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Everybody in the Northeast (who isn't from Jersey) thinks of the state as the armpit of the region; a land mainly comprised of highways, landfills, and factory fumes. Also, as the state that raised the cast of Jersey Shore.
But aside from being the region's favorite running joke, New Jersey has plenty of lovely places to live. Just not the places you'll be seeing on this list.
We've looked at the numbers to finally determine which cities in New Jersey contribute the most to the state's bad name (which, incidentally, may be the best places to visit if you want to see why so many in the Northeast ride on the NJ hate-train).
The following cities are the bottom of the barrel in New Jersey:
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 New Jersey? That would be Newark.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2021.
For more New Jersey reading, check out:
- Best Places To Live In New Jersey
- Cheapest Places To Live In New Jersey
- Most Dangerous Cities In New Jersey
The 10 Worst Places To Live In New Jersey For 2021
As the largest city in New Jersey, Newark proves that old adage that bigger isn't always better (in this case, it's the worst im New Jersey).
The median household income in Newark is the 2nd lowest on this list at $35,199.
Add that to a crime index in the worst 5% of all places in New Jersey and an unemployment rate that's nearly double the national average, and it's not a stretch to say Newark truly is part of the armpit of America.
Lindenwold is named after a type of tree. Except when the town wanted arboreal decorations to line its streets, it found that linden trees were too expensive. As a result, it went with a cheaper selection. That choice seems emblematic of Lindenwold as a whole.
In keeping with the generic-tree decision, poverty represents a major challenge for the community. The unemployment rate sits at 7.0% and the poverty rate hovers at 14.2%. Crime is elevated in town as well, tracking about 40% above the national average.
Located in the north-central part of the state, Lindenwold serves as a suburb of Philadelphia. A half-hour drive takes you to the center of the city.
Bridgeton ranks as the 3rd worst place to live in New Jersey for 2021, let's take a look at why.
Built along the Cohansey River in the southern part of the state, Bridgeton once prospered as a manufacturing center. Those jobs started to flee during the 1980s and now the town's economic base has eroded away.
As a result of this deindustrialization, the unemployment rate now stands at 6.9% and the median income equals $37,804. These conditions leave 31.2% of the town's 24,540 residents below the poverty line.
There are bright spots in town. The river provides excellent views and the town features loads of parks, including the Cohanzick Zoo. You can also check out the region's past at educational attractions like the Nail House Museum.
Plainfield sits on the edge of a massive urban landscape that includes both Newark and New York City. This gives the area easy access to city amenities, with a 45-minute drive taking you into the heart of Manhattan. Meanwhile, a quick trip in the other direction will land you in the middle of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
This might seem like the best of both worlds: cityscapes and natural beauty. But Plainfield comes with a troubling economic situation. The town suffers with high unemployment and a poverty rate over 20%.
At the same time, the proximity of larger metropolitan areas drives up real estate values. Locals have trouble affording the $257,200 median home price on a median income of $56,339.
Vineland has an attraction known as the Palace of Depression. No, really. The location was first built in the 1930s by a wealthy local ruined by the Great Depression. The house made of junk, known as the "strangest house in the world," was torn down in 1969 but a recent effort has been made to restore the strange landmark.
So what's wrong with a town that would build a place called "the Palace of Depression" more than once? The economy, of course. The median income hovers at the relatively healthy figure of $54,476, but the unemployment rate runs 7.2%. Also, the cost of living tops the U.S. standard by 10% and crime comes in above the national average.
Camden sits along the Delaware River, across the water from Philadelphia. As a major urban center, the city offers significant attractions, such as an aquarium and a decommissioned battleship called the USS New Jersey.
However, Camden also suffers from significant urban blight. More than a third of the city's 74,002 residents struggle below the poverty line. This comes as a result of a $27,015 median income and a 12.9% unemployment rate.
Housing and education are serious problems as well. Meanwhile, the crime rate runs nearly 90% above the U.S. norm.
You've heard of the Jersey Shore, right? Well, Long Branch is part of that stretch of the Atlantic Coast. As such, the town comes with beaches and beautiful seaside vistas. Unfortunately, when you get away from the sun and waves, things turn a little bleak. It ranks as the 7th worst place to live in New Jersey for 2021.
It's difficult to find a job in Long Branch. The unemployment rate stands at 7.6%.
At the same time, the ocean property draws rich tourists from New York and other nearby urban areas. This drives up the cost of living in town, making it hard for locals to make ends meet. The median home price in town sits at $362,400, compared to a median income of $59,892.
You can see Linden from Statin Island, just across the water in New York. That kind of sums it up: within sight of NYC, but only an outer borough. Manhattan still requires a trip up the New Jersey Turnpike.
Linden actually supports a respectable local economy, unlike most of the other places on this list. It also benefits from a strong housing market and a diverse population. Still, being part of a major metropolitan area comes with drawbacks. The cost of living is well above the national average. At the same time, crime in the area is elevated and the local schools miss expectations.
With a name like "Wildwood," you might picture an enchanted forest, filled with nymphs and endless acres of trees. Nope. Wildwood sits at the southern tip of New Jersey, along the Atlantic Shore.
But while the town doesn't offer much in the way of literal wild woods, it does have excellent beach access and plenty of oceanside fun. That's the good part. The bad part? Well, a double-digit unemployment rate, poverty nearing 20%, and a crime rate that nearly triples the national average.
On top of this, living in Wildwood is expensive. The cost of living tops the U.S. norm by 10% and the median home price equals $237,300.
Ever listen to a Bruce Springsteen song? Rusted cars abandoned on desolate highways, the American Dream subverted by a stark economic reality. Well, Springsteen comes from Asbury Park. So you can kind of guess at what life there is like.
Located along the Jersey Shore, Asbury Park was once a popular resort destination. It still offers plenty of beachsides. However, much of the rest of the town has fallen into ruin (just like the song says). Unemployment stands at 10.0%, while 1 in 4 residents make due below the poverty line. Crime is also a major problem. Meanwhile, like many places in this part of New Jersey, a high cost of living adds to the day-to-day struggles.
How we determined the worst places to live in New Jersey 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 175 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 175 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 New Jersey -- Newark. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in New Jersey. 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 New Jersey
If you're looking at areas in New Jersey 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, Newark ranks as the worst city to live in New Jersey for 2021.
If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in New Jersey:
- Haddonfield (Pop. 11,345)
- Park Ridge (Pop. 8,766)
- Waldwick (Pop. 9,986)
For more New Jersey reading, check out:
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In New Jersey?