The 10 Worst Places To Live In Wisconsin For 2021

We used science and data to determine which cities in the Badger State are the real pits.

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Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out we updated this article for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the worst places to live in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin might be one of the most misunderstood states in America. If you live there, you most likely wouldn't live anywhere else. If you've been there, you understand why people make it their home.

If you've never been there, you probably think it's some place with a bunch of farms and snow. Which it kinda is, right?

But most of the people who will read this live in Wisconsin. And you know how good you have it up there.

But is it all great in The Big Cheese? Of course not. Just like every other state, Wisconsin has its trouble spots. The purpose of this post is to use science and data to determine which cities in the Badger State are the least desirable to live in.

After analyzing 140 of the state's most populous cities, we came up with this list as the 10 worst (not wurst) places to live in Wisconsin:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Wisconsin For 2021

  1. Beloit
  2. Antigo
  3. Milwaukee
  4. Portage
  5. Wisconsin Rapids
  6. Delavan
  7. Lake Geneva
  8. Ashland
  9. Racine
  10. New London

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 Wisconsin? That would be Beloit.

Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2021.

If you're looking for something more national, check out the worst cities in America or the worst states in America.

For more Wisconsin reading, check out:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Wisconsin For 2021

Beloit, WI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 36,836
Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $89,900 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.8% (3rd worst)
More on Beloit:  Data | Photos

Beloit is the last city you hit when you're driving route on Highway 90 on your way to Illinois. According to the data, it might be one of the last places you want to move.

Beloit is actually slightly more dangerous than Merrill and Rhinelander. There was a murder here in 2020, and residents had a 1 in 33.1 chance of being the victim of a property crime. Meaning lots of stolen laptops, cell phones and Aaron Rodgers jerseys.

The unemployment rate in Beloit is through the roof, as more than 8.8% of the population can't get a job. At least their mortgages aren't too high; at $89,900, Beloit has the 4th-lowest home prices in the state of Wisconsin.

Antigo, WI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,780
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $75,000 (worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.1% (worst)
More on Antigo:  Data | Photos

What the heck is going on in little Antigo? The crime is the 34th highest in the state of Wisconsin. Here, residents have a 1 in 55.1 chance of being robbed. That means if you live here, and didn't have something stolen from you, there's a good chance your neighbor did.

That ratio is one of the highest we've seen in the nation. Perhaps the high unemployment rate has something to do with it. More than 10.1% of Antigo residents were without jobs in the latest numbers we collected, which is the highest in the state.

Milwaukee, WI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 594,548
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $122,100 (22nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.8% (5th worst)
More on Milwaukee:  Data | Photos

Milwaukee represents the largest urban area in Wisconsin. As such, you can find most of the big-city draws, from professional sports teams to museums to shops and restaurants. Located along Lake Michigan, you also get easy access to a scenic waterfront.

Unfortunately, being a large metropolitan area (with a population of 594,548), you also get some of those big-city problems. These leave Milwaukee among the state's worst hometowns.

Milwaukee's crime rate runs nearly 60% above the national average. The economy also comes up short. The unemployment rate stands at 6.8% and the median income hovers at $41,838. Schools and housing also hold the area back.

Portage, WI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 10,406
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 5)
Median Home Value: $125,200 (26th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.8% (11th worst)
More on Portage:  Data | Photos

Portage is located in the middle of the state, about 45 minutes north of the state capital of Madison. Like many towns named "Portage," its name comes from its position on a river. In this case, the Wisconsin River runs alongside of town, leading to excellent views at places like Pauquette Park.

Still, a sluggish economy, a lack of diversity, and concerns about housing make this one of Wisconsin's least appealing locations. The town's 10,406 residents contend with a 5.8% unemployment rate and a $45,448 median income.

Education is also a concern. There are some excellent schools outside of town, but the local institutions have scores of 6/10 or worse on Great Schools.

Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 17,770
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $91,100 (6th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.5% (13th worst)
More on Wisconsin Rapids:  Data | Photos

Wisconsin Rapids sounds like an excellent waterpark. The name does refer to a particular part of the Wisconsin River, where this town is built in the center of the state. Unfortunately, life in Wisconsin Rapids isn't a thrilling splash adventure. In fact, the town ranks as the number 5 worst place to live in Badger State.

