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Thrillist just ranked Michigan as the best state in the nation, which should really come as no surprise to anyone. With its four legitimate seasons, natural wonders, regional diversity and seemingly endless waterfront, it's no wonder that Michigan would top all 49 of the lesser states on any list you might want to throw together.
All the same, anyone familiar with Michigan knows there are places that need some real TLC right now. And it's not just Detroit. In fact, there are cities that might need a hug even more than Detroit. Here are the 10 cities in the Great Lakes State who have it a little rough right now.
What? Where are these places you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we're picking on small town America, that's not the case.
We understand there's a lot of good in every place.
However, according to data (which doesn't measure things like beauty and 'friendly people'), there are far better options in the state for making a place home. And the worst place to live in Michigan? That would be Highland Park.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2020.
For more Michigan reading, check out:
- Best Places To Live In Michigan
- Cheapest Places To Live In Michigan
- Most Dangerous Places in Michigan
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Michigan For 2020
Highland Park is entirely surrounded by Detroit, and it is so bad that Detroit's government won't even consider absorbing Highland Park into the larger city due to the fact that all of Detroit's unflattering crime and unemployment statistics would instantly be made worse. If you live in Detroit and you're passing through Highland Park, give a friendly wave and a smile. You need each other's support right about now.
Highland Park ranks 1st in all of Michigan in unemployment, 10th in overall crime, 4th from the bottom in adult drop out rates, and it has the worst average income level in the state. In fact, the only thing saving Highland Park is a middle of the road population density, so there's at least something to do while you look for a job.
Lapeer is the birthplace of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, and it seems sadly appropriate that such one of the smallest cities on this list was able to produce one of the worst human beings on earth. The folks up here could use some kind thoughts right about now.
Although it has the highest home values of any city on this list, it still ranks in Michigan's bottom third in crime, and it's firmly in the state's bottom fifth in income, education and unemployment. Further contributing to Lapeer's ranking among the dregs of the state is the fact that it spends less money on its students that all but four cities in Michigan.
You can't blame them for living in River Rouge since it's really beautiful, but there are sacrifices you make to live in the boonies. One of them is income.
Not only is the unemployment rate the 2nd highest in the state here (21.1%), the residents in River Rouge earn the smallest household income in the state of Michigan. At a combined income of $27,038, families of four are barely above the poverty line.
In addition, the crime here is really high for a small city in Michigan. River Rouge has the 43rd highest crime rate in the state.
Detroit ranks as the 4th worst place to live in Michigan for 2020.
The issues Detroit has is with its local economy. The unemployment rate is the 4th highest in Michigan (17.3%), and as you might expect, the household salaries and home prices are both towards the bottom of Michigan.
The unemployment rate in Benton Harbor is a sky high 17.1%, which is the 5th highest in the state. Ouch.
The median income in Benton Harbor is $20,232. That means 46.9% of the population is living below the poverty line. Crime isn't horrible here, but you have a 1 in 23.5 chance of being the victim of a property crime when you're within city limits every year.
If, by some reason, you were driving through Ecorse, after stopping to ask for directions, you may have noticed that things aren't so peachy keen here.
It's tough out there for people to stay afloat when their income levels are so low ($27,241) and they can't get good jobs (13.4% unemployment rate).
Ecorse ranks as the 6th wost place in Michigan.
Dowagiac needs some tough love as it ranks as the 7th worst city to live in Michigan for 2020.
Crime in Dowagiac is the 50th highest in the state, where 1 in 50.6 people have a chance of being the victim of a property crime, according to the latest FBI numbers.
Additionally, the income is almost dead last in Michigan.
If commute time is important, Dowagiac residents have the 96th longest commute of any residents on our list.
There would be a temptation to put Pontiac on this list simply because the Silverdome, with its deflated roof and gutted interior, is one of the biggest eyesores in the state. It's hard to think of it as the site where 93,000 fans once gathered to watch Wrestlemania III.
An eyesore that definitely landed Pontiac on this list of worst cities is the city's unemployment rank, which was second from the bottom, incomes and home values in Michigan's lowest 20 percent, and a crime rate in the top 20 percent. With statistics like that, we couldn't keep Pontiac off this list even if the Silverdome's ruins were made of actual silver.
The people of Pontiac are undoubtedly trying to pull themselves up from their bootstraps and could use a kind thought right about now.
Muskegon Heights's situation is very similar to others on the list; bottom of the barrel scores in unemployment, income, and crime, with decent education statistics keeping it from the very top of this list.
Muskegon Heights has the worst crime index of any place in Michigan, and has the 9th lowest income.
Flint needs some tough love.
Years ago, someone told me the sun never shines in Flint. That's not true, of course, but you can understand why she might say that when you analyze certain facts about Flint. Of the 145 cities considered in this ranking, Flint had the least to be proud of across the board.
Not only does Flint have Michigan's lowest home value rank, but it also had the 3rd and 14th highest rankings in unemployment and crime respectively. Statistics like that will certainly make the sun shine a bit dimmer, and it will win you are in contention for title of "Worst City in Michigan."
If you know anyone in Flint, tag them on Facebook and tell them you love them. They can probably use it right about now.
How we determined the worst places to live in Michigan for 2020
To figure out how bad a place is to live in, we only needed to know what kinds of things people like and then decide what cities have the least amount of those things.
We don't think it's a stretch to assume that people like the following things:
- Good education
- Lots of jobs
- Low crime
- Low poverty
- Nice homes
- High incomes
- High population density (Lots of things to do)
- Short work commutes
- Health insurance
We broke crime down into violent crime and property crime to give violent crime a larger weight -- if you did a simple calculation of all crimes per capita, property crimes are normally 7x more common and really bias that ranking.
Furthermore, only cities with at least 5,000 people were considered -- leaving 145 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 145 for all the criteria with a #1 ranking being the worst for the particular criteria.
Next, we averaged the rankings into one "Worst Place To Live Score".
Finally, we ranked every city on the "Worst Place To Live Score" with the lowest score being the worst city in Michigan -- Highland Park. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Michigan. You can download the data here.
This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.
Wrapping Up The Worst In Michigan
If you're looking at areas in Michigan with the worst economic situations, where there's higher than average crime, and not a lot to do, this is an accurate list.
And in the end, Highland Park ranks as the worst city to live in Michigan for 2020.
If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Michigan:
- Huntington Woods (Pop. 6,340)
- Berkley (Pop. 15,360)
- Birmingham (Pop. 21,066)
For more Michigan reading, check out:
- Best Places To Retire In Michigan
- Richest Cities In Michigan
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- Best Cities For Singles In Michigan
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Michigan?