Worst Small Cities In America For 2020


We used science and data to analyze which small cities in America are the real pits.

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Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2020. This is our fifth time ranking the worst small cities in America.

There’s a common denominator that all bad small cities have.

They are the places that have bad economies. They are the places where the school systems are in bad shape. They’re the places where people are out of work, and where residents earn low salaries.

If home prices are low, it’s a sign that there’s not a lot of demand to live there.

And certainly, if crime is really high, no one wants to be there at all.

The cities we used in this report are small cities that have populations under 70,000. Many are suburbs of major cities where things aren’t going very well right now, at least according to data, which measures the good things that people say they want in a city.

There might be some surprises on this list, but when you look at the unbiased data, it’s hard to argue against. We had more than 10 million people read our worst cities in a state series, which was featured in hundreds of media outlets, including an NPR feature.

So we know what we’re talking about.

After analyzing over 400 cities with populations under 70,000, here is our list of the worst small towns in America:

  1. Pine Bluff, AR (Photos)
  2. Gadsden, AL (Photos)
  3. Port Arthur, TX (Photos)
  4. Monroe, LA (Photos)
  5. Hot Springs, AR (Photos)
  6. Daytona Beach, FL (Photos)
  7. Muskogee, OK (Photos)
  8. LaGrange, GA (Photos)
  9. Fort Pierce, FL (Photos)
  10. Valdosta, GA (Photos)

What’s interesting is that half of these are in Alabama or Texas.

You might be surprised to see some of these cities on this list. We understand there’s a lot of good in every place. However, according to data (which doesn’t measure things like beauty, ‘friendly people’ and community involvement), there are far better options in America for making a place home.

The best small town to live in America? Los Altos, CA. More on that later.

Check out more about America here:

How do you decide if a place is lousy or not?

In order to rank the worst small towns in America, we had to determine what criteria people like or dislike about a place. It isn’t a stretch to assume that people like low crime, solid education, things to do and a stable economy.

So we scraped the internet for those criteria, asked for the opposite of those, and it spit out the answer. Like magic.

How we crunched the numbers

We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using FBI crime data and the government census this is the criteria we used:

  • Population Density (The lower the worse – meaning there’s less to do for indoor entertainment)
  • Highest Unemployment Rates
  • Adjusted Median Income (Median income adjusted for the cost of living)
  • High Housing Vacancy Rate
  • Education (Low expenditures per student and high Student Teacher Ratio)
  • High Crime

If you’d like to see the complete list of cities, scroll to the bottom of this post to see a link to the entire data set.

Note: We get the crime numbers from the FBI, which gets its crime numbers from the cities themselves. This list is based on data, and is entirely unbiased.

Pine Bluff, AR

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 44,509
Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $73,700 (19th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.2% (20th worst)
More on Pine Bluff:  Data | Photos

Gadsden, AL

Overall SnackAbility

2
/10

Population: 35,832
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $68,800 (13th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.6% (72nd worst)
More on Gadsden:  Data | Photos

Port Arthur, TX

Overall SnackAbility

1
/10

Population: 55,177
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $64,300 (6th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.2% (96th worst)
More on Port Arthur:  Data | Photos

Monroe, LA

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 48,938
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $143,200 (154th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.8% (44th worst)
More on Monroe:  Data | Photos

Hot Springs, AR

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 36,780
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $114,700 (90th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.2% (38th worst)
More on Hot Springs:  Data | Photos

Daytona Beach, FL

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 65,339
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 3)
Median Home Value: $126,300 (114th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.6% (132nd worst)
More on Daytona Beach:  Data | Photos

Muskogee, OK

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 38,139
Rank Last Year: 25 (Up 18)
Median Home Value: $88,600 (36th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.1% (221st worst)
More on Muskogee:  Data | Photos

Lagrange, GA

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 30,442
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $126,600 (116th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.4% (48th worst)
More on Lagrange:  Data | Photos

Fort Pierce, FL

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 44,248
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $91,400 (41st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.4% (83rd worst)
More on Fort Pierce:  Data | Photos

Valdosta, GA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 56,036
Rank Last Year: 17 (Up 7)
Median Home Value: $116,000 (93rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.3% (52nd worst)
More on Valdosta:  Data | Photos

There You Have It

If you’re looking at small cities in the U.S. where crime is high, people are broke, and the public schools are lousy, this is an accurate list.

Here’s a look at the best small cities in America according to the data:

