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. Turns out, the big guys like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and even Oakland aren’t even in the 100 worst places in California.
After analyzing all 409 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)
- Mendota (Photos)
- Dos Palos (Photos)
- Hemet (Photos)
- Clearlake (Photos)
- San Bernardino (Photos)
- Victorville (Photos)
- Arvin (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 2017.
How we determined the worst places to live in California for 2017
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
The data comes from the Census’s most recent American Community Survey and from the FBI Uniform Crime Report.
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 409 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 409 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: 27,912Home Values: $125,500 (21st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 15.4% (39th 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: 25,973Home Values: $135,400 (25th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 17.3% (19th worst)
What the heck is going on in little Wasco? The crime is the 6th highest in the state of California. Here, residents have a 1 in 12.3 chance of being robbed. That means if you live here, and didn’t have something stolen from you, there’s a good chance your neighbor did.
That ratio is one of the highest we’ve seen in the nation. Perhaps the high unemployment rate has something to do with it. More than 17.3% of Wasco residents were without jobs in the latest numbers we collected, which is the 19th highest in the state.
Population: 32,059Home Values: $102,500 (5th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 23.7% (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: 11,402Home Values: $108,100 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 26.5% (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.
5. Dos Palos
Population: 5,068Home Values: $96,300 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 21.1% (6th worst)
Dos Palos is the 5th worst city in California for 2015. When you’re comparing other cities to Dos Palos, things just don’t look great, at least according to science.
Dos Palos is the 116th most dangerous place in California, according to FBI statistics. And the residents here have a hard time keeping a job — at least in comparison to the rest of the state. The unemployment rate is 21.1%, worse than the state average.
Home values are really low ($96,300), and residents earn just $33,608 a year.
Population: 82,118Home Values: $124,800 (19th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 19.5% (11th 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.
Population: 15,097Home Values: $85,100 (1st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 21.6% (5th 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.
8. San Bernardino
Population: 214,112Home Values: $159,800 (54th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 16.6% (26th 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: 120,703Home Values: $143,800 (32nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 15.0% (44th worst)
Victorville needs some tough love as it ranks as the 9th worst city to live in California for 2015.
Crime in Victorville is the 82nd highest in the state, where 1 in 30.1 people have a chance of being the victim of a property crime, according to the latest FBI numbers.
. Additionally, the income is almost dead last in California.
If commute time is important, Victorville residents have the 36th longest commute of any residents on our list.
Population: 20,328Home Values: $107,200 (7th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 14.4% (56th worst)
Arvin doesn’t have it much better, in terms of overall economic outlook. The unemployment rate is at 14.4%, and people average less than $35,609 a year in combined household incomes. Homes stand at $107,200, 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.
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 2017.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in California:
- Los Altos (Pop. 30,075)
- Piedmont (Pop. 11,099)
- Los Altos Hills (Pop. 8,314)
For more California reading , check out:
- These Are The 10 Most Boring Cities In California
- These Are The 10 Fastest Growing Cities In California
- These Are The 10 Most Redneck Cities In California
Detailed List Of The Worst Cities In California
|1||Desert Hot Springs|
|89||South El Monte|
|91||Big Bear Lake|