These Are The 10 Worst Places To Live In Northern California For 2018


We used science and data to determine the places in Northern California that are the real pits.

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This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out that we updated it for 2018.

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Northern California. The American dream. The place where you can get the sun, surf, mountains and deserts. Where dreams are made and movie stars bask in the glory of their own self worth.

Where you have to ration your water. Sit in traffic. Pay too much for your house.

While Northern California is overall, a glorious place, it has some serious, glaring issues, just like most other states. But most of the people reading this live there, and are already aware of this fact, so we won’t dwell on it.

Instead, let’s have some fun and look at only certain areas where things are the absolute worst.

After analyzing all 188 cities with a population over 5,000, we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in Northern California:

  1. Clearlake (Photos)
  2. Dos Palos
  3. Mendota (Photos)
  4. Avenal (Photos)
  5. Lathrop
  6. Red Bluff (Photos)
  7. Los Banos (Photos)
  8. Chowchilla (Photos)
  9. Oroville (Photos)
  10. Stockton (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.

If you’re looking for something more national, check out the worst cities in America or the worst states in America.

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How we determined the worst places to live in Northern California 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

The data comes from the Census’s most recent American Community Survey and from the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

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 188 cities.

We then ranked each city from 1 to 188 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 Northern California — Clearlake. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Northern California.

This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.

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1. Clearlake

Clearlake, Northern California

Public domain

Population: 15,070
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 5)
Home Values: $84,200 (1st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 19.5% (5th worst)
Most people have never heard of Clearlake. A Google map search determined it’s on the banks of Clear Lake, in the middle of nowhere north of Sacramento. Apparently, things aren’t too fabulous there, as the incomes here are almost on the poverty level, and 1 in 10 people are unemployed. While it could be considered a bit of a weekend getaway for city slickers (maybe?), almost half of the city’s roads are unpaved. Not a good sign.

And the nearest Del Taco is an hour and a half away.

2. Dos Palos


Population: 5,103
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 3)
Home Values: $100,100 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 20.9% (3rd worst)
You can’t blame them for living in Dos Palos 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 3rd highest in the state here (20.9%), the residents in Dos Palos earn the smallest household income in Northern California. At a combined income of $36,509, families of four are barely above the poverty line.

In addition, the crime here is really high for a small city in Northern California. Dos Palos has the 39th highest crime rate in the state.

3. Mendota

Mendota, Northern California

Population: 11,394
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 1)
Home Values: $114,500 (3rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 26.8% (1st worst)
Mendota is a tiny place wedged between the 5 Freeway and Fresno in Central Northern California. This region of Northern California, to put it nicely, is pretty isolated, hot, and sprinkled with farms and all other sorts of agriculture. It’s an important place, economically speaking, since a lot of the nation relies on Northern California grown crops.

However, when you consider how hard central Northern California has been hit with water-related issues, it isn’t surprising that at least one city in this region topped this list. Crime in the area is way above normal, and residents are underemployed and way underpaid. Simply speaking, there really isn’t anything charming about Mendota.

4. Avenal

Avenal, Northern California

Population: 13,590
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 10)
Home Values: $120,400 (5th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.9% (15th worst)
When you’re looking at science and data, the city of Avenal is the 4th worst place you can live in the state of Northern California. Let’s see why.

Residents who live in Avenal, located in Kings County, have the 165th most crimes in the state committed against them. Factor in a much-lower income level–per resident–and homes valued around $120,400, and you’ve got yourself a crummy place to live. In terms of comparing it to the rest of Northern California, that is.

5. Lathrop


Population: 20,331
Rank Last Year: 21 (Up 16)
Home Values: $250,400 (50th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.9% (38th worst)
Lathrop, CA needs a big hug right now. Residents here are underpaid, underemployed and possibly lonely.

Additionally, crime is 20th worst in the state, which is very high considering Lathrop is so far removed from the rest of Northern California.

If you know anyone in Lathrop, dm them on Facebook and tell them you love them. They can probably use it right about now.

6. Red Bluff

Red Bluff, Northern California

Population: 14,065
Rank Last Year: 42 (Up 36)
Home Values: $139,800 (7th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.8% (24th worst)
While numbers in Northern California are clearly better when you compare them to the rest of the nation, the fact is when you compare Northern California cities against one another, you see big differences.