For such a small town (population: 17,770), Wisconsin Rapids has a major crime problem. The crime rate runs more than 30% above the national average. Locals also struggle with housing issues and a lackluster economy. Schools are also weak, topping out at just 6/10 on Great Schools.

Delavan, WI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 8,303
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 4)
Median Home Value: $144,900 (44th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.0% (35th worst)
More on Delavan:  Data | Photos

The economy is usually to blame for most of the towns on this list. That's not the case with Delavan. The local economy actually hums along quite nicely, with a 4.0% unemployment rate and a $53,487 median income.

Life in Delavan has other benefits. Built along Delavan Lake, it draws a fair number of tourists and offers excellent outdoor activities at places like Congdon Gardens.

Still, the community lands on a list of worst places to live in Wisconsin. What gives? Well, other problems take a toll. The real issue comes in the realm of education. Most of the schools in town rank below average.

Lake Geneva, WI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,894
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $197,300 (88th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.8% (12th worst)
More on Lake Geneva:  Data | Photos

Lake Geneva is known as a high-class resort town. Check out Flat Iron Park for a taste of the lake views you can expect. Situated in southern Wisconsin, it draws tourists from nearby Chicago and Milwaukee. A great place to visit...but would you want to live there?

Maybe not. Despite the influx of visitors, the economy is fairly stagnant. Locals face an unemployment rate of 5.8% and median income of $51,875.

At the same time, all those rich tourists drive up real estate values, making it difficult to afford a home in town. The median home price sits at $197,300.

Ashland, WI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,892
Rank Last Year: 8 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $107,700 (12th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.6% (2worst)
More on Ashland:  Data | Photos

LIttle Ashland is practically in the U.P., so, while summers are absolutely fantastic, the rest of the year ranges from tolerable to absolutely miserable, weather wise.

Crime in Ashland isn't downright horrible, but it's in the highest 15% in Wisconsin. Folks way up here earn poor salaries, and many have trouble getting jobs. The unemployment rate is at nearly 9%.

If there's a bright side for Ashland, it's the education ranking. The public schools here are rated towards the top when you factor in the amount spent per student and the teacher-student ratio. So at least they have that.

Racine, WI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 77,081
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $108,700 (13th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.4% (6th worst)
More on Racine:  Data | Photos

Welcome to Racine. Home of the laziest people in the state of Wisconsin, where more than 1 in 15.6 are without jobs, crime is rampant (72nd highest in the state), and home values are some of the lowest around.

The public schools are quite lacking in terms of expenditures per student. The only thing saving Racine from ranking much higher on this list is the fact that the schools aren't overcrowded. So while students don't get financial resources, they get lots of 1-on-1 attention.

They need it here. In fact, a lot of people in Racine could use a big hug right about now.

New London, WI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 6,879
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $133,300 (32nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.4% (25th worst)
More on New London:  Data | Photos

You'd think a town named after Great Britain's most glamorous city would have a lot of appeal. Well, don't get too excited. New London, Wisconsin, is actually named after New London, Connecticut. And like most copies of copies, this one is a bit faded.

The town of 6,879 residents, located in the east-central part of the state, has a strong economy and an affordable cost of living. The median income stands at $48,379 and the unemployment rate runs 4.4%.
However, the community falls short in the areas of housing and diversity. These drawbacks make it a questionable place to put down roots.

How we determined the worst places to live in Wisconsin for 2021

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

The data comes from the Census's most recent American Community Survey and from the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

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 140 cities.

We then ranked each city from 1 to 140 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 Wisconsin -- Beloit. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Wisconsin. 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 Wisconsin

If you're looking at areas in Wisconsin 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, Beloit ranks as the worst city to live in Wisconsin for 2021.

