These Are The 10 Most Miserable Mid-Sized Cities In America

We used science and data to determine which mid-sized cities in America are the real pits.

RoadSnacks is reader-supported. When you click through real estate links on our site, we earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.
This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out.

Swipe left for slideshow

There’s a common denominator that all bad mid-sized cities have.

They are the places that have bad economies. They are the places where the school systems are in bad shape. They’re the places where people are out of work, and where residents earn low salaries.

If home prices are low, it’s a sign that there’s not a lot of demand to live there.

And certainly, if crime is really high, no one wants to be there at all.

The cities we used in this report are mid-sized cities that have populations between 68,000 and 108,000. Many are suburbs of major cities where things aren’t going very well right now, at least according to data, which measures the good things that people say they want in a city.

There might be some surprises on this list, but when you look at the unbiased data, it’s hard to argue against. We had more than 10 million people read our worst cities in a state series, which was featured in hundreds of media outlets, including an NPR feature.

So we know what we’re talking about.

After analyzing all 250 mid-sized cities in the country, here is our list of the worst such cities to live in America:

  1. Gary, IN
  2. Flint, MI
  3. Lehigh Acres, FL
  4. Hemet, CA
  5. Albany, GA
  6. Medford, OR
  7. Hesperia, CA
  8. West Palm Beach, FL
  9. Spring Hill, FL
  10. Redding, CA

You might be surprised to see some of these cities on this list. We understand there’s a lot of good in every place. However, according to data (which doesn’t measure things like beauty, ‘friendly people’ and community involvement), there are far better options in America for making a place home.

The best mid-sized city to live in America? Newton, Massachusetts. More on that later.


How do you decide if a place is lousy or not?

In order to rank the worst mid-sized cities to live in America, we had to determine what criteria people like or dislike about a place. It isn’t a stretch to assume that people like low crime, solid education, things to do and a stable economy.

So we scraped the internet for those criteria, asked for the opposite of those, and it spit out the answer. Like magic.

How we crunched the numbers

We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using FBI crime data, the government census, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Sperling’s Best Places, this is the criteria we used:

  • Population Density (The lower the worse – meaning there’s less to do for indoor entertainment)
  • Highest Unemployment Rates
  • Adjusted Median Income (Median income adjusted for the cost of living)
  • High Housing Vacancy Rate
  • Education (Low expenditures per student and high Student Teacher Ratio)
  • High Crime

If you’d like to see the complete list of cities, scroll to the bottom of this post to see a link to the entire data set.

Note: We get the crime numbers from the FBI, which gets its crime numbers from the cities themselves. This list is based on data, and is entirely unbiased.


1. Gary, Indiana

Grade: F


Population: 81,153
Home values: 2nd worst in America
Crime: 3rd highest in America
Median household income: $26,956

It wasn’t surprising when you look at the data on the top two ‘worst’ mid-sized cities to live in America. Gary, Indiana and Flint Michigan are both crime ridden, poor cities.

With Gary, average households bring in salaries that are just about at the poverty level in America. Meaning most people in Gary struggle to make ends meet every day. An unemployment rate that’s the 9th highest in the nation doesn’t help matters here, either.

There were 54 murders in this decaying city two years ago, and there aren’t any signs that things are going to improve any time soon.

The fact is, Gary gets an F when it comes to livability, when you take into account the desirable factors people say they want in a home town.

2. Flint, Michigan

Grade: F


Population: 99,320
Crime: 11th worst in the nation
Home values: Lowest in America
Income levels: Lowest in America

Detroit is the 3rd worst place in America, according to our analysis. Flint isn’t too far behind when you look at mid-sized cities. Income levels are even lower than they are in Flint, and homes average $50,500 each. That’s a sign that there is absolutely zero demand to live in Flint.

You see more expensive homes in the far reaches of Iowa.

Flint’s troubles continue at the school level. Public kids attend the 2nd most crowded schools in the nation for similarly sized cities. Sometimes, in the worst cities, the schools still get a lot of funding as a way to try and turn things around.