  1. Los Altos
  2. Princeton
  3. Sammamish

Detailed List Of The Worst Small Cities To Live In America

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Pine Bluff, AR 44,509 13.2% $73,700
2 Gadsden, AL 35,832 9.6% $68,800
3 Port Arthur, TX 55,177 9.2% $64,300
4 Monroe, LA 48,938 10.8% $143,200
5 Hot Springs, AR 36,780 11.2% $114,700
6 Daytona Beach, FL 65,339 8.6% $126,300
7 Muskogee, OK 38,139 7.1% $88,600
8 Lagrange, GA 30,442 10.4% $126,600
9 Fort Pierce, FL 44,248 9.4% $91,400
10 Valdosta, GA 56,036 10.3% $116,000
11 Goldsboro, NC 35,432 15.4% $122,300
12 Meridian, MS 39,213 8.7% $83,000
13 Texarkana, TX 37,222 8.9% $122,800
14 Petersburg, VA 32,037 12.2% $112,900
15 Elkhart, IN 52,662 9.4% $87,700
16 Hattiesburg, MS 46,495 14.6% $104,200
17 Rome, GA 36,029 8.9% $141,600
18 Harlingen, TX 65,444 8.6% $85,700
19 Anderson, IN 54,986 9.2% $70,500
20 Youngstown, OH 64,852 15.4% $43,500
21 Alexandria, LA 47,954 10.3% $137,900
22 Myrtle Beach, SC 30,760 9.2% $178,300
23 East Point, GA 35,380 10.8% $96,900
24 Atlantic City, NJ 39,075 14.4% $168,800
25 Texas City, TX 47,262 8.6% $105,000
26 Lima, OH 37,592 12.4% $66,000
27 Rocky Mount, NC 55,373 10.7% $104,700
28 Muskegon, MI 38,189 14.7% $65,800
29 Pontiac, MI 60,039 14.9% $56,300
30 Clovis, NM 39,255 8.8% $130,900
31 Ocala, FL 57,812 8.6% $121,800
32 Sumter, SC 40,286 11.2% $141,000
33 Panama City, FL 36,661 8.9% $147,300
34 Statesboro, GA 30,649 12.6% $117,000
35 Lufkin, TX 35,888 7.3% $103,800
36 Middletown, OH 48,350 10.8% $93,800
37 Adelanto, CA 32,867 17.2% $151,600
38 Cookeville, TN 32,536 8.4% $160,600
39 Lauderdale Lakes, FL 34,744 12.5% $101,600
40 Phenix City, AL 36,870 8.6% $123,400
41 Nacogdoches, TX 33,589 11.4% $137,300
42 North Little Rock, AR 66,144 9.2% $123,500
43 Galveston, TX 49,706 8.7% $163,300
44 Cleveland, TN 43,496 7.3% $159,200
45 Chester, PA 34,102 18.1% $67,300
46 Biloxi, MS 45,328 9.2% $154,800
47 Lake Worth, FL 37,354 9.9% $165,600
48 Roswell, NM 48,163 6.8% $103,000
49 Burlington, NC 52,813 7.2% $124,900
50 York, PA 44,058 13.3% $74,400
51 Dalton, GA 33,540 8.5% $136,200
52 Harrisburg, PA 49,278 12.8% $82,100
53 Coachella, CA 44,382 14.4% $183,800
54 Warren, OH 40,244 8.9% $62,500
55 Weslaco, TX 39,420 5.7% $78,400
56 San Luis, AZ 31,509 15.9% $112,200
57 San Juan, TX 36,469 7.6% $85,000
58 Kingsport, TN 52,698 7.1% $136,000
59 Battle Creek, MI 51,505 8.9% $80,700
60 Homestead, FL 67,354 9.4% $166,700
61 Huntington, WV 48,034 8.0% $95,200
62 Saginaw, MI 49,366 15.4% $38,600
63 Sanford, FL 57,979 9.9% $113,100
64 Dothan, AL 67,784 8.1% $143,800
65 Jackson, TN 66,977 6.9% $131,800
66 Muncie, IN 69,237 9.5% $70,500
67 Winter Haven, FL 38,663 9.0% $121,600
68 North Miami, FL 62,308 10.3% $167,700
69 Columbia, TN 36,635 6.4% $126,000
70 Lorain, OH 63,731 11.4% $84,300
71 Beloit, WI 36,733 10.3% $85,200
72 Chicago Heights, IL 30,292 14.4% $98,300
73 Hobbs, NM 37,427 6.2% $123,100
74 Plant City, FL 37,459 9.0% $144,100
75 Florence, AL 39,824 6.4% $126,600
76 Sherman, TX 40,543 6.7% $106,100
77 Decatur, AL 54,844 6.2% $130,600
78 Parkersburg, WV 30,596 8.0% $87,600
79 Douglasville, GA 32,768 11.1% $153,500
80 Riviera Beach, FL 34,093 11.2% $156,300
81 Hickory, NC 40,157 8.3% $163,700
82 Binghamton, NY 45,964 11.7% $87,500
83 Hopkinsville, KY 31,741 9.5% $113,000
84 Lancaster, PA 59,556 9.6% $109,700
85 Bullhead City, AZ 39,824 9.2% $113,600
86 Titusville, FL 44,984 9.5% $112,000
87 Covington, KY 40,578 9.2% $100,800
88 Vineland, NJ 60,824 8.1% $164,500
89 Holyoke, MA 40,362 10.2% $182,700
90 Gainesville, GA 37,291 3.7% $172,300
91 Utica, NY 61,114 10.8% $89,400
92 Niagara Falls, NY 48,976 9.4% $69,900
93 San Marcos, TX 59,935 7.8% $153,000
94 North Miami Beach, FL 43,963 10.2% $170,100
95 Porterville, CA 58,782 11.8% $163,100
96 Houma, LA 33,784 7.5% $153,000
97 Hamilton, OH 62,216 9.3% $102,300
98 Bowling Green, KY 64,302 7.2% $145,500
99 Banning, CA 30,824 12.0% $197,500
100 El Centro, CA 43,932 14.6% $172,800