California. The American dream. The state where you can get the sun, surf, mountains and deserts. Where dreams are made and movie stars bask in the glory of their own self worth.
Where you have to ration your water. Sit in traffic. Pay too much for your house.
While California is overall, a glorious state, it has some serious, glaring issues, just like most other states. But most of the people reading this live there, and are already aware of this fact, so we won’t dwell on it.
Instead, let’s have some fun and look at only certain areas where things are the absolute worst.
After analyzing all 411 cities with a population over 5,000, we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in California:
Where are these places, you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we’re picking on small towns in California, that’s not the case.
We understand there’s a lot of good in every place. For example, the best place to live in California is Los Altos.
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 California? The worst place to live in California is Barstow.
Read below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your city fared in 2023.
For more California reading, check out:
- Best Places To Live In California
- Cheapest Places To Live In California
- Most Dangerous Cities In California
The 10 Worst Places To Live In California For 2023
We’re heading to Los Angeles’ worst suburb to reach California’s 2nd worst city overall, Commerce.
The median household income in Commerce is also nearly 40% lower than the statewide average. On the bright side, things are more affordable in Commerce than the rest of the state, and unemployment and poverty rates are basically on par with California as a whole.
And if you’re feeling especially gloomy about living here, at least Disneyland is just 20 minutes down the road.
Avenal ranks as the 3rd worst place to live in California for several reasons.
60.3% percent of the population is male, but here’s the catch: Avenal is home to an all-male state prison, and inmates make up nearly a third of the “residents.” So it makes sense that more than a quarter of residents have less than a 9th-grade education.
The median household income in Avenal went up by over 10% from last year, but it’s still $52,080; far below the statewide average.
Ironically (for a city with a large prison population), Avenal’s crime rate is actually 60% below the national average. Not to mention that the cost of living in Avenal is about 30% cheaper than the rest of California.
Adelanto has the exact same problems that Lucerne Valley has, and it’s located only a half hour away. Except, the crime in Adelanto is far worse than it is in Lucerne Valley. Its residents most likely work in nearby Victorville or make the trek through the Cajon Pass to shlep into San Bernardino or Riverside.
Most people have only been to Adelanto while driving on 395 on their way up north, or because they got talked into attending a baseball game at Maverick Stadium.
Or, they were desperate because Apple Valley’s Del Taco was closed.
Most people have never heard of Clearlake. A Google map search determined it’s on the banks of Clear Lake, in the middle of nowhere north of Sacramento. Apparently, things aren’t too fabulous there, as the incomes here are almost on the poverty level, and 1 in 10 people are unemployed. While it could be considered a bit of a weekend getaway for city slickers (maybe?), almost half of the city’s roads are unpaved. Not a good sign.
And the nearest Del Taco is an hour and a half away.
Mendota is a tiny place wedged between the 5 Freeway and Fresno in Central California. This region of California, to put it nicely, is pretty isolated, hot, and sprinkled with farms and all other sorts of agriculture. It’s an important place, economically speaking, since a lot of the nation relies on California grown crops.
However, when you consider how hard central California has been hit with water-related issues, it isn’t surprising that at least one city in this region topped this list. Crime in the area is way above normal, and residents are underemployed and way underpaid. Simply speaking, there really isn’t anything charming about Mendota.
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $252,800
Unemployment Rate: 11.4%
More on Dos Palos: Data
Situated a half-hour south of Merced, Dos Palos is a city of 5,651 that ranks as the 7th worst place to call home in California.
The poverty is moderately high, unemployment is nearly double the statewide average, and criminal activity (especially violent crime) is all too common.
On a positive note, Dos Palos is one of the most affordable cities in California, with a cost of living below the national average (that’s rare in the Golden State).
Methodology: How we determined the worst places to live in California for 2023
To figure out the worst places to live in California, 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 411 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 411 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 California — Barstow. Read on for a detailed look at the ten worst cities in California.
Summary: Wrapping Up The Worst In California
If you’re looking at areas in California 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, Barstow ranks as the worst city to live in California for 2023.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in California:
- Cupertino (Pop. 60,681)
- Villa Park (Pop. 5,864)
- Los Altos (Pop. 31,562)
For more California reading, check out:
Worst Places To Live In California?
|16||Desert Hot Springs||31,988|
|54||South El Monte||19,860|
|63||Santa Fe Springs||18,817|
|64||Big Bear Lake||5,068|