Not so in Flint. It’s almost as if the entire system has given up trying to make a change here.

3. Lehigh Acres, Florida

Grade: D-

Google Maps.

Population: 95,767
Unemployment rate: 5th highest in the nation
Home values: 10th lowest
Crime: 9th highest in the U.S.

Just about everyone outside of Florida hasn’t heard of Lehigh Acres, a pretty bad place to live on Florida’s west coast – just outside of Fort Myers.

Crime is really bad in Lehigh Acres, among other factors. Perhaps the 11.6% unemployment rate is a reason there are so many crimes occur here every year.

And when home prices are under $90,000, you can bet many other people in the area are aware of the unattractive factors that are at play in this Florida community.

4. Hemet, California

Grade: D

Google Maps.

Population: 78,833
Income levels: 14th lowest in America
Schools: 18th most crowded

If you value good quality public schools, then you wouldn’t want to consider living in Hemet. Not only are the public schools some of the most overcrowded in the country, but there aren’t too many private schools to choose from in the area, either.

Hemet is about an hour’s drive east of Los Angeles, in the part of Riverside County that’s near the desert. Crime is in the top 15% in the nation, nearly 1 in 10 people are without jobs, and families earn just about $33,000 a year on a very expensive California budget.

Out of all of the potential cities to live in the greater Los Angeles basin, Hemet is the absolute worst, according to the data.

5. Albany, Georgia

Grade: D


Population: 77,435
Income: 6th lowest in America
Crime: 4th highest in the U.S.

Albany is a mid-sized city with a university in town, and a Marine base nearby. According to the data, it’s one of the worst places you can live in the south.

Crime is horrible here. There were 8 murders here in 2013, which is off the charts for a city so small. In addition, for every year you spend in Albany, you have a 1 in 16 chance of being the victim of a property crime, including home robberies and stolen cars.

If you live in Albany, you earn a meager salary. The average person earns just above the poverty line, which, frankly, makes it one of the poorest cities in the country.

6. Medford, Oregon

Grade: C-


Population: 75,134
Schools: 5th most crowded
Crime: 6th highest in America

You might be thinking Medford? We understand. When you look at the numbers, Medford has some serious issues, though.

Medford isn’t a really dangerous place – you have a 1 in 159 chance of being the victim of a murder, rape or attack every year you spend here. We’ve seen much higher rates than that. However, when it comes to thefts and vandalisms, residents have a 1 in 16 chance of being a victim.

Nationally, that’s really high, and for Oregon, it’s off the charts.

Another issue with Medford are the public schools. There are few other cities with more crowded classrooms than in Medford.

All other factors were far below average as well.

7. Hesperia, California

Grade: C-

Google Maps

Population: 89,704
Unemployment rate: 7th highest in America
Schools: 18th most crowded

Sure, Hesperia isn’t particularly dangerous. This desert community just outside of the LA sprawl has many other factors against it (beyond the fact that it can be just plain boring here.)

More than 11% of the population of Hesperia is without work, and where there are abundant jobs are more than an hour’s drive away. Plus, the public school system here is underfunded and overcrowded.

Home prices and income levels are in the bottom 30% in the nation for mid-sized cities in Hesperia.

8. West Palm Beach, Florida

Grade: C-


Population: 99,803
Crime: Worst 15% in the country
Public schools: 5th most crowded

This may or may not come as a surprise for people living in Florida, who could probably rattle off many other cities down there that they think would be far worse to live in, but when you look at the data, things are not looking so swell in West Palm Beach.

Crime is really high here. Plus, there were 15 murders here in 2013. That’s just unacceptable for a city of 100,000 people.

And, like several other cities on this list, the schools are in bad shape.

More than 7% of the population here is out of work, and households bring in $45,000 a year – which doesn’t go a long way in Florida.

9. Spring Hill, Florida

Grade: C-

Google Maps.