If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Wisconsin:

  1. Elm Grove (Pop. 6,153)
  2. Whitefish Bay (Pop. 13,972)
  3. Fox Point (Pop. 6,650)

For more Wisconsin reading, check out:

Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Wisconsin?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Beloit 36,836 8.8% $89,900
2 Antigo 7,780 10.1% $75,000
3 Milwaukee 594,548 6.8% $122,100
4 Portage 10,406 5.8% $125,200
5 Wisconsin Rapids 17,770 5.5% $91,100
6 Delavan 8,303 4.0% $144,900
7 Lake Geneva 7,894 5.8% $197,300
8 Ashland 7,892 4.6% $107,700
9 Racine 77,081 6.4% $108,700
10 New London 6,879 4.4% $133,300

How Is The Area In ?

42 thoughts on “The 10 Worst Places To Live In Wisconsin For 2021

    1. Haha! yeah, what’s up with that!? Went to school there and I like the people I’ve met there, but their police force/jail/court system isn’t the greatest…when their rates of minorities charged, incarcerated, sentenced, in their judicial system are so high. Ashland County is probably the number one spot in Wisconsin. A place where you want to blend in with the crowd, you know what I mean? It’s hard to be brown skinned in a place like that. In Ashland County’s jail is (at a educated guess) 75% filled with minorities, mainly people of Native American descent.

      1. My name is George T. and I think that reservations should be able to be included in, “Worst places to live in Wisconsin” because as Mii 15 observed, theres a lot of indians in jail. Well, the counties have to make some kind of money but this doesnt make sense as indians are some on the poorest citizens in wisconsin.

        Reservations should get weighted “backward points” for having some of the best educated cashiers and cleaning staff in their casinos. The 1972 Native American Indian Education Act guaranteed that the indian cleaning a toilet in a casino has a master degree in psychology.

        Tribal goverments are the first to screw over native americans, then the rest of society has a turn. This is more backwards points that would boost some reservations to number one on “wosrt places to live in wisconsin.

  1. Well, I think we have a WI hater here. Sounds like you think we only live in the summer here. I am over 60 and there is so much to do here in the winter also including awesome snowsports and ICE FISHING which is one of the best sports ever! If you do not know the peace and friendliness of our great state, you need to visit here. I have lived in Rice Lake all my life and love this city and northwest WI. Perhaps your crime data is because we have an awesome police force here and they stay on top of it. Many residents don’t even lock their doors here and have never been robbed! Imagine that! This is a beautiful area to live and I do agree that our wages could be higher, but this city Rice Lake is lucky enough to be the beginning edge of God’s country which many people from other states love to come to visit and eventually move here. I think before you publish a stupid article like this with poor pictures, you should probably visit each of these towns. LOVE WISCONSIN!

    1. Yeah Rice Lake is so great. Home of cults and religious fanatacism. I lived there for a few years and was bored out of my mind. The cops stop people for no reason, registered sex offenders live on damn near every street and it’s only redeeming quality is a surplus store. Sounds like someone is butthurt lol

  2. Why did you not list any statistics for Wisconsin Rapids. Surely it rates higher on this list since there are no jobs. We now have a new running joke here due to this article….it sucks so much here that it is not even worth mentioning why.

  3. Superior is not on the complete list and is certainly in the most populous cities in Wisconsin (27,000 population).

  4. Your appraisal of Racine schools is not correct. They totally messed up K-5 by getting rid of textbooks and dividing each class into about four levels depending on how well the student is learning. This means each teacher has four classes, with those on the bottom level getting left behind because they need more help that they don’t get in this system. Also, 35 kids per class is a low teacher/student ratio?

  5. Rhinelander, you have it all wrong. Nobody actually lives in Rhinelander, we all live out on the lakes and rivers. Low income because of apartment complexes and older homes in town. If you add in Pine Lake, Crescent, Pelican, Sugar Camp and others the income level will sky rocket. There are 2,000 lakes with in an hour of my home, why live in the city?

  6. I do not appreciate that fact that your opinion of Racine is that it is filled with lazy people because of our high unemployment rate. You have to have jobs available before people can work. They should be a living wage jobs which our governor and his cronies are against. The whole state is a bad place to live because of the governor.

    1. They are lazy. Its far easier to let others work and mooch off of the system. Or they don’t want to take a job that actually requires work with an hourly wage. Start wielding a striped cane and wear dark sunglasses because you are obviously blind. Walker has done alot more for this state than you obviously know.

