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Missouri might be one of the most unique states in the country. Are you in the midwest or are you in the south? While much of the state is farmland, there are some southern features like the Ozarks that dominate the landscape. You're friendly like the south, and you love frog giggin, but you love baseball and winter snow, too.
Plus, you're in the SEC. Go figure.
Is it all rosy in the Show Me State? Of course not. Just like every other state, Missouri has its least desirable spots. The purpose of this post is to use science and data to determine which places are the worst you could possibly live in if you make Missouri your home.
After analyzing 128 of the state's most populous cities (over 5,000 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in the state of Missouri:
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 Missouri? That would be Sullivan.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2021.
For more Missouri reading, check out:
- Best Places To Live In Missouri
- Cheapest Places To Live In Missouri
- Most Dangerous Cities in Missouri
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Missouri For 2021
You can find jobs in Sullivan. They just might not provide enough income to make ends meet. The unemployment rate runs a respectable 5.4%. However, the town's median income comes in at only $35,789. With these low wages, 19.2% scrape by on the wrong side of the poverty line.
Crime and housing present issues as well. The area's crime rate tracks at more than double the U.S. norm.
Fun fact: the area around Aurora was founded by an ancestor of Brad Pitt. In the 19th century, the area became prominent thanks to a booming mining industry. Unfortunately, the economy has turned sour in the 21st century. High unemployment and low wages earn the town the title of number 2 worst location in Missouri.
You'll have trouble finding a good-paying job in Aurora. The unemployment rate sits at 9.6% and the median income tracks at $38,750. Aurora has other issues as well. The crime rate runs 120% above the U.S. norm. In addition, the area struggles with housing, diversity, and education.
This town in the southwestern part of Missouri has its charms. For instance, locals can check out Baldwin Park.
Built along the Mississippi River, across the water from Tennessee, Caruthersville is famous for two main reasons. First, the town hosted an early iteration of the "steel cage" professional wrestling match in 1936. Second, the community provides a crucial transportation spot: I-155 runs through town, toward the only bridge across the Mississippi for the more than 150 miles between Cairo, Illinois, and Memphis, Tennessee.
Unfortunately, neither of these distinctions provides a significant boost to the town's economy. The median income sits at $31,322 and the unemployment rate stands at 9.9%.
Caruthersville also suffers a major safety problem, with a crime rate more than 110% above the national standard. In addition, the 5,616 residents struggle with housing issues and weak schools.
Welcome to Jennings, where criminals go to make a living. Jennings has the 12th highest crime rate in the state. When you're within Jennings city limits, you have a 1 in 0.0 chance of being the victim of a property crime such as a car break in or home invasion robbery every year.
Plus, there were 80 violent crimes here in 2021. For a city of 14,712 people, that's absolutely off the charts high. You have a 1 in 0 chance of being raped, attacked or killed when you're in Jennings every year as well.
Jennings is a northern suburb of St. Louis.
A suburb of St. Louis, located about 20 minutes north west of the city, Dellwood faces a number of problems. A shaky economy and a substandard educational system make this one of the worst places to live in all of Missouri.
Unlike many places on this list, the economic situation in Dellwood is far from dire. Still, the 5,013 residents of the town struggle to earn a living. The 6.9% unemployment rate and $47,959 median income leave 18.2% of the population below the poverty line.
Still, the town provides significant amenities. From shopping to parks to the Dellwood Recreation Center, locals can find plenty to do in their spare time.
Rank Last Year: -
Median Home Value: $240,000 (107th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.5% (17th worst)
More on Osage Beach: Data
Osage Beach has had its 15 minutes of TV fame. The town provides the setting for the Netflix show Ozark. Located along the Lake of the Ozarks, residents have a host of water activities to choose from.
So filling your free time isn't a problem in Osage Beach. But getting your professional life started - that's the main problem. A weak economy makes this one of the least hospitable places in Missouri to put down roots.
The region's unemployment rate hangs at 7.5%. The median income comes in at $39,137. As a result, Osage Beach suffers a poverty rate of 28.6%.
Meanwhile, tourism drives up property values in the area, meaning locals struggle to afford the $240,000 median home price. Adding to Osage Beach's struggles, the crime rate runs 170% above the national average.
Bridgeton went through a major expansion in the middle of the 20th century, expanding in population by over 3,000% from 1950 to 1960. However, the current population of 11,606 faces significant challenges. This suburb of St. Louis ranks as the number 7 least impressive hometown in Missouri.
Bucking the trend of other cities on this list, Bridgeton doesn't suffer a backbreaking economy. The median income stands at $59,940 and the unemployment rate hovers at 5.7%. At the same time, the crime rate more than 150% above the national average. There is room for improvement in the areas of education and affordability as well.
Built on the Missouri River (hence the name Bridgeton), the area offers a number of scenic parks.
A suburb of St. Louis, Berkeley sits about 20 minutes from the city center. It also contains part of theSt. Louis Lambert International Airport. Even with these key economic advantages, the 8,927 residents of Berkeley struggle, leaving the area at number 8 on the list of Missouri's worst hometowns.
Jobs are scarce in Berkeley. The unemployment rate stands at 10.5%. In addition, wages in the area are low, with a median income of $33,185. Crime, education, and housing are concerns as well.
There are benefits to life in Berkeley. The aerospace company Boeing has a large presence in town (its by an airport, after all).
The tiny city of Charleston is the 9th worst place you can live in the state of Missouri in 2021.
It's unlucky for Charleston, which has the highest unemployment rate (14.7%), the 2nd lowest household incomes ($30,573) and the 6th lowest home prices in the state ($72,400).
Basically, a lot of people in Charleston are out of work, and nearly 1 in 4 people who live here are below the poverty line. And crime is certainly a factor here as well. Although it's not one of the most dangerous places we'll look at, it's in the top 20%.
Finally, the kids who live in Charleston get not only the lowest support in the state, in terms of spending levels, but some of the lowest in the nation. The national average for spending per pupil is $14,000. In Charleston, it's half that. Wow.
Add it all up, and this is truly one of the worst places you could live in Missouri. Charleston is in the far southeast corner of the state.
Poplar Bluff might be a pretty place, as it's tucked down on Route 60 in the Ozark region of the state. However, the fact remains, living here is tough. Residents average poverty level incomes every year, and crime is the 9th highest in the state. That might be a surprise for a small area so far removed for major cities.
Would you want to live in a mountainous area where people are broke and stealing from one another?
How we determined the worst places to live in Missouri 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
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 128 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 128 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 Missouri -- Sullivan. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Missouri. 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 Missouri
If you're looking at areas in Missouri 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, Sullivan ranks as the worst city to live in Missouri for 2021.
If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Missouri:
- Ladue (Pop. 8,601)
- Clayton (Pop. 16,588)
- Glendale (Pop. 5,891)
For more Missouri reading, check out:
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Missouri?