The Hoosier State. A state that’s about 90% farms and one large city, with small places sprinkled between long stretches of corn and beans. A place with a rich history, great colleges, and some of the friendliest people in the midwest. There are some really nice places in Indiana.
But is it all great there? Of course not. Just like every other state, Indiana has its trouble spots. The purpose of this post is to use science and data to determine which cities in the Hoosier State have some serious issues, at least on paper.
After analyzing 113 of the state’s most populous cities, we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in Indiana:
- East Chicago (Photos)
- Gary (Photos)
- Connersville (Photos)
- Anderson (Photos)
- Elkhart (Photos)
- Hammond (Photos)
- South Bend (Photos)
- Salem (Photos)
- Lawrence (Photos)
- Lake Station
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 Indiana? That would be East Chicago.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2019.
For more Indiana reading, check out:
- 10 Best Places To Live In Indiana
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Indiana
- 10 Most Dangerous Cities In Indiana
How we determined the worst places to live in Indiana 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 113 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 113 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 Indiana — East Chicago. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Indiana.
This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.
Since the southside of Chicago is one of the worst areas for crime in the nation, you can sure expect that East Chicago is going to be pretty rough. It is. In fact, East Chicago has the 23rd-highest crime rate in the state. Probably no surprises there.
There were 188 violent crimes here in 2019, and residents have a 1 in 29.5 chance of being the victim of a property crime. That means, most likely, if you live in East Chicago, either you or someone on your block had their home or car broken into last year.
You can also imagine that the economy here is in the pits. It is. The only thing saving East Chicago from being higher on the list is that the public schools are well funded. They may not be safe, but at least the kids are getting as much attention as they want.
There’s probably not a single person in the state that would be surprised that Gary tops this list. In fact, if Gary wasn’t atop this list, most people would start to wonder if our data was accurate.
Here are the statistics. Gary has the 26th worst crime rate in Indiana. No surprises there. How dangerous is it though? There were almost 471 violent crimes in Gary in 2019. Residents here had a 1 in 164 chance of being killed, raped or attacked. Just wow.
The home values in Gary are the 5th cheapest in the state ($66,300), the unemployment rate is the 1st highest (15.7%), and the annual household income is 1st lowest in Indiana, at $29,293. That’s basically at the poverty level for a family of four.
If there’s one bright side to Gary, it’s that the education is ranked above average. Meaning the kids at Gary public schools are getting as much attention and support as possible. Hopefully, that has an impact on the next generation that grows up here.
It’s pretty much Gary, and then everyone else on this list.
There’s absolutely nothing to do in Connersville. Located out in the boonies toward the Ohio state line, the residents are most likely bored, and probably wouldn’t have much disposable income to do much even if there was some form of entertainment. At least they can spend their Sundays with Andrew Luck.
The unemployment rate is the 12th highest in the state (9.3%), the income levels and home prices are both in the bottom five in Indiana as well.
However, the public kids get just about as much attention and support than in any other region.
Anderson is the first of a few cities near Indianapolis to make this list. When you’re comparing things to Gary, things look a lot better here, but they still have some issues, according to science.
Anderson is the 8th most dangerous place in Indiana, 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 9.2% — not horrible — but worse than the state average.
Home values are really low ($70,500), and residents earn just $34,693 a year.
Plus, it’s an hour drive into downtown Indy, so your entertainment options are fairly limited.
If you’re looking to live in Indiana, Elkhart might not be the best choice as it places 5th in our ranking of the worst places to live for 2019.
The unemployment rate here is 9.4%, and households bring in a combined $37,121 a year in income. That’s not too far from the poverty line, even though money goes a lot further in the boonies of Indiana.
Crime is the 12th highest in the state in Elkhart as well. Just not a very desirable place at all to make home.
Hammond seems to be the have’s and have not’s. While the annual average income levels here are respectful ($44,427), about 1 in 10.5 people here are without jobs. Homes are valued at only $87,600.
But the biggest eye opener is the sheer crime here. It seems as if just about everyone in town without a job is pillaging the community. Hammond has the 14th highest crime rate in Indiana, where 1 in 160 people has a statistic chance of being attacked, raped or murdered each year.
Plus, 1 in 26.0 people are robbed.
If you’re headed past Hammond and stop for gas, make sure you lock your doors.
The same problems that plague other cities on the list also affect South Bend. The only real difference is South Bend is a tiny bit safer, and the schools are rated a lot higher in terms of resources for students.
However, the unemployment rate in South Bend is at 9.0%, which is the 14th worst in Indiana. And households earn a combined $37,441 a year, which is far below the state average. An average home in South Bend is merely $81,100.
South Bend is across the Tangier Sound on Route 50.
If you live in Indiana, you may or may not be surprised that Salem ranked, at least on paper, as the 8th worst place to live in the state. It has the 42nd highest unemployment rate in the state, and the 39th most dangerous.
Incidentally, Salem is the 41st most densely populated city in Indiana. Draw your own conclusions.
Welcome to Lawrence, where criminals go to make a living. Lawrence has the 4th highest crime rate in the state. When you’re within Lawrence city limits, you have a 1 in 22.2 chance of being the victim of a property crime such as a car break in or home invasion robbery every year.
Plus, there were 80 violent crimes here in 2019. For a city of 48,081 people, that’s absolutely off the charts high. You have a 1 in 73 chance of being raped, attacked or killed when you’re in Lawrence every year as well.
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 4)
Median Home Value: $78,700 (20th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.5% (4th worst)
More on Lake Station: Data
Lake Station’s issue is that it’s right next door to Gary. However, it’s a real head scratcher, since the crime here is actually right around the state average.
The issues Lake Station has is with its local economy. The unemployment rate is the 4th highest in Indiana (10.5%), and as you might expect, the household salaries and home prices are both towards the bottom.
Wrapping Up The Worst In Indiana
If you’re looking at areas in Indiana 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, East Chicago ranks as the worst city to live in Indiana for 2019.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Indiana:
- West Lafayette (Pop. 45,110)
- New Whiteland (Pop. 5,881)
- Carmel (Pop. 88,595)
For more Indiana reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Best Places To Retire In Indiana
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In Indiana
- 10 Safest Places In Indiana
- 10 Best Cities For Singles In Indiana
Detailed List Of The Worst Places To Live In Indiana