Population: 99,513
Crime: 28th worst
Unemployment rate: 19th highest

Another Florida city cracks the top 10 here. Spring Hill is up the coast from Lehigh Acres. Here, crime is one of the highest in the country, and nearly 1 in 10 residents is out of work.

Other economic factors that stand out: Low incomes and cheap homes.

Does that sounds like a desirable place to live?

10. Redding, Calfornia

Grade: C-

Flickr user Antonio Ruiz

Population: 90,008

Redding doesn’t really stand out as being one of the worst in any category we measured. Overall, though, Redding ranges from bottom 10% to below average in all of them.

Incomes are far below average for a northern California family, as are their home prices, which is a sign that desirability is pretty low. Crime isn’t out of this world high, but residents still have about a 1 in 20 chance of being robbed every year they’re within city limits.

The fact that, like all of the other cities on this list, there are simply far more desirable places to live.

The next 20

Here are the grades for the next 20 cities on the list. The complete scoring chart is at the bottom (desktop only).

    11. Perris, CA. Grade: C
    12. North Charleston, SC. Grade: C
    13. Canton, OH. Grade: C
    14. Decatur, IL. Grade: C
    15. Merced, CA. Grade: C
    16. Muncie, IN. Grade: C
    17. Gastonia, NC. Grade: C
    18. South Bend, IN. Grade: C
    19. Yuma, AZ. Grade: C
    20. Lakeland, FL. Grade: C

There You Have It

If you’re looking at mid-sized cities in the U.S. where crime is high, people are broke, and the public schools are lousy, this is an accurate list.

Mobile users: Here’s a link to the complete data chart.

If you’re also curious enough, here are the best mid-sized cities in America, according to science.

  1. Newton, MA (Pop. 113,416)
  2. Plymouth, MN (Pop. 96,730)
  3. Arlington Heights, IL (Pop. 77,171)
  4. The Woodlands, TX (Pop. 105,509)
  5. Sugar Land, TX (Pop. 107,719)

We also wrote a story on the worst states in America to live. Click here to read it.

Disclaimer: This article is an opinion based on data. It should not be taken as fact.

Desktop users: Below is a chart of the worst mid-sized cities to live in America, from 1-250.

