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 5,000, we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in California:
- Desert Hot Springs (Photos)
- Wasco (Photos)
- Adelanto (Photos)
- Hemet (Photos)
- Dos Palos
- Mendota (Photos)
- Arvin (Photos)
- San Bernardino (Photos)
- Victorville (Photos)
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. Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2018.
How we determined the worst places to live in California for 2018
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 — Desert Hot Springs. 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.
1. Desert Hot Springs
Population: 28,092Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Values: $143,300 (22nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.7% (79th worst)
According to science, Desert Hot Springs is by far, the worst place 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.
Population: 15,070 Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 4)
Home Values: $84,200 (1st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 19.5% (7th worst)
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.
Population: 26,061Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 1)
Home Values: $152,300 (30th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 17.8% (14th worst)
Wasco ranks as the 3rd-worst place in California due to a variety of factors, placing in the bottom third for unemployment, median income, and crime.
On top of that, residents have the 254th-worst commute of any place in the state.
Population: 32,311Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 1)
Home Values: $129,900 (18th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 22.0% (2nd worst)
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.
Population: 82,748Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 2)
Home Values: $139,400 (20th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 19.0% (8th worst)
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. See number 5.
6. Dos Palos
Population: 5,103 Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 1)
Home Values: $100,100 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 20.9% (4th worst)
Dos Palos doesn’t have it much better, in terms of overall economic outlook. The unemployment rate is at 20.9%, and people average less than $36,509 a year in combined household incomes. Homes stand at $100,100, which is very low, and crime in the worst 10% in California.
And again, in terms of the overall ‘enjoyment’ factor, it’s not easy to find fun on a Friday night.
Population: 11,394Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 3)
Home Values: $114,500 (6th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 26.8% (1st worst)
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.
Population: 20,562Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 2)
Home Values: $116,900 (7th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.3% (51st worst)
Located on your way to somewhere else you’d want to be, Arvin has few options for some sort of entertainment.
The main issues here are economic and education. The unemployment rate is also sky high here (13.3%) and homes are the 7th cheapest in the state ($116,900).
Say what you want about ‘cheap living’, the fact is, homes are priced by demand, and there’s absolutely no demand to live in Arvin.
9. San Bernardino
Population: 214,581Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 1)
Home Values: $176,800 (64th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 14.1% (35th worst)
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.
Population: 121,320Rank Last Year: 9 (Down 1)
Home Values: $158,900 (41st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 15.5% (23rd worst)
Victorville, part of San Bernardino County, is the 10th worst place to live in California for 2015.
. Residents here earn almost the lowest salaries per year relative to any other residents in the state at $45,895, and crime 108th worst in California.
Additionally, the poverty level is 2500.0% in Victorville.
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, Desert Hot Springs ranks as the worst city to live in California for 2018.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in California:
- Los Altos (Pop. 30,238)
- Los Altos Hills (Pop. 8,376)
- Aliso Viejo (Pop. 50,219)
For more California reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Snobbiest Cities In California
- These Are The 10 Most Dangerous Cities In California
- These Are The 10 Worst Places To Live In California
Detailed List Of The Worst Cities In California
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