  7. I grew up in Waupaca. Few people who grow up there stay there, and my former classmates that have stayed are poor and stressed out. It has made the lowest income for teacher in the state, which means that the district is continually getting sub par teachers. The few good teachers are wildly underappreciated. The only people who aren’t living like the natives in Cozumel are the ones who are in management at the foundry or own the banks. It’s lipstick on a pig. It’s beautiful thanks to the Chain and the money from outside Waupaca that builds the high-priced cabins on the lakes is beautiful. But the year round population is so poor that they can’t enjoy their beautiful town.

  8. Um…okay, how tf is Milwaukee not at the top of this bullsh!t list?? LOL?? Who wrote this article?? LOL?? Milwaukee by far has the HIGHEST crime rate and worse public school systems period! Yet, you even put Racine before Milwaukee as the worse place to live?? This is a joke…LOL! People are unemployed in Racine due to the lack of job opportunities, the same for any other

  9. I laughed when I saw the comments on Rhinelander, first of all, the city limits may have 7 thousand something, I live in Rhinelander but not in the city limits, I live in a township. From my understanding there are approx. 24,thousand something in the Rhinelander area. About nothing to do!!!!! you are crazy, there are number of things to do in the winter and fall, hunting, fishing, skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, movies, plays, symphonies, and many more things. If you lived here you would see the peace, quiet and the pure beauty of this place. We are surrounded by lakes, why do you thing the people from the cities move up here to live? I’m not angry, I just think you have your head screwed on backwards when you listed all these towns because you thing they have a low pop. Come and visit, theres no science to it. lol Happy Hodag.

    1. Mary, thank you for posting this. You are right on!!! I totally agree with every single point you made. In addition to that, they put “high crime” into consideration?????????? That totally baffles me. Have they even been to Rhinelander? I never saw anything wrong with Merrill either.

  10. Lol…I moved to Wisconsin ( Green Bay) 20 plus yes ago from another state it’s the only place I’ll live great people . Lots of fun things to do year round

  11. This is the dumbest list I have ever seen. So you don’t take into consideration school district, business development city attractions or tourism, but you do state facts that are old and outdated. Beloit has it’s problems, just like every other city, but it’s not the 3rd worst city to live in. In fact Beloit has many many great things to offer, Awesome School district, Beloit College, Beloit Snappers, Unemployment rate under 7, #1 Farmers Market in the state and a very cool downtown area. The guy that wrote this article is a complete moron.

  12. Well I have been here for 46 years wisconsin is a very racist state high unemployment rate also the education system in Janesville and Milton is bs and Beloit do whatever they can to keep black American students for making I know all this from site and experience so wisconsin needs to be totally reformed for the federal judges to school .Principles

  13. So, let me understand…. unemployment in the Northern towns is because jobs are hard to come by… but in Racine, it’s caused by LAZINESS????

    Your dog whistle needs tuning. It’s not that subtle.

  14. Laura T. you fool, our great governor may very well be the next President and will certainly be better at creating jobs than the do nothing but talk dolt who now occupies the office. Job creation resolves most of the issues that plague not only Wisconsin but the nation as a whole.

    1. And our Governor has done that huh? Created jobs, huh? Yeah, if you listen to all of his made up facts. All Walker has ever done is run down our great state. Take a look at all of the facts Robert. He is the worse Governor we have ever had! God forbid he becomes our next President. Take a listen to Donald Trump. Not that I will vote for him but he sure does make a lot of good points. Especially about Wrong Way Walker!

  15. I question the writer’s credibility in this article. Unless you’ve been to these places, there’s no place for you to make comments on how boring it might be. I’ve lived in Rhinelander all my life and loved every second of it. If you want to rank cities based on crime and unemployment then have it, but those aren’t the deciding factors for whether it’s a terrible place to live. If you don’t believe me, ask the journal sentinel what they think of Rhinelander:

  16. Live near Rhinelander and agree with the survey except I think Rhinelander should have beat Merrill for the worst spot. High cost of living low wages and high crime oh yea. No where to shop little to do way too many drugs … The weather is difficult and roads and plowing dangerous. I could go on. We really needed the mining jobs up north but didn’t get them.

