Not everyone is cut out for city life. Some people would prefer to live in the cities and towns that surround Phoenix.
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 Phoenix ‘burbs need a little tender loving care – the sore thumbs of the Phoenix area if you will. Realistically, you can’t expect all the suburbs to live up to Phoenix proper, although Paradise Valley certainly tries.
Of course, not all suburbs of Phoenix are created equally, which is precisely why we set out to find the best ones. So without further ado…
We examined the 19 biggest suburbs of Phoenix to find out the worst places to live. And while you won’t necessarily find them on the worst places to live in Arizona lists, these ten places are a little too far downwind of Phoenix in terms of quality of life.
Here are the 10 worst suburbs around Phoenix for 2018:
- Tolleson (Photos)
- Guadalupe (Photos)
- El Mirage (Photos)
- Glendale (Photos)
- Avondale (Photos)
- Mesa (Photos)
- Tempe (Photos)
- Surprise (Photos)
- Peoria (Photos)
- Santa Cruz
Read on to see how we determined the places around Phoenix that need a pick-me-up. And remember, don’t blame the messenger.
And remember, there are some good places to live around Phoenix 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 Arizona reading, check out:
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Determining The Worst Suburbs Around Phoenix for 2018
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, 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 Phoenix.
Additionally, we limited the analysis to places that have over 5,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 19 suburbs to evaluate around Phoenix.
We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 19 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 Phoenix.” We’re lookin’ at you, Tolleson.
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.
We’ll get the ball rolling with Tolleson, the absolute worst place to live around Phoenix according to the data.
And in the world of worst rankings, Tolleson beat the competition pretty handily thanks to scoring in the bottom 15% in three major categories. Income is the 2nd worst in the Phoenix area, and to make matters worse, the city ranks 3rd 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 Tolleson.
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 Guadalupe. Home to KMart, Big Lots, and a lot of gas stations.
This city is 16.0 miles to Phoenix. Income levels here are the 1st lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $30,326 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.
3. El Mirage
Back up the highway we go for the third worst Phoenix suburb you can live in. You might have expected to see El Mirage 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 Phoenix suburbs.
But at least there are nice parks to bring the kids during the day.
If you live in Glendale, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the 3rd lowest Phoenix suburb when it comes to residents making money.
Not only that, but this is the 6th worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near Phoenix. Remember, we looked at 19 cities for this study.
Glendale is about 6.3 miles to downtown.
Avondale has the distinction of being a Phoenix suburb. Which means that’s about all it has going for it.
All snarkiness aside, Avondale has the 4th lowest home values in the metro Phoenix area, where the median price is $160,600. To put that into perspective, in Paradise Valley, the median income is $173,487, which is the best in the area.
Avondale has an unemployment rate of 6.9% which ranks 8th worst.
Mesa has 470,456 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 16.2%.
Ah, Tempe. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around Phoenix.
It’s the place with the 11th most out of work residents in the Phoenix metro area (6.0%).
Surprise is a city about 21.9 miles from Phoenix, but Phoenix 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. Surprise has the 14th most uninsured people, 8th worst incomes, and has the 4th highest unemployment rate (7.8%) in the entire Phoenix metro area.
Homes only cost $197,600 for a reason. That’s cheap for Phoenix standards.
If you absolutely have to live near Phoenix, then Peoria might be a place for you to consider as it’s only the 9th worst Phoenix suburb.
About 6.4% of residents are out of work.
10. Santa Cruz
Population: 63,310 Unemployment Rate: 8.5%
Median Home Price: $707,600
Median Income: $62,471
More on Santa Cruz: Jobs
Rounding out the ten worst Phoenix suburbs to call home is Santa Cruz.
Located 23.8 miles outside the city, Santa Cruzs is a real pit when you look at the data. Its residents have the 3rd highest unemployment rate (8.5%), and poverty is far above the area average.
The areas around Phoenix where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2018
Well there you have it — the worst of the ‘burbs surrounding Phoenix with Tolleson casting itself ahead of the pack.
As we mentioned earlier, the suburbs around Phoenix aren’t all bad. Paradise Valley takes the cake as the best place to live around Phoenix.
For more Arizona reading, check out:
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Detailed List Of The Worst Phoenix Suburbs