The 10 Worst Places To Live In Minnesota For 2021


We used science and data to determine which places in Minnesota are the real pits.

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If you ask someone from Minnesota what they love about their state, you’ll get a lot of answers. Friendly people, beautiful scenery, and hockey. Lots and lots of hockey.

It’s not an easy life for most of the year. But if you ask people who live there, they are fiercely protective of their state. They stick together up there, and would probably rather you stay out. Unless you’re on vacation.

But is it all great in The Land of 10,000 Lakes? Of course not. Just like every other state, Minnesota has its trouble spots. The purpose of this post is to use science and data to determine which cities in Minnesota are the least desirable to live in.

Of course, many of the cities on this list would rank highly if they were in other states. But nonetheless, according to science, these cities are the worst places you could possibly live if you make Minnesota your home. These places need a big hug right about now.

After analyzing 143 of the state’s most populous cities (over 5,100 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in Minnesota:

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 Minnesota? That would be Waite Park.

Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2021.

If you’re looking for something more national, check out the worst cities in America or the worst states in America.

For more Minnesota reading, check out:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Minnesota For 2021

Waite Park, MN

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 7,692
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $151,700
Unemployment Rate: 3.5%
More on Waite Park:  Data | Photos

It might seem really odd to hear that little Waite Park has the worst crime, per capita, in Minnesota. A suburb of St. Cloud, this little city’s issues are with property crimes. A staggering 1 in 11.9 residents here was the victim of some type of reported theft in 2021.

That’s just about as high as it gets, nationwide. And yes, we’re aware that there is a huge amount of retail here, which might skew the numbers. But if you live in a place where people are stealing from stores and breaking into parked cars left and right, is that enjoyable?

Besides very low household income and home values, everything else is average.

Just remember to lock your doors when you go there. It’s simply not a safe place at all.

Bemidji, MN

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 15,132
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $139,900
Unemployment Rate: 6.3%
More on Bemidji:  Data | Photos

Bemidji is way out at the intersection of Highways 2 and 71. And you may be surprised to hear that the crime here is the 2nd-highest in the state per capita, according to the FBI data base.

Residents in Bemidji had a 1 in 12.7 chance of being robbed in 2020. To put things into perspective, since the average person has 300 friends on Facebook, if everyone you friended lived in Bemidji, statistically, 25 of them would have been the victim of a property crime, meaning a home robbery, car break in or a stolen wallet.

Bemidji’s other issues are a very high unemployment rate (6.3%) and income levels of its residents ($32,193).

Virginia, MN

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 8,484
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $92,200
Unemployment Rate: 6.4%
More on Virginia:  Data | Photos

Little Virginia, Minnesota could use a big hug right now. The crime is the 25th highest in the state, income levels and home values are in the bottom half, and the unemployment rate is far above average. Virginia, which has seen its population shrink 5% over the last 10 years, is about an hour’s drive north of Duluth.

Famous winemaker Robert Mondavi was born in Virginia. Unfortunately, the town has some sour grapes to contend with these days.

On the bright side, the public schools in Virginia are some of the highest rated when it comes to the amount of spending and 1-on-1 student support.

Brooklyn Center, MN

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 30,849
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $172,800
Unemployment Rate: 5.4%
More on Brooklyn Center:  Data | Photos

A suburb of Minneapolis, about 40 minutes to the northwest of the city center, Brooklyn Center has a lot going for it: a strong housing market, wide diversity, and good access to amenities. Sadly, this isn’t enough to counteract high crime and a weak education system. This leaves Brooklyn Center as the number 4 worst location in Minnesota.

The crime rate runs more than 70% above the national average. The schools in the area are also subpar, with none rating more than a 5/10 on Great Schools.

The economy in Brooklyn Center is relatively strong, with median income of $59,550. However, residents have to stretch those funds to pay for a median home price of $172,800.

West St. Paul, MN

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 19,779
Rank Last Year: 13 (Up 8)
Median Home Value: $199,400
Unemployment Rate: 6.3%
More on West St. Paul:  Data | Photos

Despite its name, West St. Paul is actually south of the larger metro area of St. Paul. It sits about 10 minutes from the city center, across the Mississippi River. A high crime rate and a sluggish economy make the area one of the least inviting places in Minnesota.

The economy of West St. Paul leaves much to be desired. The unemployment rate hovers at 6.3%, while 13.4% of the population suffer below the poverty line. The median income comes in at $56,097. Safety is a major concern as well, with a crime rate nearly 200% above the national average.

Life in West St. Paul comes with plusses as well. There are plenty of amenities and the commute is a breeze. Also, the nearby river gives plenty of scenic areas as well, such as Thompson County Park.

