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.
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 2021
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
- Chanhassen (Pop. 25,657)
- Waconia (Pop. 12,131)
- La Crescent (Pop. 5,138)
For more Minnesota reading, check out:
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Minnesota?
|5||West St. Paul||19,779|
|31||Spring Lake Park||6,535|
|36||Inver Grove Heights||35,320|
|40||St. Paul Park||5,356|
|47||North St. Paul||12,406|
|55||South St. Paul||20,194|
|86||White Bear Lake||25,673|
|98||East Grand Forks||8,604|