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 141 of the state’s most populous cities, we came up with this list as the 10 worst (not wurst) places to live in Wisconsin:
Where are these places, you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we’re picking on small towns in Wisconsin, that’s not the case.
We understand there’s a lot of good in every place. For example, the best place to live in Wisconsin is Fox Point.
However, according to data (which doesn’t measure things like beauty and ‘friendly people’), the state has far better options for making a place home. And the worst place to live in Wisconsin? The worst place to live in Wisconsin is Beloit.
Read below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your city fared in 2023.
For more Wisconsin reading, check out:
- Best Places To Live In Wisconsin
- Cheapest Places To Live In Wisconsin
- Most Dangerous Cities In Wisconsin
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Wisconsin For 2023
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 2022, and residents had a 1 in 43.7 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 7.0% of the population can’t get a job. At least their mortgages aren’t too high; at $102,100, Beloit has the 7th-lowest home prices in the state of Wisconsin.
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 578,198), 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 6.2% and the median income hovers at $45,318. Schools and housing also hold the area back.
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 10,351 residents contend with a 7.9% unemployment rate and a $56,303 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 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 4 worst place to live in Badger State.
For such a small town (population: 18,711), 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.
What the heck is going on in little Antigo? The crime is the 25th highest in the state of Wisconsin. Here, residents have a 1 in 47.4 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 8.5% of Antigo residents were without jobs in the latest numbers we collected, which is the 2nd highest in the state.
If you want to live in an area where people are underpaid and there’s a lot of crime, then move to Rice Lake, a tiny blip an hour north of Eau Claire where residents don’t have much to do except stare out over’Rice Lake.
Crime is the 9th highest in the state, and residents earn the 9th lowest incomes in Wisconsin.
A bright side to living here is the quality of the schools. Public school kids get far more attention and resources than their Wisconsin peers.
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.
Welcome to Racine. Home of the laziest people in the state of Wisconsin, where more than 1 in 17.2 are without jobs, crime is rampant (5highest 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.
Methodology: How we determined the worst places to live in Wisconsin for 2023
To figure out the worst places to live in Wisconsin, 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 more significant weight. If you did a simple calculation of all crimes per capita, property crimes are typically 7x more common and bias that ranking.
Furthermore, only cities with at least 5,000 people were considered — leaving 141 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 141 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 ten worst cities in Wisconsin.
Summary: 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 little to do, this is an accurate list.
And in the end, Beloit ranks as the worst city to live in Wisconsin for 2023.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Wisconsin:
- Elm Grove (Pop. 6,456)
- Cedarburg (Pop. 12,109)
- Fox Point (Pop. 6,886)
For more Wisconsin reading, check out:
Worst Places To Live In Wisconsin?
|25||Fond du Lac||44,412|
|56||Prairie du Chien||5,549|
|60||North Fond du Lac||5,349|