Ah, the P.A. Where you’ve got two liberal bookends, and in between, some pretty rural stretches of conservatism. The only place in the country where all the sports teams have the same colors, and where the fans actually know what the heck they’re talking about.
And then there’s the food and the culture. Plus, Pittsburgh has been named as one of the best cities in the nation many times over now.
Pennsylvania might be one of the most interesting and unique states in the nation.
Is it all good in the Keystone State? Of course not. Just like every other state, PA 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 Pennsylvania your home.
After analyzing 170 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 Pennsylvania:
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 Pennsylvania? That would be McKeesport.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2021.
For more Pennsylvania reading, check out:
- Best Places To Live In Pennsylvania
- Cheapest Places To Live In Pennsylvania
- Most Dangerous Cities In Pennsylvania
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Pennsylvania For 2021
About 12 miles southeast of Pittsburgh is the rundown and partly abandoned city of McKeesport. Don’t get it confused with McKees ROCKS, another terrible place outside of Pittsburgh which gets an honorable mention as a place to avoid moving to.
There’s barely a single decent home in McKeesport, and nearly every other building is a crack den or just…empty. There’s a reason people call it Disease Port.
Homes are the 6th cheapest in the entire state where you can get a place for about $48,000, although in some of these streets, you could offer $4,000 and be taken seriously. There are housing projects everywhere and ‘downtown’ if you can call it that, lacks anything desirable for most people looking for quality of life. Even the elementary schools have metal detectors in em.
And if you don’t like gangs, then you wouldn’t like McKeesport. That’s because there are rival gangs here.
It’s very poor and there’s VERY little opportunities for work. And the drive to Pittsburgh is bleak, sad and depressing.
There’s about 19,000 people here. Don’t make it 19,000 and 1.
Built along the west bank of the Monongahela River, Duquesne serves as a suburb of Pittsburgh. A 20-minute drive will take you to the city center. This access to a major metropolitan area provides one of the main draws for the town.
Unfortunately, there are other factors at play. That convenient location doesn’t save the community from becoming the number 2 worst location in Pennsylvania.
The 5,543 residents of Duquesne must suffer through a dismal economy, a high crime rate, and mediocre schools. The unemployment rate sits at 13.8%, while 39.2% of locals eke out a living below the poverty line.
Clairton had a moment of Hollywood fame in the 1970s. It served as the hometown for characters in the The Deer Hunter, which won the 1978 Best Picture Oscar. Nowadays, the community is famous for a much less impressive reason: it’s one of the worst places to live in Pennsylvania.
A rough economy weighs on the 6,619 residents, with a 14.6% unemployment rate and a median income of $37,282. Crime also sits slightly above the national average.
McKees Rocks is built along the Ohio River, about 10 minutes from the center of Pittsburgh. The area once thrived, thanks to strong steel and railroad industries. These began fading during the second half of the 20th century and now the community ranks as the number 4 worst area in Pennsylvania.
Housing, jobs, and safety make McKees Rocks a rough area. The unemployment rate stands at 9.2% and the community suffers a 31.3% poverty rate. Meanwhile, the crime rate hovers about 160% above the national average.
Where’s our 5th worst place to move to in the state of Pennsylvania? Reading is.
About halfway between Allentown and Lancaster (lankuster) is the community of Reading. It’s bad here and getting worse here. Locals call this a ‘mad ghetto’. At one point it was the poorest city in the nation. Police officers and firefighters god bless them – hand out food here to the growing number of poverty stricken folks. It’s filled with dilapidated row homes, rodents, homeless and junkies. The amount of concentrated poverty here is only surpassed by Camden in the entire region of this country.
If you moved here, your children would on a daily basis be exposed to overdoses, gun violence, abandoned factories, slums and urban decay. The south side of Reading is the worst part of town.
Anyways, folks here are unemployed at the 4th highest rate in the state, and people have compared this to a third world country so that’s not very good at all.
Chester, PA needs a big hug right now. The unemployment rate here is 12.1%, the median income is just above the poverty line, and the crime is the 34th highest in the state. You have a 1 in 33.3 chance of being robbed here every year.
Oh yeah, and they had 22 murders a couple of years back.
Chester is right along the Delaware river, south of Philly. Youse could find a much better place to call home.
Darby exists as a suburb of Philadelphia, about 20 minutes southwest of the city center. Easy access to one of the region’s major cultural centers hasn’t done much of this town of 10,695 residents. It’s considered one of the worst places to live in all of Pennsylvania.
Economic woes weigh on the population. The unemployment rate comes in at 8.9% and the median income sits at $49,292. This dismal financial situation leads to other challenges. The crime rate runs about 90% above the U.S. norm.
There are sparks of joy in Darby as well. For instance, residents can head to Bartram Park for a pleasant hike.
Hazleton was once a thriving industrial small city and was in the very heart of PA’s coal mining region. Now, it’s a mess. Located along I-81 way out in the middle of nowhere, this is a place filled with drug use and poverty. It might be the worst city in all of northeastern PA. In one internet forum, someone asked about moving to Hazleton and people said they thought the person was a troll. Meaning, you have to be joking, right?
Could we find anything GOOD about Hazleton? Of course – we always can. After reading dozens of reviews of Hazleton, it’s clear – there are some great, down to earth people here who help one another out in a pinch. People also say it’s a real fixer-upper, and that this is a great place to flip homes.
So, if you’re into rolling your sleeves and making a place better and then leaving, I guess Hazelton would be a good match for your desires and whims.
Transportation has long provided the lifeblood for Lehighton’s economy. First, the area relied on the Lehigh River (which gives the town its name). Later generations made their livings on the railroad. The modern economy has been less kind to the area. As a result, Lehighton ranks as the number 9 most terrible place to live in Pennsylvania.
With railroads no longer a major part of the economic picture, Lehighton suffers a scary 12.8% unemployment rate. Median incomes sit at $42,294. Given these challenges, it’s no surprise that 23.4% of the 5,304 residents live below the poverty line.
There are some draws to the area. That includes the gorgeous mountain views. To enjoy them, it’s a short drive to Beltzville State Park.
Things in Allentown are so bad, they wrote a song about it. Specifically, in his 1982 hit, Billy Joel sings of the town in east-central Pennsylvania: “it’s getting very hard to stay.” Why were people leaving town? Well, even decades later, Allentown counts as the number 10 worst location in Pennsylvania.
Joel’s tune also contains the lyric “well we’re living here in Allentown/And they’re closing all the factories down.” That’s a pretty good analysis of the problem. The unemployment rate comes in at 10.0% and the median income sits at $41,167. Crime and education are also problems for the town’s 120,915 residents.
How we determined the worst places to live in Pennsylvania 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 170 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 170 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 Pennsylvania — McKeesport. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Pennsylvania. 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 Pennsylvania
If you’re looking at areas in Pennsylvania 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, Mckeesport ranks as the worst city to live in Pennsylvania for 2021.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Pennsylvania:
- Ridley Park (Pop. 7,048)
- Collegeville (Pop. 5,152)
- Swarthmore (Pop. 6,318)
For more Pennsylvania reading, check out:
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Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Pennsylvania?