City Population Rank
gary 81153 1
flint 103263 2
lehigh_acres 95767 3
hemet 78833 4
albany 77435 5
medford 75134 6
hesperia 89703 7
west_palm_beach 99803 8
spring_hill 99513 9
redding 90088 10
perris 68084 11
north_charleston 98150 12
canton 73318 13
decatur 76091 14
merced 78953 15
muncie 70033 16
gastonia 71865 17
south_bend 101282 18
yuma 93831 19
lakeland 98317 20
duluth 86239 21
avondale 75298 22
boynton_beach 68467 23
apple_valley 69155 24
indio 76105 25
hammond 80658 26
racine 78878 27
palm_coast 75143 27
greenville 84445 29
melbourne 76609 30
edinburg 77174 31
chico 86391 32
auburn 70297 33
kalamazoo 74494 34
lake_charles 72204 35
yakima 91083 36
everett 103135 37
ogden 82749 38
san_tan_valley 77465 39
compton 96561 40
reading 87926 41
richmond 104225 42
bellingham 80930 43
waukegan 88982 44
deltona 84973 45
rialto 100009 46
turlock 68576 47
pharr 70119 48
arden-arcade 91099 49
spokane_valley 89793 50
wilmington 71119 51
fall_river 89049 52
town_’n’_country 79785 53
nampa 81667 54
antioch 102575 55
camden 77606 55
wyoming 72408 57
albany 97892 58
pompano_beach 100819 59
citrus_heights 84104 60
south_gate 94703 61
new_britain 73122 62
largo 77502 63
lawton 96187 64
bloomington 80440 64
bend 77063 66
baytown 71790 67
carson 91937 68
tracy 82481 69
trenton 84799 70
miami_beach 88628 71
sunrise 85745 72
federal_way 89691 73
upland 74192 74
westland 83770 75
dearborn 97509 76
clovis 95431 77
pawtucket 71246 78
deerfield_beach 75724 79
new_bedford 94952 80
san_leandro 84966 81
santa_maria 98715 82
renton 91273 83
brooklyn_park 75843 84
brockton 93916 85
el_cajon 99680 86
redlands 69078 86
menifee 77437 88
lynwood 69871 89
palm_bay 102814 90
las_cruces 97393 91
lynn 90392 92
springdale 70087 93
hillsboro 91998 94
bryan 76082 95
southfield 72280 96
riverview 70052 97
bellflower 76619 98
st._joseph 76729 99
santa_monica 90008 100
erie 101454 101
sparks 90099 102
fayetteville 74191 103
alafaya 82196 104
west_jordan 103846 105
greeley 93082 106
portsmouth 95786 107
fort_smith 86382 108
chino 78713 109
jacksonville 69393 110
cicero 83756 111
baldwin_park 75650 112
whittier 85423 113
tuscaloosa 90766 114
st._george 73421 115
hawthorne 84633 116
vista 94145 117
davie 92587 118
lynchburg 75657 119
beaverton 90254 120
lawrence 76331 121
westminster 89970 122
high_point 104394 123
temecula 100621 124
sioux_city 82529 125
murrieta 102345 126
parma 81299 127
longview 80931 128
lawrence 87963 129
scranton 76021 130
cheektowaga 75218 131
kenosha 99297 132
asheville 83796 133
concord 79171 134
alhambra 83513 135
san_angelo 93450 136
mission 76784 137
bethlehem 75016 138
brandon 102555 138
chino_hills 75211 138
daly_city 101538 141
roanoke 96742 142
livonia 96632 143
santa_barbara 88572 143
plantation 85853 143
orem 88820 146
tustin 75712 147
san_marcos 83028 148
cranston 80446 149
buena_park 80781 150
champaign 81083 151
passaic 69685 152
longmont 86355 153
lakewood 80213 154
billings 104374 155
green_bay 104226 156
rapid_city 68060 157
boca_raton 85738 158
lewisville 95989 159
burbank 103420 160
warwick 82698 161
kennewick 73640 162
davenport 99781 163
tyler 97125 163
sandy 87952 165
odessa 101545 166
waterloo 68248 167
bloomington 83658 168
rio_rancho 87068 168
napa 77121 170
union_city 69820 171
highlands_ranch 98977 172
wichita_falls 104152 173
vacaville 92672 174
bolingbrook 73383 174
livermore 81086 176
toms_river 89095 177
meridian 75210 178
boulder 99177 179
alameda 74023 180
sandy_springs 94816 180
mission_viejo 93699 182
college_station 93663 182
germantown 88039 184
nashua 86823 185
schaumburg 74276 186
quincy 92078 187
kendall 77462 188
san_mateo 97322 189
folsom 71675 189
redwood_city 77036 189
mountain_view 74447 192
new_rochelle 77074 193
lake_forest 77605 194
newport_beach 85323 195
bloomington 76527 196
appleton 72575 197
san_ramon 71213 198
pleasanton 70329 199
suffolk 84216 200
broken_arrow 98648 201
silver_spring 74476 202
rochester_hills 71251 203
richardson 100057 204
clifton 83926 205
fishers 76835 205
evanston 74619 205
norwalk 85853 208
danbury 81057 209
palatine 68338 210
roswell 89294 211
hoover 81132 211
somerville 75974 213
troy 81307 214
centennial 101339 215
farmington_hills 80131 216
waukesha 70593 217
lee’s_summit 90544 218
carmel 80060 219
edmond 81594 220
johns_creek 77338 221
o’fallon 79073 222
columbia 100735 223
framingham 68689 224
league_city 83026 225
allen 84387 226
pearland 90347 227
centreville 72465 228
sugar_land 79475 229
the_woodlands 97951 230
arlington_heights 75221 231
plymouth 70895 232
newton 85177 233

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.