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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 144 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:
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 2020.
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 2020
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 10.1 residents here was the victim of some type of reported theft in 2020.
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 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 13.7 chance of being robbed in 2019. 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 (6.2%) and income levels of its residents ($34,112).
While the median household income in Brooklyn Center is higher than other towns on this list, causing it to be lower down on the list of "worst cities", Brooklyn Center still has the 12th worst unemployment rate in the state, as well as the 3worst crime index.
Therefore, though the average Brooklyn Center household brings in a higher income, there are fewer people working here than in other cities across the state. It doesn't help that everyone has to be constantly worried about crime, either.
St. Paul has some of the same issues that the cities above have. The crime is statistically the 28th-highest in the state of Minnesota. And residents earn far less than it takes to live a normal life. The unemployment rank is also higher than almost every other city in the state at 5.7%.
Additionally, 19.9% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Little Virginia, Minnesota could use a big hug right now. The crime is the 29th 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.
Columbia Heights is the 6th worst city in Minnesota for 2020. When you're comparing other cities to Columbia Heights, things just don't look great, at least according to science.
Columbia Heights is the 45th most dangerous place in Minnesota, 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 6.3%, worse than the state average.
Home values are really low ($169,600), and residents earn just $54,393 a year.
Minneapolis places 7th in our ranking of the worst places to live in Minnesota. Here, 11.0% of the adult population lack's even a high school degree. That makes Minneapolis have the 12th highest adult drop out rate in Minnesota.
Income levels are also near the poverty line, and home prices are around $235,900 each -- the 9lowest in Minnesota.
As you can imagine, there's not a lot of demand to live here.
When you're looking at the worst places you could live in Minnesota, Spring Lake Park came in 8th. Let's see why.
When you're comparing the unemployment rate to the rest of the nation, Minnesota residents are very hard workers. But when comparing the unemployment rate among cities in Minnesota, you can see some really big differences. In Spring Lake Park, the number of people out of work is 6.6%
In Minnesota, that's the 5th highest in the state.
The residents in Spring Lake Park have the 49th lowest incomes in the state. Folks in Spring Lake Park average $59,076 a year. Which isn't too shabby in comparison to the other 'lowest' income cities in most other states.
Additionally, the homes are valued at $176,900 on average. That's the 47th lowest in the state.
When you're looking at the worst places you could live in Minnesota, St. Cloud ranks 9th worst. Let's see why.
Here in St. Cloud, crime is the 22nd highest in the state, and 1 out of 26.2 residents was robbed here according to the latest FBI numbers.
That's not the first place you think of making home, is it?
Additionally, you have a 1 in 257 chance of being the victim of a violent crime, which includes rapes, attacks or murders. That's really high.
When you look at adult education in Minnesota, the folks in St. Cloud have the 42nd highest drop out rate. And other factors that make St. Cloud undesirable are the low median incomes and home prices.
The unemployment rate is the 3rd highest in Minnesota, at 7.1%. That's actually on par with the national average, which means Minnesota has some hard workers.
The same problems that plague other cities on the list also affect Albert Lea. The only real difference is Albert Lea is a tiny bit safer, and the schools are rated a lot higher in terms of resources for students.
However, the unemployment rate in Albert Lea is at 5.4%, which is the 17th worst in Minnesota. And households earn a combined $44,513 a year, which is far below the state average. An average home in Albert Lea is merely $97,700.
Albert Lea is across the Tangier Sound on Route 50.
How we determined the worst places to live in Minnesota for 2020
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 144 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 144 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 2020.
If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Minnesota:
- Waconia (Pop. 11,981)
- Edina (Pop. 51,136)
- La Crescent (Pop. 5,087)
For more Minnesota reading, check out:
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Minnesota?
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