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 5,100 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in the state of Missouri:
Where are these places, you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we’re picking on small towns in Missouri, that’s not the case.
We understand there’s a lot of good in every place. For example, the best place to live in Missouri is Glendale.
However, according to data (which doesn’t measure things like beauty and ‘friendly people’), the state has far better options for making a place home. And the worst place to live in Missouri? The worst place to live in Missouri is Jennings.
Read below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your city fared in 2023.
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 2023
Welcome to Jennings, where criminals go to make a living. Jennings has the 2nd 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 2023. For a city of 13,129 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.
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 12.3% and the median income tracks at $39,142. 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 $33,922 and the unemployment rate stands at 9.1%.
Caruthersville also suffers a major safety problem, with a crime rate more than 110% above the national standard. In addition, the 5,606 residents struggle with housing issues and weak schools.
The tiny city of Charleston is the 4th worst place you can live in the state of Missouri in 2023.
It’s unlucky for Charleston, which has the 5th highest unemployment rate (9.4%), the 2nd lowest household incomes ($32,813) and the 4th lowest home prices in the state ($76,500).
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?
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 8.1% of Kennett residents are out of work, and households bring in less than $50,127 a year. Schools are also way underfunded.
Crime is way higher than the state average in Kennett. Residents have a 1 in 17.7 chance of being the victim of a property crime when within Kennett city limits every year.
Methodology: How we determined the worst places to live in Missouri for 2023
To figure out the worst places to live in Missouri, 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 more significant weight. If you did a simple calculation of all crimes per capita, property crimes are typically 7x more common and 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 — Jennings. Read on for a detailed look at the ten worst cities in Missouri.
Summary: 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 little to do, this is an accurate list.
And in the end, Jennings ranks as the worst city to live in Missouri for 2023.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Missouri:
- Ladue (Pop. 8,949)
- Clayton (Pop. 16,905)
- Glendale (Pop. 6,143)
For more Missouri reading, check out:
Worst Places To Live In Missouri?