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 142 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)
- Virginia (Photos)
- Brainerd (Photos)
- Waite Park
- International Falls (Photos)
- Brooklyn Center
- St. Cloud (Photos)
- Faribault (Photos)
- Red Wing (Photos)
- Cambridge (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. Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2018.
How we determined the worst places to live in Minnesota for 2018
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 142 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 142 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.
Population: 14,664Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 2)
Home Values: $125,300 (18th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.3% (3rd worst)
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 6th-highest in the state per capita, according to the FBI data base.
Residents in Bemidji had a 1 in 14.4 chance of being robbed in 2014. 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 (9.3%) and income levels of its residents ($33,680).
Population: 8,594Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Home Values: $87,500 (3rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.1% (12th worst)
Little Virginia, Minnesota could use a big hug right now. The crime is the 7th 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.
Population: 13,440Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 2)
Home Values: $106,400 (9th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.8% (52nd worst)
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 52nd highest in the state here (4.8%), the residents in Brainerd earn the smallest household income in the state of Minnesota. At a combined income of $32,154, 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 8th highest crime rate in the state.
4. Waite Park
Population: 7,371 Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
Home Values: $134,100 (22nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.7% (55th worst)
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 2015.
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.
5. International Falls
Population: 6,226Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 4)
Home Values: $84,100 (1st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.8% (1st worst)
Say what you want about how beautiful International Falls might be. The fact is that the economy here is one of the worst in the state.
The unemployment rate rankss 1st highest in the state at 10.8%. Homes are the 1st lowest priced ($84,100), and the median income per household is just a tad over $38,750.
The fact is most of the people who live here are having a hard time making ends meet, when you consider their earned incomes and lack of jobs.
6. Brooklyn Center
Population: 30,785 Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 1)
Home Values: $140,000 (27th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.3% (18th worst)
You might have passed through Brooklyn Center once and probably throught it seems to be a relatively quiet, clean place.
Here’s what science says about why Brooklyn Center needs some love: The unemployment rate is nearly 6.3%, residents earn about $46,400 a year, and home prices are just over $140,000. Across the board, those are in the bottom half in the state. Not absolutely horrible, but not desirable, either.
And there simply isn’t anything to do in Brooklyn Center.
7. St. Cloud
Population: 66,770Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 3)
Home Values: $144,100 (30th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.7% (15th worst)
St. Cloud is the 24th most dangerous place in the state of Minnesota. That’s part of the reason it’s the 7th worst place in Minnesota.
The fact remains, that when you’re within St. Cloud city limits, you have a 1 in 24.0 chance of being robbed or having something you own vandalized.Does that sound like a fun place to live?
Did you know St. Cloud also has the 16th highest unemployment rate in the state at 6.7%? Or that homes are only valued at $144,100?
Say what you want about cheap living. The fact is, homes are priced by demand, and there’s little demand to live in St. Cloud.
Population: 23,530Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 2)
Home Values: $138,500 (24th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.8% (23rd worst)
When you’re looking at science and data, Faribault is the 8th worst place you can live in the state of Minnesota. Let’s see why.
First off, the crime here is really high, in comparison to the rest of Minnesota. Faribault is the 59th most dangerous place you can live in the state, where you have a 1 in 44.9 chance of being the victim of some type of property crime. Meaning lots of people are getting robbed here.
Homes here average $138,500, which is the 24th lowest in the state. You can defend ‘cheap living’ all you want, but the fact is, homes are priced by demand, and there’s not a lot of demand to live in Faribault.
Income levels are just about $50,481, the 36th lowest in Minnesota.
When you add it all up, Faribault really is quite an undesirable place to live. The people who have to live in here could use a big hug right about now.
9. Red Wing
Population: 16,484Rank Last Year: 13 (Up 4)
Home Values: $158,000 (40th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.7% (15th worst)
Red Wing is the 9th worst city in Minnesota for 2015. When you’re comparing other cities to Red Wing, things just don’t look great, at least according to science.
Red Wing is the 43rd 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 6.7%, worse than the state average.
Home values are really low ($158,000), and residents earn just $49,236 a year.
Population: 8,383Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 4)
Home Values: $131,100 (20th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.8% (52nd worst)
It was a close call, but Cambridge ranks as the worst place you can live in Minnesota, barely beating out Brainerd. Let’s see why. When you’re comparing the unemployment rate to the rest of the nation, Minnesotans are very hard workers. But when comparing the unemployment rate among cities in Minnesota, you can see some really big differences. In Cambridge, the number of people out of work is 6.3%, which is right at the national average.
In Minnesota, that’s the 8th highest in the state.
Crime is really high in Cambridge, when compared to the rest of the state. Residents had a 1 in 27 chance of being the victim of some sort of property crime here. That’s a lot of stolen cell phones, car break ins and missing hockey sticks.
Overall, Cambridge ranks as the 12th most dangerous place in the state.
Cambridge, located a short drive north of Minneapolis on route 65, also has the 15-lowest rated public education, when it comes to the financial support for its students.
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 2018.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Minnesota:
- Edina (Pop. 49,976)
- Eden Prairie (Pop. 63,206)
- Waconia (Pop. 11,523)
For more Minnesota reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Drunkest Places In Minnesota
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In Minnesota For 2016
- These Are The 10 Snobbiest Places In Minnesota
Detailed List Of The Worst Cities In Minnesota
|West St. Paul||18||18|
|South St. Paul||28||32|
|Spring Lake Park||29||19|
|St. Paul Park||44||49|
|North St. Paul||47||64|
|Inver Grove Heights||49||54|
|Thief River Falls||84||71|
|East Grand Forks||85||92|
|White Bear Lake||87||91|
|St. Louis Park||95||89|