has some semblance of a social life. Located along the Monogahela River south of Pittsburgh, you could certainly do worse in terms of entertainment.
The main issue here is chronic unemployment. More than 14% of the population hasn’t had a job in years, and most families bring in about $30,000 a year. So while there might be more ‘things to do’ you’d have to watch your budget all the time if you lived here yourself.
Springboro is along Route 18, a short drive north of Conneautville in western PA. Unemployment is in the top 10%, and 3 in 10 residents is a high school dropout.
The amenities are plentiful: There’s an archery center, three churches, a senior center and a handful of banks. But judging by the annual salaries of the residents who live here, there probably isn’t a lot of money in Springboro banks to speak of.
We round of our list of small Pennsylvania small towns you would never want to live in with Kistler, a little ole’ place on Route 522 across the Juniata River from Mt. Union.
If you lived here, you’d live right at the poverty level, and there’s a decent chance you wouldn’t have a high school diploma under your belt. The good news? Mt. Union has a handful of fast food restaurants, which is where you’d probably work.
There You Have It – The Worst Small Towns In Pennsylvania
If you’re analyzing teeny places in the Keystone State with the worst economic situations, where there’s high crime and there’s not a lot to do, this is an accurate list.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best small towns to live in Pennsylvania, according to science.
Best: Mount Gretna
2nd Best: Patterson Heights
3rd Best: Thornburg
For more Pennsylvania reading , check out:
- This Amazing Time Lapse Of Pittsburgh Shows One Guy’s Love For The City You Can Get Behind
- If You’re From Philadelphia This Will Be The Most Jaw-Dropping Thing You See Today. Guaranteed.
- 33 Things That Definitely Happen To You When You Move To Philadelphia
Ranking Of The 100 Worst Small Towns In Pennsylvania