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 5,000 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in Minnesota:
- Bemidji (Photos)
- Waite Park (Photos)
- Virginia (Photos)
- Red Wing (Photos)
- Brainerd (Photos)
- Brooklyn Center (Photos)
- St. Paul (Photos)
- Fridley (Photos)
- St. Cloud (Photos)
- West St. Paul (Photos)
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 Bemidji.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2019.
For more Minnesota reading, check out:
- 10 Best Places To Live In Minnesota
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Minnesota
- 10 Most Dangerous Cities In Minnesota
How we determined the worst places to live in Minnesota 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 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 — Bemidji. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Minnesota.
This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.
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 1st-highest in the state per capita, according to the FBI data base.
Residents in Bemidji had a 1 in 11.7 chance of being robbed in 2018. 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 (7.9%) and income levels of its residents ($33,260).
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 12.7 residents here was the victim of some type of reported theft in 2019.
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.
Little Virginia, Minnesota could use a big hug right now. The crime is the 19th 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.
Sure, it’s in a beautiful area, and there’s lots of culture, especially in terms of music. But, if you’re measuring desirability, it’s the 4th worst in Minnesota.
Red Wing residents had a 1 in 34.0 chance of being the victim of a property crime. Meaning lots of stolen laptops, cell phones and sports jerseys.
The unemployment rate in Red Wing is through the roof, as more than 6.6% of the population can’t get a job. At least their mortgages aren’t too high; at $163,200, Red Wing has the 40th-lowest home prices in the state of Minnesota.
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 83rd highest in the state here (3.5%), the residents in Brainerd earn the smallest household income in the state of Minnesota. At a combined income of $34,358, 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 18th highest crime rate in the state.
According to science, Brooklyn Center is the 6th worst place you can live in Minnesota.
Let’s see why. Brooklyn Center has the 32nd-highest crime rate in the state, surprisingly. In terms of number of crimes per person, Brooklyn Center is certainly up there.
Factor in a very low housing cost ($151,500), and the 21st-highest unemployment rate in the state (5.7%), and across the board, Brooklyn Center doesn’t sound like the best of the best.
Plus, there’s simply not a lot to do here (unless you count having a Walmart and a Piggly Wiggly as fun). We’re aware that people enjoy outdoor activities, but in terms of pure entertainment, you’d have to drive a ways away.
Welcome to St. Paul, which might be one of the poorest areas in Minnesota. Residents average $52,841 a year in combined income, which is right at the poverty line. In fact, 20.4% of St. Paul residents live below the poverty level.
Homes here go for an average of $187,400 and the unemployment rate hovers near 6.7%.
If you’re looking to live in Minnesota, Fridley might not be the best choice as it places 8th in our ranking of the worst places to live in the North Star State for 2019.
The average family earns $56,583 a year out here, and 10.7% of the population is below the poverty line. Nearly 6.4% of the population is out of work.
And when you consider the crime, it’s just crazy to think of how dangerous it is to live way out here. When you’re in Fridley, every year, you have a 1 in 26.7 chance of being robbed. Can you imagine? Perhaps it’s an economic factor, or the fact that the people out there are so isolated, but the fact remains, it’s the 29th most dangerous place in the state, per capita.
St. Cloud is another place in the North Star State that has some real eye-opening numbers. The unemployment rate in St. Cloud is a staggering 6.4%, but at least those who have jobs earn a modest salary ($46,601 a year). Homes are actually priced respectfully at $145,500, but still far lower than the state average.
Crime in St. Cloud is bad, but not horrible.
West St. Paul is the 10th worst city in Minnesota for 2019. When you’re comparing other cities to West St. Paul, things just don’t look great, at least according to science.
West St. Paul is the 15th 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 ($183,300), and residents earn just $52,144 a year.
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, Bemidji ranks as the worst city to live in Minnesota for 2019.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Minnesota:
- Waconia (Pop. 11,751)
- Eden Prairie (Pop. 63,660)
- Edina (Pop. 50,603)
For more Minnesota reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Best Places To Retire In Minnesota
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In Minnesota
- 10 Safest Places In Minnesota
- 10 Best Cities For Singles In Minnesota
Detailed List Of The Worst Places To Live In Minnesota
|10||West St. Paul||19,750|
|24||Spring Lake Park||6,535|
|35||South St. Paul||20,280|
|42||Inver Grove Heights||34,976|
|45||St. Paul Park||5,376|
|46||North St. Paul||12,241|
|77||White Bear Lake||25,411|
|80||East Grand Forks||8,614|
|89||Thief River Falls||8,769|