These Are The 10 Most Ghetto Cities In Washington For 2018

We used science and data to determine which cities in WA are really ghetto.

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There are lots of people who throw the term ‘ghetto’ around. But which of Washington’s largest cities are the most ghetto of all?

How do you decide if a place is ghetto or not? You ask the internet. According to the Urban Dictionary, a ghetto is defined as:

“urban; of or relating to (inner) city life” and “poor; of or relating to the poor life.”

Using that criteria, it’s not hard to scrape the internet, run some scientific data on where ghettos might exist in a state and then put out a list.

After analyzing all cities with 10,000 people or more, we came up with this list as the most ghetto places in Washington:

  1. Lakewood (Photos)
  2. Tacoma (Photos)
  3. White Center
  4. Tukwila (Photos)
  5. Everett (Photos)
  6. Federal Way (Photos)
  7. Bryn Mawr-Skyway
  8. Sunnyside (Photos)
  9. Aberdeen (Photos)
  10. Burien (Photos)

Read on below to see where your hometown ranked and why.

Note: We’re aware that there are more ‘ghetto’ cities that are smaller than 10,000. We wanted to rank only the largest cities here for a more clear indication of which major city centers are ghettos. Therefore, it’s assumed that the cities above (and their suburbs) are more ghetto than the larger cities not listed here.

For more Washington reading, check out:


What ghetto criteria did we use?

In order to rank the most ghetto places in Washington, we had to determine what criteria defines a ghetto city or neighborhood.

Since a ghetto is defined as a poor area, we used income levels, crime and education levels as a guide to determine where the most broke citizens of a state live.

Additionally, the staples of inner city life include cheap and discounted retail outlets.

We started by making a list of every place in Washington with more than 10,000 people based on the 2013 American Community Survey. That left us with more than 200 places in the Evergreen State.

We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using Yelp and Area Vibes, this is the criteria we used:

  • Household income levels
  • High school graduation rates
  • Number of convenience stores
  • Number of drug stores
  • Number of discount stores
  • Crime

Note: For the sake of getting reliable numbers, we counted places within a city’s border, as well as within a short driving distance.

All of these results are listed in a per capita basis. Meaning number of stores per person in a state. Additionally, high school graduation rates are determined by looking at the total number of people who live in a city, not the current graduation rate of an area’s high schools.


1. Lakewood

Source: wikipedia

Income: $38,055
Drop out rate: 19%
Crime: 10th highest

Lakewood is a pretty decent sized city on the south end of Tacoma. Here, residents are the 10th poorest in the state – and nearly a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line under the age of 18.

It’s also the 10th most dangerous place in Washington. According to the FBI, you have a 1 in 30 chance of being the victim of a property crime for every year you spend within Lakewood city limits.

According to internet chatter, most of the worse areas in the Tacoma area are in Lakewood and Spanaway. Drugs, prostitution, etc. And when COPS filmed in Tacoma, they spent lots of time in Lakewood.

2. Tacoma

Source: wikipedia

Income: $47,583
Drop out rate: 17%
Crime: 3rd worst

They don’t call it “Tacompton” for nothing.

Like most major cities, there are some really big discrepancies between the haves and the have nots in Tacoma, which can cause a large crime problem, especially with theft.

But overall, Tacoma is the 3rd most dangerous place you can live in Washington. 10 murders in 2013 is a lot for Washington. And there were more than 13,000 robberies, arsons and burglaries in Tacoma that same year.

East Tacoma might just have one of the highest percentage of low income and subsidized housing areas in the entire state.

Twitter blew up about Tacoma ghetto mentions. Example: “I love my white friends but y’all gotta stop saying ‘Tacompton’ or ‘Tacoma is ghetto’.

3. White Center

Source: Public Domain

Income: $37,296
Crime: 25th worst
High school dropout rate: 30%

White Center is a CDP – a place not a city – on the south side of Seattle. This is pretty much the area that you hear people talking about when they say the ‘south side’ is bad.

White Center extends from SW 128th Street to SW Roxbury Street. While it isn’t the most dangerous place in the state, income levels are very low, and 3 in 10 people is without a high school degree.

Quite a few people on Twitter agreed. “Why does white center have to be so ghetto n ratchet.”

4. Tukwila

Source: wikipedia

Income: $38,011
Drop out rate: 21%
Crime: 3rd worst

Tukwila is a suburban city on the south side of Seattle. This is another ‘south side’ area that you hear about as being ghetto from people in the Seattle area.

Crime is just about as bad as you can get here. Fort Lewis, Washington is the only other city that’s more dangerous, statistically, than Tukwila.

Tukwila also has one of the highest concentrations of discount and drug stores in the state. Sociologists have indicated that these types of shopping experiences are a staple of inner-city life.

5. Everett

Source: wikipedia

Income: $40,942
Drop out rate: 20%
Crime: 4th highest

We’re aware that Everett has its nice parts. But South Everett is a completely other story. Most of the crime and poverty that exists in Everett is on its south side.

Here’s what one resident on City Data had to say:

“South Everett is downright terrifying.. I generally feel safe enough in Seattle packing a 9mm, but in South Everett, I bring along my AR-15 rifle and wear a heavy grade bullet proof vest.. South Everett is rough. But I will be damned before I lose my fix of good authentic Mexican food which you can find on that street.”

6. Federal Way

Source: wikipedia

Income: $48,797
Drop out rate: 15%
Crime: 20th

We’re definitely seeing a pattern here. All of these areas are either Tacoma or Seattle suburbs.

Federal Way, north of Tacoma, has some issues with crime, but it’s not over the top horrible. Unless you count 6 murders in 2013. That’s one of the highest in the state.

