There’s a common denominator that all bad 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 below all share those qualities. 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 the biggest 220 cities in the country, here is our list of the worst cities to live in America:
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 place to live in America? Naperville, IL More on that later.
How do you decide if a place is lousy or not?
In order to rank the worst places to live 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 for 2019
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 most recent government census American Community Survey data, 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)
- Low home prices
- A lot of uninsured individuals
- A high portion of uneducated adults
- High Crime
- High Poverty
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.
When you’re looking at the worst places you could live in America, Memphis ranks as the worst for 2019 for the third year in a row. Let’s see why.
Here in Memphis, crime is the 9th highest in the country, and 1 out of 17.7 residents was robbed here according to the latest FBI numbers.
That’s not the first place you think of making home, is it?
Additionally, you have a 1 in 54 chance of being the victim of a violent crime, which includes rapes, attacks or murders. That’s really high.
When you look at adult education in Tennessee, the folks in Memphis have the 76th highest drop out rate. And other factors that make Memphis undesirable are the low median incomes and home prices.
The unemployment rate is the 26th highest in the states, at 11.3%.
Jackson needs some tough love as it ranks as the 2nd worst city to live in America for 2019 — for the third year in a row. There’s some consistency at the top here.
Crime in Jackson is the 52nd highest in the country, where 1 in 21.8 people have a chance of being the victim of a property crime, according to the latest FBI numbers.
Additionally, the median income is almost dead last.
Detroit flipped flopped with Dayton this year — but not to Detroit’s benefit.
Detroit seems to be the have’s and have not’s. But mostly the have nots.
The annual average income levels here aren’t respectful (~$28,000), and about 1 in 4.5 people here are without jobs (one of the worst in the country). Homes are valued at only $43,000 (also the worst).
We’re surprised it didn’t rank higher honestly, but apparently people are relatively smart and also buy insurance.
If you live in Dayton, this might not be a surprise, but you have the 34th highest crime rate, per capita in the country. Every year you spend here, you have a 1 in 19.5 chance of being the victim of a property crime like a car break in or home invasion robbery.
That’s a lot of stolen cell phones, laptops and black license plates.
Plus there were 1,402 violent crimes in the last FBI reporting year. That means if you spent a year there, you’d have a 1 in 100 chance of being raped or attacked.
Finally, the folks who live here earn the 3rd lowest salaries in America’s big cities at ~$30,000 a household — that’s simply not enough to get by for most folks.
Another flip flop, this time not to Cleveland’s benefit.
Cleveland has a 16% unemployment rate (2nd worst amount US cities), below average income levels and the 13th highest crime rate in the country.
This random City-Data comment sums up Cleveland.
“I visited Cleveland over the weekend and I have to say the place just seemed completely depressing.
“I saw lots people around Cleveland who looked…well bad. Like former alcoholics and drug addicts.
“And what’s with the poorish looking area, where there were a lot of people in run down homes?
“Just looked sad.”
Perhaps the only thing surprising about San Bernardino being 6th is that it wasn’t higher. Crime here is horrible, more than 1 in 10 residents are without jobs (and that’s conservative), and well… we could go on and on about San Bernardino’s issues.
You’ve heard it all before. When considering the data, the only reason San Bernardino is only 5th is that there are some areas of the city in which residents earn professional salaries, and, frankly, there’s a lot more to do in the San Bernardino region than there is in the desert. And no, dodging bullets isn’t one of them.
But as professionals continue to flee into the nearby enclaves of East Highlands, Yucaipa and Redlands, the city of San Bernardino, which saw its glory days spike in the late 1970s, will continue to head down the drain and unfortunately, become an area only for those who have no aspirations to exceed in life.
Brownsville sticks in the same spot as last year — seventh worst in America.
You might have passed through Brownsville once and probably thought it seems to be a relatively quiet, clean place.
Here’s what science says about why Brownsville needs some love: The unemployment rate is nearly 9.4%, residents earn about $34,255 a year, and home prices are just over $83,800. Across the board, those are in the bottom half in the country. Not absolutely horrible, but not desirable, either.
And there simply isn’t anything to do in Brownsville relative to the rest of the country.
According to science, Tucson is the 8th worst place you can live in the country for 2019 — again.
Let’s see why. Tucson has the 15th-highest crime rate in the country, surprisingly. In terms of the number of crimes per person, Tucson is certainly up there.
Factor in a very low home values ($137,600), and the 37th-highest unemployment rate among cities (9.4%), and across the board, Tucson doesn’t sound like the best of the best.
If you live in Mobile, you’re either going to tell us we’re idiots because you’re fiercely protective of your city, or you know it’s a tough place to live.
The fact remains, Mobile has the one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, where 7.9% of the population is out of work. That’s far above the national average, and households only bring in about $36,00 a year on average.
And then there’s the crime. Mobile is one of the most dangerous place you can live in America. You have a 1 in 15 chance of being robbed here every year.
Shreveport rounds out the list coming in as the 10th worst place to live in America for 2019 and St. Louis can breath a sign of relief as it misses our list for the first time in several years.
You have a 1 in 16.5 chance of being robbed and a 1 in 113 chance of being attacked, raped or killed here for every year you spend in the city limits of Shreveport.
Plus, folks are simply out of work. Shreveport sports the state’s 88th highest unemployment rate (7.3%), and families bring in a combined ~$40,000 a year, which is far below the average.
No wonder homes are cheap; you can get one yourself for only $139,800.
There You Have It — The Worst Cities In The US For 2019
If you’re looking at cities in the U.S. where crime is high, people are broke, and the public schools are lousy, this is an accurate list.
Here are the best cities in America, according to science.
- Sunnyvale, CA
- Naperville, IL
- Torrance, CA
We also wrote a story on the most dangerous cities in America to live. Click here to read that one.
Disclaimer: This article is an opinion based on data. It should not be taken as fact.