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.
- Highland Park (Photos)
- River Rouge (Photos)
- Detroit (Photos)
- Benton Harbor (Photos)
- Lapeer (Photos)
- Hamtramck (Photos)
- Springfield (Photos)
- Muskegon Heights (Photos)
- Inkster (Photos)
- Pontiac (Photos)
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 2019.
For more Michigan reading, check out:
- 10 Best Places To Live In Michigan
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Michigan
- 10 Most Dangerous Places in Michigan
How we determined the worst places to live in Michigan for 2019
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 146 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 146 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.
This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.
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, 11th in overall crime, 2nd from the bottom in adult drop out rates, and it has the 1st 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.
River Rouge has some of the same issues that the cities above have. The crime is statistically the 27th-highest in the state of Michigan. And residents earn far less than it takes to live a normal life. The unemployment rank is also higher than almost every other city in the state at 21.6%.
Additionally, 38.6% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Detroit is the 3rd worst city in Michigan for 2019. When you’re comparing other cities to Detroit, things just don’t look great, at least according to science.
Detroit is the 2nd most dangerous place in Michigan, according to FBI statistics. And the residents here have a hard time keeping a job — at least in comparison to the rest of the state. The unemployment rate is 19.8%, worse than the state average.
Home values are really low ($42,800), and residents earn just $27,838 a year.
Benton Harbor is another place in the Wolverine State that has some real eye-opening numbers. The unemployment rate in Benton Harbor is a staggering 20.8%, but at least those who have jobs earn a modest salary ($20,157 a year). Homes are actually priced respectfully at $56,200, but still far lower than the state average.
Crime in Benton Harbor is bad, but not horrible.
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.
If you live in Hamtramck, this might not be a surprise, but you have the 30th highest crime rate, per capita in the state of Michigan. Every year you spend here, you have a 1 in 35.6 chance of being the victim of a property crime like a car break in or home invasion robbery.
That’s a lot of stolen cell phones, laptops and black license plates.
Plus there were 175 violent crimes in the last FBI reporting year. That means if you spent a year there, you’d have a 1 in 125 chance of being raped or attacked.
Finally, the folks who live here earn the 4th lowest salaries in Michigan At $24,369 a household, that’s simply not enough to get by for most folks.
Springfield is also a pretty crummy place to live, when you look at the numbers. Yes, we’re aware that it’s beautiful and “fun”. But that ignores important things like jobs and income.
Springfield residents earn the 28th-lowest salaries in the state. At $35,458 a year, people here most likely have a hard time getting ahead in life. And the average home costs are $56,300, which means there isn’t a lot of demand.
Crime is the 8th highest in Michigan per capita, and the unemployment rate here is 26th highest in the state, at 10.7%.
Muskegon Heights takes the 8th worst place spot on this list for a number of reasons — below average education, income, unemployment, and student expenditure statistics.
But what gives Muskegon Heights its main thrust toward the top of this shameful list is its crime index — the 1st worst in the whole state.
The city of Inkster is the 9th worst place you can live in the state of Michigan in 2019.
It’s unlucky for Inkster, which has the 12th highest unemployment rate (13.1%), the 19th lowest household incomes ($32,379) and the 8th lowest home prices in the state ($44,300).
Basically, a lot of people in Inkster are out of work. And crime is certainly a factor here as well. Although it’s not one of the most dangerous places we’ll look at, it’s in the top 20%.
Add it all up, and this is truly one of the worst places you could live in Michigan.
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.
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 2019.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Michigan:
- Birmingham (Pop. 20,836)
- Berkley (Pop. 15,269)
- Huntington Woods (Pop. 6,347)
For more Michigan reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Best Places To Retire In Michigan
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In Michigan
- 10 Safest Places In Michigan
- 10 Best Cities For Singles In Michigan
Detailed List Of The Worst Places To Live In Michigan
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