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 146 of the state’s most populous cities (over 5,000 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in Minnesota:
Where are these places, you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we’re picking on small towns in Minnesota, that’s not the case.
We understand there’s a lot of good in every place. For example, the best place to live in Minnesota is Plymouth.
However, according to data (which doesn’t measure things like beauty and ‘friendly people’), the state has far better options for making a place home. And the worst place to live in Minnesota? The worst place to live in Minnesota is Waite Park.
Read below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your city fared in 2023.
For more Minnesota reading, check out:
- Best Places To Live In Minnesota
- Cheapest Places To Live In Minnesota
- Most Dangerous Cities In Minnesota
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Minnesota For 2023
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 11.4 residents here was the victim of some type of reported theft in 2023.
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.
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 2 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 $64,618. However, residents have to stretch those funds to pay for a median home price of $203,200.
Little Virginia, Minnesota could use a big hug right now. The crime is the 46th 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.
Brainerd is way up on 371, north of Little Falls. You can’t blame them for living up here, since it’s really beautiful. But there are sacrifices you make to live in the boonies. One of them is income.
Not only is the unemployment rate the 19th highest in the state here (5.5%), the residents in Brainerd earn the smallest household income in the state of Minnesota. At a combined income of $41,671, families of four are barely above the poverty line.
In addition, the crime here is really high for a small city in Minnesota. Brainerd has the 39th highest crime rate in the state.
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 12.5 chance of being robbed in 2022. 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 (3.7%) and income levels of its residents ($42,218).
Rank Last Year: 22 (Up 15)
Median Home Value: $247,200
Unemployment Rate: 5.2%
More on Little Canada: Data
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 9 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 24,310 inhabitants. The median income hovers at $55,229, while the unemployment rate sits at 6.6%.
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.
One of the twin cities that make up Minnesota’s main urban area, St. Paul provides a home to 309,751 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 $232,400 compared to a local median income of $63,483.
Methodology: How we determined the worst places to live in Minnesota for 2023
To figure out the worst places to live in Minnesota, 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 more significant weight. If you did a simple calculation of all crimes per capita, property crimes are typically 7x more common and bias that ranking.
Furthermore, only cities with at least 5,000 people were considered — leaving 146 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 146 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 ten worst cities in Minnesota.
Summary: 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 little to do, this is an accurate list.
And in the end, Waite Park ranks as the worst city to live in Minnesota for 2023.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Minnesota:
- Medina (Pop. 6,654)
- Edina (Pop. 53,059)
- Plymouth (Pop. 80,034)
For more Minnesota reading, check out:
Worst Places To Live In Minnesota?
|12||West St. Paul||20,476|
|24||South St. Paul||20,637|
|28||Spring Lake Park||6,920|
|50||St. Paul Park||5,490|
|55||Inver Grove Heights||35,539|
|56||North St. Paul||12,395|
|91||White Bear Lake||24,520|
|98||East Grand Forks||9,140|