The 10 Worst Places To Live In Pennsylvania For 2021

We used science and data to determine which cities in PA are the real pits.

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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:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Pennsylvania For 2021

  1. McKeesport
  2. Duquesne
  3. Clairton
  4. McKees Rocks
  5. Reading
  6. Chester
  7. Darby
  8. Hazleton
  9. Lehighton
  10. Allentown

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.

If you’re looking for something more national, check out the worst cities in America or the worst states in America.

For more Pennsylvania reading, check out:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Pennsylvania For 2021

Mckeesport, PA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 19,225
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $48,000
Unemployment Rate: 12.1%
More on Mckeesport:  Data | Photos

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.

Duquesne, PA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,543
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $42,600
Unemployment Rate: 13.8%
More on Duquesne:  Data | Photos

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, PA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 6,619
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $43,200
Unemployment Rate: 14.6%
More on Clairton:  Data | Photos

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.

Located a half hour southeast of Pittsburgh, Clairton does have some good points. For instance, residents can take advantage of the nearby Dead Man’s Hollow Conservation Area.

Mckees Rocks, PA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,919
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 8)
Median Home Value: $51,800
Unemployment Rate: 9.2%
More on Mckees Rocks:  Data | Photos

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.

Reading, PA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 88,232
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $73,200
Unemployment Rate: 12.9%
More on Reading:  Data | Photos

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

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 33,982
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $72,400
Unemployment Rate: 12.1%
More on Chester:  Data | Photos

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, PA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 10,695
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $78,700
Unemployment Rate: 8.9%
More on Darby:  Data | Photos

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, PA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 24,857
Rank Last Year: 36 (Up 28)
Median Home Value: $97,900
Unemployment Rate: 8.2%
More on Hazleton:  Data | Photos

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.

Lehighton, PA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,304
Rank Last Year: 15 (Up 6)
Median Home Value: $114,200
Unemployment Rate: 12.8%
More on Lehighton:  Data | Photos

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.

Allentown, PA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 120,915
Rank Last Year: 19 (Up 9)
Median Home Value: $131,300
Unemployment Rate: 10.0%
More on Allentown:  Data | Photos

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.

Even with these issues, there are bright spots in town. For instance, you can check out the Allentown Art Museum. Art not your thing? Head over to the Mack Trucks Historical Museum.

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

The data comes from the Census’s most recent American Community Survey and from the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

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:

  1. Ridley Park (Pop. 7,048)
  2. Collegeville (Pop. 5,152)
  3. Swarthmore (Pop. 6,318)

For more Pennsylvania reading, check out:

Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Pennsylvania?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 McKeesport 19,225 12.1% $48,000
2 Duquesne 5,543 13.8% $42,600
3 Clairton 6,619 14.6% $43,200
4 McKees Rocks 5,919 9.2% $51,800
5 Reading 88,232 12.9% $73,200
6 Chester 33,982 12.1% $72,400
7 Darby 10,695 8.9% $78,700
8 Hazleton 24,857 8.2% $97,900
9 Lehighton 5,304 12.8% $114,200
10 Allentown 120,915 10.0% $131,300
11 Harrisburg 49,209 8.6% $80,800
12 Turtle Creek 5,197 8.5% $57,100
13 Sharon Hill 5,684 8.8% $119,400
14 Clifton Heights 6,696 7.0% $126,300
15 Carbondale 8,471 6.1% $90,700
16 Aliquippa 9,004 9.1% $75,800
17 Collingdale 8,791 8.7% $105,400
18 Waynesboro 10,860 5.6% $142,600
19 York 44,022 11.4% $75,900
20 West Mifflin 19,834 6.7% $99,000
21 California 6,347 11.9% $114,200
22 Yeadon 11,485 7.8% $140,500
23 Nanticoke 10,304 7.1% $80,300
24 Taylor 5,965 8.3% $126,000
25 Wilkes-Barre 40,867 9.1% $75,100
26 Bangor 5,208 10.1% $160,900
27 Coraopolis 5,488 7.8% $94,700
28 Connellsville 7,411 8.5% $102,300
29 New Kensington 12,468 4.3% $104,100
30 Folcroft 6,627 7.6% $114,100
31 Chambersburg 20,832 4.7% $154,700
32 Columbia 10,382 6.6% $107,900
33 Scranton 77,054 5.2% $103,000
34 Philadelphia 1,579,075 9.2% $163,000
35 Steelton 5,953 5.7% $88,600
36 East Stroudsburg 10,333 10.9% $146,800
37 Oxford 5,515 6.8% $215,200
38 Lebanon 25,793 8.0% $96,100
39 Sharon 13,227 9.2% $65,400
40 Munhall 11,121 5.4% $91,100
41 Tamaqua 6,731 9.1% $62,800
42 Uniontown 9,837 12.4% $85,100
43 Somerset 5,942 8.7% $112,700
44 Erie 97,263 7.9% $89,100
45 Jeannette 9,216 7.9% $87,300
46 Brookhaven 8,038 4.8% $200,800
47 Wilkinsburg 15,485 6.9% $87,800
48 Monessen 7,344 5.6% $76,300
49 Johnstown 19,569 13.9% $38,100
50 Birdsboro 5,131 6.8% $163,400
51 Millersville 8,322 4.8% $175,100
52 Baldwin 19,752 4.6% $135,800
53 Ephrata 13,810 4.3% $155,400
54 Bellevue 8,146 3.7% $122,000
55 Sugarcreek 5,014 6.3% $76,700
56 Pittston 7,765 8.1% $92,400
57 Stroudsburg 5,499 3.1% $161,500
58 Pittsburgh 302,205 5.6% $125,000
59 Butler 13,092 8.1% $100,200
60 Bethlehem 75,461 5.2% $173,500
61 Easton 27,122 4.9% $124,800
62 Coatesville 13,136 8.8% $123,500
63 Lancaster 59,433 7.2% $114,600
64 Wilson 7,797 6.8% $129,900
65 Hanover 15,609 4.4% $155,300
66 Beaver Falls 8,464 8.9% $70,600
67 New Castle 21,991 10.9% $61,900
68 Washington 13,532 7.3% $100,700
69 Olyphant 5,064 2.7% $127,800
70 Tyrone 5,217 8.2% $95,900
71 Mount Carmel 5,667 8.5% $43,400
72 Shamokin 7,051 10.8% $36,700
73 New Holland 5,457 3.2% $203,100
74 Greenville 5,459 5.9% $73,700
75 Clarion 5,580 12.1% $124,200
76 Pottsville 13,648 8.9% $71,400
77 Glenolden 7,161 3.7% $159,100
78 Plymouth 5,820 3.6% $72,100
79 Pleasant Hills 8,113 3.5% $166,900
80 Berwick 10,073 6.3% $106,400
81 West View 6,601 5.6% $132,400
82 Carnegie 7,883 5.3% $123,700
83 Mount Joy 8,163 2.8% $179,700
84 Whitehall 13,517 2.8% $162,600
85 Moosic 5,767 4.9% $166,000
86 Franklin Park 14,589 3.9% $350,200
87 Shippensburg 5,663 3.7% $156,700
88 Corry 6,332 2.7% $89,000
89 Lock Haven 9,247 5.9% $104,500
90 Norwood 5,893 7.9% $167,900
91 Plum 27,195 3.0% $153,700
92 Exeter 5,549 2.7% $116,800
93 Schuylkill Haven 5,178 9.3% $93,500
94 White Oak 7,540 2.3% $107,000
95 Jefferson Hills 11,200 2.3% $228,600
96 Williamsport 28,562 6.1% $110,700
97 Huntingdon 6,977 6.4% $117,000
98 Castle Shannon 8,213 3.6% $125,500
99 Meadville 12,864 8.3% $110,100
100 Swoyersville 5,017 4.0% $125,500

How Is The Area In ?

Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out we updated this article for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the worst places to live in Pennsylvania.

About Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson earned his masters in Business Administration from the Drucker School At Claremont Graduate University. He has written for 39 publications across the country and ran the media relations department at Movoto, a real estate portal based in San Francisco. He has been featured in over 500 publications as an expert in real estate and as an authority on real estate trends.

Nick's the creator of the HomeSnacks YouTube channel that now has over 260,000 subscribers and is an excellent source to learn about different parts of the country.