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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 125 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 Berkeley.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2020.
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 2020
You might have passed through Berkeley once and probably throught it seems to be a relatively quiet, clean place.
Here's what science says about why Berkeley needs some love: The unemployment rate is nearly 10.7%, residents earn about $33,874 a year, and home prices are just over $64,700. Across the board, those are in the bottom half in the state. Not absolutely horrible, but not desirable, either.
And there simply isn't anything to do in Berkeley.
Sullivan takes the 2nd worst place spot on this list for a number of reasons -- below average education, income, unemployment, and student expenditure statistics.
But what gives Sullivan its main thrust toward the top of this shameful list is its crime index -- the 18th worst in the whole state.
Caruthersville, MO needs a big hug right now. The unemployment rate here is 15.3%, the median income is just above the poverty line, and the crime is the 17th highest in the state. You have a 1 in 21.3 chance of being robbed here every year.
You could find a much better place to call home.
This may or may not be a surprise to you, but Aurora is the 19th most dangerous city in Missouri. For such a small city, there are an astounding number of property crimes. Residents here have a 1 in 21.3 chance of being the victim of some sort of robbery when within city limits every year. That's lots of stolen cell phones, guns, snowmobiles and lobster traps.
Besides the crime, there are a few other factors why Aurora might be one of the worst places to live. The home values here are pretty cheap. Why is that not a good thing? Because the salaries of people working in Aurora are really low. People here earn about $38,601 a year per household.
Additionally, the public schools in Aurora are some of the lowest funded in the state.
When all is said and done, you could find much more desirable places to live in Missouri than in Aurora.
Yes, every dog has a few fleas. But the crime in Branson is actually quite atrocious. Some of the punks there who are causing trouble need a time out. It's that simple.
Residents here have a 1 in 133 chance of being the victim of a violent crime, meaning raped, attacked or murdered. And they have a 1 in 9.3 chance of being robbed each year. That's off the charts high.
And the unemployment rate is at 6.6%, which isn't horrible, but the 33rd-highest in the state. Plus, residents here earn about $40,343 a year in combined household income.
Welcome to Jennings, where criminals go to make a living. Jennings has the 4th 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 2020. For a city of 14,794 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.
21% of the population in Park Hills lives below the poverty line, and nearly 7% of them are unemployed. While the population here has gone up 10% over the last 15 years, and the cost of living is far below the national average, the fact remains, that according to science, it's a very undesirable place to live in Missouri.
Park Hills is located an hour south of St. Louis on Route 67.
Kennett is located in the Missouri boot heel down near the Arkansas/Tennessee state line. Not only are there few pure entertainment options here, the economy here is lacking. More than 6.9% of Kennett residents are out of work, and households bring in less than $33,853 a year. Schools are also way underfunded.
Crime is way higher than the state average in Kennett. Residents have a 1 in 15.6 chance of being the victim of a property crime when within Kennett city limits every year.
A short drive north of Springfield on I-44 brings you to Lebanon, where you see some of the same issues that other cities have. The unemployment rate is actually higher here (6.7%), and households make slightly more incomes ($37,896), but not enough to be comfortable. And 20.0% of the adult population lacks a high school degree.
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 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 125 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 125 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 -- Berkeley. 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, Berkeley ranks as the worst city to live in Missouri for 2020.
If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Missouri:
- Clayton (Pop. 16,448)
- Ladue (Pop. 8,586)
- Glendale (Pop. 5,888)
For more Missouri reading, check out:
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Missouri?