Not everyone is cut out for city life. Some people would prefer to live in the cities and towns that surround Milwaukee.
So the question arises, do the suburbs maintain a semblance of the larger-than-life appeal of their more famous neighbor?
Today, we’ll use science and data to determine which Milwaukee ‘burbs need a little tender loving care – the sore thumbs of the Milwaukee area if you will. Realistically, you can’t expect all the suburbs to live up to Milwaukee proper, although Whitefish Bay certainly tries.
Of course, not all suburbs of Milwaukee are created equally, which is precisely why we set out to find the best ones. So without further ado…
We examined the 57 biggest suburbs of Milwaukee to find out the worst places to live. And while you won’t necessarily find them on the worst places to live in Wisconsin lists, these ten places are a little too far downwind of Milwaukee in terms of quality of life.
Here are the 10 worst suburbs around Milwaukee for 2019:
- West Milwaukee
- Racine (Photos)
- Cudahy (Photos)
- Union Grove
- West Allis (Photos)
- St. Francis (Photos)
- South Milwaukee
- Hartford (Photos)
- Greenfield (Photos)
Read on to see how we determined the places around Milwaukee that need a pick-me-up. And remember, don’t blame the messenger.
And remember, there are some good places to live around Milwaukee too.
Editor’s Note: If you see a slight difference between the worst in state rankings and this suburb ranking, it’s because of the methodology. We needed a way to include more places, so we eliminated crime and commute times as criteria for this analysis.
For more Wisconsin reading, check out:
- 10 Best Places To Live In Wisconsin
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Wisconsin
- 10 Most Dangerous Cities In Wisconsin
Determining The Worst Suburbs Around Milwaukee for 2019
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 threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using the most recent American Community Survey data from 2013-2017, this is the criteria we used:
- High unemployment rate
- Low median household incomes
- Low population density (no things to do)
- Low home values
- A lot of high school drop outs
- High poverty
- High rate of uninsured families
FYI: We defined a suburb as being within 30 miles of Milwaukee.
Additionally, we limited the analysis to places that have over 2,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 57 suburbs to evaluate around Milwaukee.
We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 57 in each category, where 1 was the “worst”.
Next, we averaged the rankings for each place to create a quality of life index.
And finally, we crowned the city with the worst quality of life index the “Worst Suburb near Milwaukee.” We’re lookin’ at you, West Milwaukee.
Read on below to learn more about what it’s like to live in the worst of the worst. Or skip to the end to see the list of all the suburbs ranked from worst to best.
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Income: $35,286 (1st lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 9.2% (1st highest)
Median Home Value: $135,300 (2nd lowest)
More on West Milwaukee: Data
We’ll get the ball rolling with West Milwaukee, the absolute worst place to live around Milwaukee according to the data.
And in the world of worst rankings, West Milwaukee beat the competition pretty handily thanks to scoring in the bottom 15% in three major categories. Income is the 1st worst in the Milwaukee area, and to make matters worse, the city ranks 2nd worst when it comes to home values.
But hey, at least it’s cheap to live there. But there’s a reason for that… it’s West Milwaukee.
You won’t feel bad about not having a great income for the area, there aren’t a bunch of places to spend your money anyway.
Welcome to Racine. Home to KMart, Big Lots, and a lot of gas stations.
This city is 24.5 miles to Milwaukee. Income levels here are the 3rd lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $42,590 a year, which doesn’t go a long ways even on a shoestring budget.
But on the bright side, there are a lot of fast food joints in the area.
Back up the highway we go for the third worst Milwaukee suburb you can live in. You might have expected to see Cudahy on here. While the cost of living is low, your entertainment and work options are limited. And that’s an understatement.
In terms of numbers, it’s in the worst 15% for insurance, and the adult high school drop out rate is poor compared to other Milwaukee suburbs.
But at least there are nice parks to bring the kids during the day.
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 4)
Median Income: $54,665 (7th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 3.9% (19th highest)
Median Home Value: $177,400 (13th lowest)
More on Saukville: Data
If you live in Saukville, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the 7th lowest Milwaukee suburb when it comes to residents making money.
Not only that, but this is the 19th worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near Milwaukee. Remember, we looked at 57 cities for this study.
Saukville is about 22.5 miles to downtown.
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Median Income: $64,935 (20th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.5% (5th highest)
Median Home Value: $173,100 (11th lowest)
More on Union Grove: Data
Union Grove has the distinction of being a Milwaukee suburb. Which means that’s about all it has going for it.
All snarkiness aside, Union Grove has the 11th lowest home values in the metro Milwaukee area, where the median price is $173,100. To put that into perspective, in Whitefish Bay, the median income is $151,818, which is the best in the area.
Union Grove has an unemployment rate of 5.5% which ranks 5th worst.
West Allis has 60,546 residents that probably know it’s a pretty crummy place to live when you look at the data. (Or, if you’ve ever been there, you don’t need to look at the data.)
Incomes are towards the bottom and the poverty rate sits at 13.4%.
Ah, St. Francis. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around Milwaukee.
It’s the place with the 18th most out of work residents in the Milwaukee metro area (4.0%).
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 1)
Median Income: $51,484 (6th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.3% (4th highest)
Median Home Value: $156,400 (8th lowest)
More on South Milwaukee: Data
South Milwaukee is a city about 11.7 miles from Milwaukee, but Milwaukee probably wishes it was further away. It ranks as the 8th worst burb for 2018.
You’d be hard pressed to find a worse place to live. South Milwaukee has the 13th most uninsured people, 6th worst incomes, and has the 4th highest unemployment rate (6.3%) in the entire Milwaukee metro area.
Homes only cost $156,400 for a reason. That’s cheap for Milwaukee standards.
If you absolutely have to live near Milwaukee, then Hartford might be a place for you to consider as it’s only the 9th worst Milwaukee suburb.
About 3.2% of residents are out of work.
Rounding out the ten worst Milwaukee suburbs to call home is Greenfield.
Located 7.4 miles outside the city, Greenfields is a real pit when you look at the data. Its residents have the 12th highest unemployment rate (4.5%), and poverty is far above the area average.
The areas around Milwaukee where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2019
Well there you have it — the worst of the ‘burbs surrounding Milwaukee with West Milwaukee casting itself ahead of the pack.
As we mentioned earlier, the suburbs around Milwaukee aren’t all bad. Whitefish Bay takes the cake as the best place to live around Milwaukee.
- Whitefish Bay
- Fox Point
For more Wisconsin reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Best Places To Retire In Wisconsin
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In Wisconsin
- 10 Safest Places In Wisconsin
- 10 Worst Places To Live In Wisconsin
Detailed List Of The Worst Milwaukee Suburbs