Willmar, MN

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 19,712
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 8)
Median Home Value: $133,000
Unemployment Rate: 4.8%
More on Willmar:  Data | Photos

Located in a rural part of Minnesota, about two hours west of Minneapolis, Willmar grew to prominence as a railroad town in the mid-19th century. These days, the area faces challengers related to jobs, safety, and education. These issues make the community the number 6 least inviting place in the state to put down roots.

Crime in the area runs slightly above the national average. Education is average at best, with the best school receiving just a 6/10 from Great Schools. Looking at the economy, the town’s 19,712 residents have trouble making ends meet. The poverty rate comes in at 15.8%.

Still, this being Minnesota, Willmar comes with its own lake, providing access to plenty of outdoor activities at places like Robbins Island Regional Park.

Faribault, MN

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 23,800
Rank Last Year: 23 (Up 16)
Median Home Value: $153,500
Unemployment Rate: 5.2%
More on Faribault:  Data | Photos

A modest-sized town located about an hour south of Minneapolis, Faribault offers plenty of services and excellent access to parks. Check out the area’s River Bend Nature Center. Unfortunately, these benefits can’t save the town from becoming the number 7 most unappealing community in Minnesota.

Jobs and education represent the main stumbling blocks in Faribault. The local financial situation is tough on the area’s 23,800 inhabitants. The median income hovers at $50,702, while the unemployment rate sits at 5.2%.

The unimpressive economy leads to other problems. For instance, schools in the region are mediocre at best, topping out at 5/10 from Great Schools.

St. Paul, MN

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 304,547
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 4)
Median Home Value: $208,000
Unemployment Rate: 5.0%
More on St. Paul:  Data | Photos

One of the twin cities that make up Minnesota’s main urban area, St. Paul provides a home to 304,547 people. As a major city, it offers many advantages. Diversity is high, good schools are easy to find, and you can locate almost any amenity you want. The area even benefits from a strong economy.

However, there are drawbacks. Crime and a high cost of living make this one of the toughest places in Minnesota to live.

Safety is a major concern. The crime rate runs about 70% above the U.S. norm. Meanwhile, the cost of living is relatively high for the state, including expensive services. The median housing value comes in $208,000 compared to a local median income of $57,876.

Minneapolis, MN

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 420,324
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $251,600
Unemployment Rate: 5.1%
More on Minneapolis:  Data | Photos

The largest urban area in Minnesota, Minneapolis has many of the problems you’d expect from a big city. Competition for housing and other resources makes affordability an issue. Meanwhile, the 420,324 residents face a significant crime problem. All told, this makes Minneapolis the number 9 worst place to live in the state.

Safety represents the biggest challenge for the city. The crime rate comes in about 120% above the national average. Affordability is a problem as well, with a cost of living 10% above the U.S. standard. This comes with expensive services and pricey housing. The median home value hovers at $251,600.

Minneapolis has significant plusses as well. It provides a wide variety of amenities, like the Minneapolis Institute of Art. In addition, residents get access to good schools, high diversity, and a strong economy.

Maplewood, MN

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 40,545
Rank Last Year: 15 (Up 5)
Median Home Value: $217,300
Unemployment Rate: 4.3%
More on Maplewood:  Data | Photos

A sizable suburb just outside of St. Paul, Maplewood offers excellent access to Minnesota’s main urban center. Unfortunately, that means the community suffers from many big-city problems, especially crime. As a result, this counts as the number 10 worst location in the state to put down roots.

You don’t want to walk the streets of Maplewood at night. The crime rate tracks 120% above the U.S. standard.

The economy of the area is relatively strong, with an unemployment rate of just 4.3%. However, with a median income of $70,484, the town’s 40,545 residents have trouble finding affordable housing. The median home value sits at $217,300.

Locals also have great access to parks. The town is full of lakefront areas and great spaces, such as Lookout Park.

How we determined the worst places to live in Minnesota for 2021

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 143 cities.

We then ranked each city from 1 to 143 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 Minnesota — Waite Park. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Minnesota. You can download the data here.

This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.

Wrapping Up The Worst In Minnesota

If you’re looking at areas in Minnesota 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, Waite Park ranks as the worst city to live in Minnesota for 2021.

If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Minnesota:

  1. Chanhassen (Pop. 25,657)
  2. Waconia (Pop. 12,131)
  3. La Crescent (Pop. 5,138)

For more Minnesota reading, check out:

Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Minnesota?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Waite Park 7,692 3.5% $151,700
2 Bemidji 15,132 6.3% $139,900
3 Virginia 8,484 6.4% $92,200
4 Brooklyn Center 30,849 5.4% $172,800
5 West St. Paul 19,779 6.3% $199,400
6 Willmar 19,712 4.8% $133,000
7 Faribault 23,800 5.2% $153,500
8 St. Paul 304,547 5.0% $208,000
9 Minneapolis 420,324 5.1% $251,600
10 Maplewood 40,545 4.3% $217,300
11 St. Cloud 68,001 7.2% $155,500
12 Brainerd 13,373 3.2% $117,900
13 Albert Lea 17,773 4.6% $97,100
14 Red Wing 16,338 5.0% $174,000
15 Little Canada 10,451 3.9% $242,500
16 Fairmont 10,127 5.4% $123,700
17 Columbia Heights 20,118 5.7% $177,300
18 Fridley 27,668 4.1% $198,200
19 Fergus Falls 13,707 2.8% $132,300
20 Brooklyn Park 80,068 3.7% $224,300
21 St. Francis 7,652 3.5% $214,500
22 Little Falls 8,664 5.0% $128,400
23 Glencoe 5,495 4.0% $147,300
24 Austin 25,114 4.5% $107,800
25 Cambridge 8,774 3.7% $157,700
26 Oak Grove 8,682 2.3% $285,800
27 Isanti 5,749 3.6% $175,900
28 Duluth 85,915 4.4% $163,300
29 Forest Lake 20,004 2.9% $272,200
30 Hibbing 16,014 4.9% $109,800
31 Spring Lake Park 6,535 4.3% $190,400
32 Worthington 13,105 3.8% $132,500
33 Montevideo 5,108 3.5% $87,700
34 Coon Rapids 62,517 4.0% $204,700
35 East Bethel 11,870 2.9% $251,100
36 Inver Grove Heights 35,320 4.3% $254,500
37 Anoka 17,471 4.4% $203,100
38 North Branch 10,454 3.8% $191,400
39 Arden Hills 10,293 5.3% $292,900
40 St. Paul Park 5,356 4.0% $191,800
41 Cloquet 12,005 4.8% $142,700
42 International Falls 5,981 6.6% $88,200
43 Burnsville 61,311 4.7% $247,500
44 Monticello 13,583 3.7% $199,900
45 Mankato 42,093 4.2% $179,400
46 Mounds View 13,094 5.0% $206,700
47 North St. Paul 12,406 4.5% $206,100
48 Jordan 6,230 5.5% $235,900
49 Bloomington 85,332 3.4% $251,300
50 Marshall 13,651 3.7% $154,100
51 Waseca 8,988 5.0% $127,300
52 Detroit Lakes 9,197 3.3% $190,600
53 Buffalo 16,210 5.0% $203,700
54 Crookston 7,756 3.3% $130,200
55 South St. Paul 20,194 4.1% $192,100
56 Richfield 36,063 3.4% $225,200
57 Shakopee 40,731 3.5% $265,500
58 Moorhead 42,939 3.3% $194,600
59 New Hope 20,925 3.7% $225,100
60 Winona 26,854 4.5% $148,800
61 Crystal 22,975 3.9% $197,300
62 Alexandria 13,554 1.8% $177,100
63 Robbinsdale 14,468 3.4% $201,100
64 Roseville 36,026 3.7% $254,200
65 Ham Lake 16,434 2.7% $306,700
66 Grand Rapids 11,165 2.6% $151,300
67 Elk River 24,522 4.5% $241,400
68 Shorewood 7,867 4.8% $485,300
69 Hutchinson 13,914 3.6% $149,200
70 Litchfield 6,631 1.3% $136,200
71 Blaine 64,114 3.6% $230,900
72 Oakdale 27,963 3.8% $227,700
73 Andover 32,733 2.3% $289,500
74 Sartell 18,005 3.2% $201,500
75 Vadnais Heights 13,444 3.2% $242,500
76 New Brighton 22,556 4.4% $256,600
77 St. Peter 11,854 3.0% $170,200
78 Rochester 115,557 3.5% $200,100
79 Hopkins 18,382 3.1% $227,500
80 Lake Elmo 8,969 3.1% $426,600
81 Mound 9,480 3.2% $261,300
82 Falcon Heights 5,571 6.0% $293,400
83 Dayton 5,817 1.7% $313,500
84 New Prague 7,899 4.0% $247,100
85 Wyoming 7,914 4.1% $242,600
86 White Bear Lake 25,673 3.2% $226,000
87 Prior Lake 26,365 2.8% $322,400
88 Otsego 16,763 1.7% $261,600
89 Hermantown 9,604 1.5% $238,800
90 Owatonna 25,685 3.8% $166,600
91 Baxter 8,202 1.6% $208,500
92 Zimmerman 5,657 2.2% $187,500
93 Sauk Rapids 13,703 3.2% $170,000
94 Ramsey 26,638 2.7% $251,900
95 Shoreview 26,791 3.2% $275,800
96 St. Michael 17,586 1.6% $270,600
97 Corcoran 5,911 1.9% $335,300
98 East Grand Forks 8,604 3.9% $196,500
99 Apple Valley 52,889 3.2% $258,000
100 Hastings 22,738 2.5% $214,900

How Is The Area In ?

Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out we updated this article for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the worst places to live in Minnesota.