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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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

4
/10

Population: 36,836
Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $89,900
Unemployment Rate: 8.8%
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

5
/10

Population: 7,780
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $75,000
Unemployment Rate: 10.1%
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

4
/10

Population: 594,548
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $122,100
Unemployment Rate: 6.8%
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

5
/10

Population: 10,406
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 5)
Median Home Value: $125,200
Unemployment Rate: 5.8%
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

6
/10

Population: 17,770
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $91,100
Unemployment Rate: 5.5%
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

6
/10

Population: 8,303
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 4)
Median Home Value: $144,900
Unemployment Rate: 4.0%
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

8
/10

Population: 7,894
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $197,300
Unemployment Rate: 5.8%
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

6
/10

Population: 7,892
Rank Last Year: 8 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $107,700
Unemployment Rate: 4.6%
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

6
/10

Population: 77,081
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $108,700
Unemployment Rate: 6.4%
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

6
/10

Population: 6,879
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $133,300
Unemployment Rate: 4.4%
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
11 Kenosha 99,688 6.9% $152,500
12 Superior 26,223 3.3% $120,800
13 Twin Lakes 6,107 9.0% $203,700
14 Baraboo 12,138 6.4% $152,600
15 Green Bay 104,777 3.6% $135,900
16 Chippewa Falls 14,101 6.0% $135,100
17 Fitchburg 29,450 3.2% $315,900
18 Tomah 9,383 4.1% $120,600
19 Jefferson 7,991 4.8% $162,500
20 Whitewater 14,722 6.0% $168,700
21 Rice Lake 8,367 2.7% $130,200
22 Bellevue 15,701 3.6% $188,400
23 Richland Center 5,019 3.2% $100,600
24 Two Rivers 11,154 3.6% $94,300
25 Janesville 64,245 4.6% $142,500
26 La Crosse 51,666 4.3% $142,500
27 West Allis 60,025 3.7% $146,100
28 Wausau 38,735 4.0% $121,900
29 South Milwaukee 20,957 4.5% $162,000
30 Rhinelander 7,570 1.9% $90,600
31 Menomonie 16,408 3.3% $145,200
32 Pleasant Prairie 20,832 4.9% $231,200
33 Watertown 23,633 4.0% $153,100
34 Berlin 5,383 3.9% $109,000
35 Fond du Lac 42,909 4.6% $126,200
36 Sheboygan 48,327 5.0% $114,500
37 New Richmond 9,034 1.3% $180,100
38 Merrill 9,108 3.6% $85,300
39 Waupaca 5,952 1.9% $104,900
40 Eau Claire 68,187 4.0% $155,000
41 Oshkosh 66,773 3.4% $125,000
42 Marinette 10,608 3.4% $86,400
43 Jackson 7,081 5.9% $209,800
44 Mount Pleasant 26,928 3.1% $190,800
45 Bristol 5,038 5.3% $266,500
46 Manitowoc 32,702 3.1% $107,100
47 Beaver Dam 16,345 5.0% $133,200
48 Elkhorn 9,925 2.5% $176,700
49 Greenfield 37,099 3.5% $177,800
50 Hartford 14,977 3.8% $188,000
51 Fort Atkinson 12,443 2.1% $157,000
52 Stevens Point 26,229 4.1% $140,100
53 Oak Creek 36,066 3.1% $231,200
54 Menasha 18,114 4.4% $131,100
55 Weston 15,110 1.9% $160,200
56 Sparta 9,717 2.9% $123,300
57 Columbus 5,058 1.4% $165,400
58 Altoona 7,625 2.3% $157,600
59 Appleton 74,139 3.6% $147,800
60 Platteville 12,264 4.1% $152,400
61 Shawano 8,974 3.9% $98,900
62 West Bend 31,596 2.4% $174,500
63 Lake Hallie 6,667 2.1% $182,100
64 North Fond du Lac 5,076 3.8% $113,600
65 Edgerton 5,550 4.9% $158,200
66 St. Francis 9,549 1.8% $152,000
67 Ripon 7,781 2.0% $122,800
68 Plover 12,803 2.2% $175,300
69 Madison 254,977 3.1% $246,300
70 Ashwaubenon 17,149 3.5% $170,600
71 Reedsburg 9,508 1.5% $141,800
72 Franklin 36,064 3.4% $251,400
73 Caledonia 25,120 3.8% $208,600
74 Brown Deer 11,965 2.7% $167,100
75 Little Chute 11,484 3.2% $150,900
76 Evansville 5,312 0.6% $187,000
77 Marshfield 18,222 2.7% $141,300
78 Howard 19,658 2.6% $212,500
79 Prairie du Chien 5,635 2.5% $118,100
80 Sturtevant 6,606 3.7% $160,200
81 Lake Mills 5,895 1.2% $198,100
82 Pewaukee 8,164 2.7% $211,100
83 Milton 5,573 2.8% $149,800
84 Hobart 9,053 1.3% $270,800
85 Cudahy 18,271 2.7% $152,900
86 Richfield 11,690 1.9% $323,700
87 Port Washington 11,761 3.8% $197,900
88 Hudson 13,795 2.2% $243,400
89 Slinger 5,389 2.1% $257,100
90 Burlington 10,847 2.3% $185,300
91 Delafield 7,457 4.2% $387,200
92 Kimberly 6,770 2.3% $146,900
93 Stoughton 13,097 1.5% $218,100
94 Sturgeon Bay 8,885 3.5% $147,000
95 Plymouth 8,590 3.0% $144,700
96 Suamico 12,701 2.4% $249,400
97 Sussex 10,833 3.0% $286,300
98 Waukesha 72,412 3.0% $212,700
99 Neenah 25,967 3.3% $141,100
100 Onalaska 18,662 3.0% $196,600

How Is The Area In ?

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.