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 410 cities with a population over 5,100, we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in California:
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 California? That would be Clearlake.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2019.
For more California reading, check out:
- 10 Best Places To Live In California
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In California
- 10 Most Dangerous Cities In California
The 10 Worst Places To Live In California For 2019
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.
The unemployment rate in Commerce is a sky high 11.0%, which is the 64th highest in the state. Ouch.
The median income in Commerce is $42,734. That means 16.0% of the population is living below the poverty line. Crime isn’t horrible here, but you have a 1 in 11.1 chance of being the victim of a property crime when you’re within city limits every year.
According to science, Desert Hot Springs is one of the worst places in the state of California. For those who are familiar with this desert city in Riverside County, is might not be much of a surprise, considering it’s a hot, empty place with nothing to do.
For those who live there, consider these facts: The crime rate in DHS is almost the highest in California, per capita. Nearly 1 in 4 homes is vacant. And residents earn a paltry 32 grand a year. Which goes nowhere on a California budget. Plus, summers are miserable.
While other cities in the greater Palm Springs area might be considered ‘posh’ such as Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, Desert Hot Springs remains one of many sore spots in the region. And now that there are water rations in place, residents who live here can’t afford to water their cactus and succulent landscaping.
Seriously, this place is filled with homeless people and smells like a combination of Mexican food and tumbleweeds.
Say what you want about how beautiful Wasco might be. The fact is that the economy here is one of the worst in the state.
The unemployment rate rankss 28th highest in the state at 13.8%. Homes are the 24th lowest priced ($155,800), and the median income per household is just a tad over $36,681.
The fact is most of the people who live here are having a hard time making ends meet, when you consider their earned incomes and lack of jobs.
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.
Another Riverside County desert city cracks the top 10. For those in the know, Hemet is a really challenged city to put it lightly. It has a high crime rate, residents earn far less than they should to live comfortably, and 1 in 10 doesn’t have a job at all.
Moreover, 1 in 10 homes sits vacant, and there’s not a lot to do for fun. If you live in Hemet, this ranking might be a slight to your pride. Because, deep down, you know it’s bad there, but you always felt like you had it better than the people next door in San Jacinto. Well, you are wrong. Barely.
When you’re looking at science and data, Victorville is the worst place you can live in California. Let’s see why.
The unemployment rate here is 14.2%. The schools are underfunded, and property values are well below the state average. A home costs $177,600, which is a sure sign of lack of demand.
You have a 1 in 36.7 chance of being the victim of some type of property crime here every year. That’s not fun, either.
Victorville is a far drive south from Louisville.
When you’re looking at things from purely a scientific standpoint, Avenal is the 8th worst place in the state of California.
The U.S. defines the poverty line at $24,600 a year for a family of four. Avenal is right on the verge of that when you look at what the average citizen there earns a year. And the home values are eye-opening low. On average, the home value in Avenal are the 8th lowest in the entire state.
And when you factor in high crime and a high tax rate, it really can’t get much worse in California.
Perhaps the only thing surprising about San Bernardino being 9th 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 9th 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.
The rivalry kicks up a notch. Folks in “San Ja” have the unfortunate double duo of 12’s to contend with, as 12% of homes are vacant, and 12% are without jobs. Residents in San Jacinto earn far more than their Hemet peers ($14,000 more a year, on average), and the crime rate is lower here. Which makes it a tad better, overall.
Perhaps Hemet will ask San Jacinto to merge, and they can join forces to take on Perris (the 12th worst city in California). The people in Moreno Valley can watch from their hillside homes.
How we determined the worst places to live in California for 2019
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 410 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 410 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 — Clearlake. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in California.
This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.
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 not a lot to do, this is an accurate list.
And in the end, Clearlake ranks as the worst city to live in California for 2019.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in California:
- Aliso Viejo (Pop. 50,691)
- Piedmont (Pop. 11,296)
- Los Altos (Pop. 30,527)
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