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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).
When you're looking at science and data, the city of Brooklyn Center is the 3rd worst place you can live in the state of Minnesota. Let's see why.
Residents who live in Brooklyn Center, located in Hennepin County, have the 3most crimes in the state committed against them. Factor in a much-lower income level--per resident--and homes valued around $161,300, and you've got yourself a crummy place to live. In terms of comparing it to the rest of Minnesota, that is.
St. Paul places 4th in our ranking of the worst places to live in Minnesota. Here, 12.0% of the adult population lack's even a high school degree. That makes St. Paul have the 9th highest adult drop out rate in Minnesota.
Income levels are also near the poverty line, and home prices are around $196,500 each -- the 65th lowest in Minnesota.
As you can imagine, there's not a lot of demand to live here.
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.
The same problems that plague other cities on the list also affect Columbia Heights. The only real difference is Columbia Heights is a tiny bit safer, and the schools are rated a lot higher in terms of resources for students.
However, the unemployment rate in Columbia Heights is at 6.3%, which is the 8th worst in Minnesota. And households earn a combined $54,393 a year, which is far below the state average. An average home in Columbia Heights is merely $169,600.
Columbia Heights is across the Tangier Sound on Route 50.
Minneapolis is also a pretty crummy place to live, when you look at the numbers. Yes, we're aware that it's beautiful and "fun". But that ignores important things like jobs and income.
Minneapolis residents earn the 48th-lowest salaries in the state. At $58,993 a year, people here most likely have a hard time getting ahead in life. And the average home costs are $235,900, which means there isn't a lot of demand.
Crime is the 17th highest in Minnesota per capita, and the unemployment rate here is 16th highest in the state, at 5.5%.
Spring Lake Park ranks as the 8th-worst place in Minnesota due to a variety of factors, placing in the bottom third for unemployment, median income, and crime.
On top of that, residents have the 38th-worst commute of any place in the state.
St. Cloud doesn't have it much better, in terms of overall economic outlook. The unemployment rate is at 7.1%, and people average less than $46,854 a year in combined household incomes. Homes stand at $149,200, which is very low, and crime in the worst 10% in Minnesota.
And again, in terms of the overall 'enjoyment' factor, it's not easy to find fun on a Friday night.
Albert Lea is a hot mess right now. There are some big economic problems here AND crime is really high. In fact, Albert Lea is the 47th most dangerous place you can live in Minnesota.
Residents in Albert Lea have a 1 in 38.0 chance of being the victim of a property crime. That's a lot of stolen laptops, cell phones and sunglasses.
When you're considering home prices, you can't do much lower than in Albert Lea, where average homes are valued at only$97,700. That's the 5th-lowest in the state. But residents earn far less than in other cities, so their mortgage payments might still seem overwhelming.
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:
- Best Places To Retire In Minnesota
- Richest Cities In Minnesota
- Safest Places In Minnesota
- Best Cities For Singles In Minnesota
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Minnesota?
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