You also have a 1 in 17 chance of being robbed if you live in Federal Way for a year. Does that sound like fun?

Federal Way actually led the way in terms of ghetto mentions on Twitter, believe it or not. There were lots of comments like this: “Federal Way is kinda really ghetto.”

7. Bryn Mawr-Skyway

Source: Public Domain

Income: $44,988
Drop out rate: 21%

This CDP (an area, not a city), is located north of Renton and Tukwila, both cities that have really high crime. While the crime in this area isn’t as bad as those two cities, it’s certainly not safe there, either.

Anything west of the Renton airport to I-5 is Bryn Mawr-Skyway. Apparently, things are improving here, at least according to internet chatter.

8. Sunnyside

Source: wikipedia

Income: $37,024
Drop out rate: 54%

You’d be hard pressed to find a population that’s less educated than those in Sunnyside. That alone doesn’t make a ghetto, but having the 7th lowest income levels, where almost half of the population lives at or below the poverty line, does.

Sunnyside is south of Yakima, and one of two cities outside of the Seattle-Tacoma metro area to make this list.

Apparently, there is a strong gang presence here as well. Gangs take advantage of the isolation to transport drugs and guns outside of the eye of law enforcement, according to the Seattle Times.

9. Aberdeen

Source: wikipedia

Income: $45,309
Drop out rate: 27%
Crime: 16th worst

Aberdeen has one of the highest number of people who are uneducated in Washington, and 30% of the kids here live in poverty. Numbers aside, we heard from lots of people online who said Aberdeen is a true ghetto in many areas.

“i was born and bred in aberdeen. all i got in aberdeen was hassle…drugs,prostitution and assault was something i heard about or witnessed daily.”

10. Burien

Source: wikipedia

Income: $40,948
Drop out rate: 20%
Crime: 5th worst

While Burien isn’t the most dangerous place in the state by any stretch when it comes to violent crimes, the number of robberies and thefts here is one of the highest in Washington. And part of the definition of a ghetto is where poor, uneducated people steal.

That’s certainly happening in Burien in large numbers.

Burien was 8th for #ghetto Tweets. Here’s a Twitter example: “Burien is ghetto as hell, people really got their cars broken into and stolen last night at the game? smh”

There You Have It

If you’re measuring the locations in Washington where there are a high number of poor and uneducated residents, and where there are a high number of discounted shopping stores, this is an accurate list.

Additionally, here are the least ghetto places in Washington:

  1. West Richland
  2. Maple Valley
  3. Cottage Lake
  4. Bainbridge Island
  5. Lake Stevens

For a happier experience, check this out: If you’re from Seattle, this short video will be the absolute best thing you see all day. Guaranteed.

Desktop users, below is a ghetto ranking chart of all large cities in Washington, along with their crime numbers:

City Crime Rank
lakewood 101 1
tacoma 108 2
white center 83 3
tukwila 109 4
everett 105 5
federal way 88 6
bryn mawr-skyway 74 7
sunnyside 81 8
aberdeen 95 9
burien 104 10
Kent 99 11
renton 96 12
seatac 87 12
pasco 56 14
grandview 62 15
lynnwood 86 16
yakima 102 17
east wenatchee 71 18
oak harbor 50 18
parkland 97 20
des moines 66 21
spanaway 55 22
mountlake terrace 58 23
frederickson 27 24
auburn 90 25
ferndale 51 26
walla walla 79 27
ellensburg 75 28
mount vernon 89 29
kennewick 76 30
wenatchee 70 31
renton 96 32
elk plain 26 33
shoreline 53 34
hazel dell 69 35
bellevue 43 36
lakeland north 17 37
bremerton 98 38
enumclaw 32 39
pullman 40 40
lynden 24 40
longview 85 42
vancouver 78 43
north lynnwood 82 44
kelso 99 45
university place 68 46
cheney 67 47
mill creek east 7 48
martha lake 48 49
salmon creek 30 50
centralia 103 51
seattle 94 52
redmond 47 53
battle ground 52 54
bothell 39 55
moses lake 100 55
monroe 61 57
lacey 60 58
silverdale 65 59
eastmont 8 60
graham 12 61
prairie ridge 13 61
bellingham 80 63
kenmore 32 64
south hill 38 65
sedro-woolley 64 66
newcastle 36 67
mercer island 11 68
lakeland south 16 69
issaquah 44 70
klahanie 18 71
arlington 59 72
five corners 34 73
bothell west 15 74
east renton highlands 2 75
silver firs 4 76
mill creek 56 77
anacortes 42 78
edmonds 41 79
mukilteo 37 80
sammamish 5 81
washougal 45 81
kirkland 46 83
port angeles 92 84
spokane valley 72 85
covington 63 86
tumwater 73 87
woodinville 53 88
marysville 84 89
union hill-novelty hill 6 90
puyallup 91 91
port orchard 106 92
spokane 107 93
lake forest park 14 94
vashon 29 95
camas 25 96
bonney lake 49 97
richland 35 98
snoqualmie 20 99
lake tapps 9 100
artondale 10 101
fort lewis 110 102
maltby 3 103
lake stevens 77 104
bainbridge island 21 105
cottage lake 1 106
maple valley 28 107
west richland 22 108

About Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson earned his masters in Business Administration from the Drucker School At Claremont Graduate University. He has written for 39 publications across the country and ran the media relations department at Movoto, a real estate portal based in San Francisco. He has been featured in over 500 publications as an expert in real estate and as an authority on real estate trends.

Nick's the creator of the HomeSnacks YouTube channel that now has over 260,000 subscribers and is an excellent source to learn about different parts of the country.