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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 139 of the state's most populous cities, we came up with this list as the 10 worst (not wurst) places to live in Wisconsin:
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 Antigo.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2020.
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 2020
What the heck is going on in little Antigo? The crime is the 7th highest in the state of Wisconsin. Here, residents have a 1 in 22.2 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 11.0% of Antigo residents were without jobs in the latest numbers we collected, which is the highest in the state.
While numbers in Wisconsin are clearly better when you compare them to the rest of the nation, the fact is when you compare Wisconsin cities against one another, you see big differences.
Home values in Delavan average $143,600, which is the 50th lowest in the state. Say what you want about 'cheap living,' the fact is homes are priced by demand, and there's not a lot of demand to live in Delavan.
Plus, 11.3% of the population here lives below the poverty line.
Plus, the crime rate is the 16th highest in the state here. Every year, when you're within Delavan city limits, you have a 1 in 33.2 chance of being robbed. That's a lot of broken into cars and homes.
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 2019, and residents had a 1 in 37.6 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 9.4% of the population can't get a job. At least their mortgages aren't too high; at $87,400, Beloit has the 4th-lowest home prices in the state of Wisconsin.
Milwaukee is the 9th most dangerous place in the state of Wisconsin. That's part of the reason it's the 4th worst place in Wisconsin.
The fact remains, that when you're within Milwaukee city limits, you have a 1 in 33.7 chance of being robbed or having something you own vandalized.Does that sound like a fun place to live?
Did you know Milwaukee also has the 4th highest unemployment rate in the state at 7.8%? Or that homes are only valued at $118,000?
Say what you want about cheap living. The fact is, homes are priced by demand, and there's little demand to live in Milwaukee.
Lake Geneva, where there's absolutely nothing to do unless you enjoy bowling, ranks as the 5th worst city in Wisconsin.
Besides the lack of pure amenities, Lake Geneva has some real economic problems to contend with. The unemployment rate hovers near 5.1%, and families earn around $49,580 a year. It's also the 38th highest in Wisconsin for crime, where 1 in 44.2 people gets robbed every year.
Does living in a place where people who come to visit are robbed sound like fun?
Welcome to Racine. Home of the laziest people in the state of Wisconsin, where more than 1 in 14.3 are without jobs, crime is rampant (34th 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.
Located right along the banks of the Wisconsin River is Wisconsin Rapids, a mid-sized city that across the board, isn't horrible in any category. It's just generally lousy here.
NASCAR driver Dick Trickle grew up here, and began his career on the short tracks in the area. At least they have a hometown hero.
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.
When you're looking at science and data, Portage is the worst place you can live in Wisconsin. Let's see why.
The unemployment rate here is 5.8%. The schools are underfunded, and property values are well below the state average. A home costs $122,400, which is a sure sign of lack of demand.
You have a 1 in 66.4 chance of being the victim of some type of property crime here every year. That's not fun, either.
Portage is a far drive south from Louisville.
When you're looking at science and data, the city of Baraboo is the 10th worst place you can live in the state of Wisconsin. Let's see why.
You may be surprised to hear that the crime here is the 18th-highest in the state per capita, according to the FBI data base.
Residents in Baraboo had a 1 in 33.8 chance of being robbed in 2019. To put things into perspective, since the average person has 300 friends on Facebook, if everyone you friended lived in Baraboo, statistically, 25 of them would have been the victim of a property crime, meaning a home robbery, car break in or a stolen wallet.
Baraboo's other issues are a very high unemployment rate (6.9%) and income levels of its residents ($44,263).
How we determined the worst places to live in Wisconsin for 2020
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 139 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 139 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 -- Antigo. 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, Antigo ranks as the worst city to live in Wisconsin for 2020.
If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Wisconsin:
- Elm Grove (Pop. 6,172)
- Fox Point (Pop. 6,688)
- Whitefish Bay (Pop. 14,039)
For more Wisconsin reading, check out:
- Best Places To Retire In Wisconsin
- Richest Cities In Wisconsin
- Safest Places In Wisconsin
- Best Cities For Singles In Wisconsin
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Wisconsin?