  17. I see from his ten best cities that it is heavily weighted toward upper middle class towns. Duh. Not everybody is upper middle class. I have lived in several of your ten worst towns, and they are perfectly nice places, just working class. Get over yourself.

    I grew up in NYC, and lived-in Chicago. So I am not a hick. I love living in Rome, right outside of Wisconsin Rapids.

  18. You obviously havent seen the area around Rhinelander, plus with amazing sport programs and a great school, Rhinelander should be near the best. plus everyone lives just outside of rhinelander. but if the person that made this was from Wisconsin and knew what he was talking about, we wouldnt need to worry.

  19. All of you need to shut the up god seeing these chatter box no good tea party comments is pathetic wisconsin may be having financial issues but it does not mean it is abad thing theres beauty in the state tio i do not care for blacks mexcans whites race is not the issue here the issue is being happy whete you live. Where we live is our issue if we are happy then let it be

  20. Oshkosh should be at #1. It’s extraordinarily hostile to men, so sexism is extreme. Even prison guards are deputized, so the entire area is in a constant police state–you can’t park…at a park….without being harassed by some bald guy with major weight issues. A few barons in the area control absolutely everything. The mutants that crawl around that black hole are by far the most follower-type peoples on the planet–there is no independent thought whatsoever. Sexual selection simply doesn’t exist, they just let alcohol do the choosing. The women are extraordinarily grotesque and are 100% male-users and abusers–condescending, crazy, and just plain mean. Everything is packed on the frontage roads (tourist trap) and is all low-wage chain-type stores meant for prisoner-employees who are forced to work in these things……by design. UWO is such a terrible environment that the only reason people attend is that it’s close to home. The lakes are all built up around, and people are so lazy, humongous, and unskilled that they need boats to get around. Daytime during the winter months is pure torture. The overall vibe there is so negative for any living thing that kids who practically know nothing want to leave even before high school “graduation”. It’s no wonder Oshkosh has been mocked nationally for many decades, it literally should be depopulated and razed for the sake of all living entities. I’m pretty sure ghosts don’t even stick around.

  21. The Clown that wrote this is not even from Wisconsin. He is a FIB – he calls a higway a Route. Why doesn’t he make a list of the worst Illinois cities? They are a whole lot worse.

  22. this is a bunch of bull crap i was born in Rhinelander and i was raised here as well its a very safe place the schools are amazing we have 3 private schools and i believe 3 or 4 public schools with great people and a great community. The jobs are amazing with great pay i don’t care what you have against Rhinelander but there is nothing wrong with it. This might be my opinion being stated now but I know that writing this is talking for a lot of Hodags when i say Rhinelander is an amazing place to live

  23. I think Kenosha should be in the top 5. We have the most corrupt police in the state our motto is literally ,”come here on vacation, leave on revocation.” We are only known for All Capone and having the most bars in one city. DCFS/ DA will litterely fabricate information and suppress evidence to adopt / sell as many children , while denying them Medical treatment then judges will ignore evidence even when you have hard coppies on you and push prison terms and TPR for parents and innocent people. Also we have a ton of sex offender including a convicted kiddy pimp who the police are letting groom children and doing nothing to stop. Also in the last two monhs we’ve had at least 20+. Murders. That doesn’t count the week of 4t/ of July last year when at least 10 people were killed; 5 in a single night. I saw the body bags being pulled out for three then got told about two the next day. Do I need to say more

  24. Wisconsin’s falty education system shows in these comments. I am from Milwaukee county and was born in the city, and the article is pretty spot on. But Milwaukee balances itself out with the positive cultural, sporting and culinary options the city does quite well. Tom O.. you are an ignorant SOB.

  25. These creative spellings and punctuations from the so-very-offended contributors above are alone worth the price of admission here. (My favorite: “He is a FIB – he calls a higway a Route.”

  26. Sorry to see you haven’t included any small cities like Phillips WI. , Minocqua WI., Park Falls Wi , Hayward WI . These are cities that boast a great lifestyle but do not take into account the low wages earned by the people who work there along with the cost of housing and the cost per resident for schools . These are great place to PLAY , but to live there is a struggle.

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