Home values in Red Bluff average $139,800, which is the 7th lowest in the state. Say what you want about ‘cheap living,’ the fact is homes are priced by demand, and there’s not a lot of demand to live in Red Bluff.

Plus, 2460.0% of the population here lives below the poverty line.

Plus, the crime rate is the 6th highest in the state here. Every year, when you’re within Red Bluff city limits, you have a 1 in 12.8 chance of being robbed. That’s a lot of broken into cars and homes.

7. Los Banos

Los Banos, Northern California

Population: 37,012
Rank Last Year: 13 (Up 6)
Home Values: $179,500 (26th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 14.5% (14th worst)
There’s probably not many people in Northern California that would be surprised to see Los Banos on this list. In fact, if Los Banos wasn’t somewhere in the top 10, most people would start to wonder if our data was accurate.

Here are the statistics. Los Banos has the 65th worst crime rate in Northern California. No surprises there. How dangerous is it though? There were almost 121 violent crimes in Los Banos in 2015. Residents here had a 1 in 305 chance of being killed, raped or attacked. Just wow.

The home values in Los Banos are the 26th cheapest in the state ($179,500), the unemployment rate is the 14th highest (14.5%), and the annual household income is 34th lowest in Northern California, at $45,751. That’s basically at the poverty level for a family of four.

8. Chowchilla

Chowchilla, Northern California

Public domain

Population: 18,195
Rank Last Year: 82 (Up 74)
Home Values: $152,900 (11th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.9% (67th worst)
You can sure expect that Chowchilla is going to be a pretty rough place to live, it comes in 8th in our analysis. It is. In fact, Chowchilla has the 68th-highest crime rate in the state. Probably no surprises there.

There were 85 violent crimes here in 2015, and residents have a 1 in 34.5 chance of being the victim of a property crime. That means, most likely, if you live in Chowchilla, either you or someone on your block had their home or car broken into last year.

You can also imagine that the economy here is in the pits — the unemployment rate sits at 8.9% which is the 68th worst in Northern California.

9. Oroville

Oroville, Northern California

Public domain

Population: 18,884
Rank Last Year: 51 (Up 42)
Home Values: $152,900 (11th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.7% (33rd worst)
When you’re looking at science and data, the city of Oroville is the 9th worst place you can live in the state of Northern California. Let’s see why.

Residents who live in Oroville, located in Butte County, have the 7th most crimes in the state committed against them. Factor in a much-lower income level–per resident–and homes valued around $152,900, and you’ve got yourself a crummy place to live. In terms of comparing it to the rest of Northern California, that is.

10. Stockton

Stockton, Northern California

Public domain

Population: 301,443
Rank Last Year: 29 (Up 19)
Home Values: $191,000 (31st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.8% (17th worst)
Stockton seems to be the have’s and have not’s. While the annual average income levels here are respectful ($46,033), about 1 in 7.2 people here are without jobs. Homes are valued at only $191,000.

But the biggest eye opener is the sheer crime here. It seems as if just about everyone in town without a job is pillaging the community. Stockton has the 20th highest crime rate in Northern California, where 1 in 68 people has a statistic chance of being attacked, raped or murdered each year.

Plus, 1 in 25.9 people are robbed.

If you’re headed past Stockton and stop for gas, make sure you lock your doors.

Wrapping Up The Worst In Northern California

If you’re looking at areas in Northern California 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, Clearlake ranks as the worst city to live in Northern California for 2018.

If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Northern California:

  1. Los Altos (Pop. 30,238)
  2. Los Altos Hills (Pop. 8,376)
  3. Piedmont (Pop. 11,201)

For more Northern California reading , check out:

Detailed List Of The Worst Cities In Northern California

City Rank Previous Rank Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
Clearlake 1 6 15,070 19.5% $84,200
Dos Palos 2 5 5,103 20.9% $100,100
Mendota 3 4 11,394 26.8% $114,500
Avenal 4 14 13,590 13.9% $120,400
Lathrop 5 21 20,331 10.9% $250,400
Red Bluff 6 42 14,065 12.8% $139,800
Los Banos 7 13 37,012 14.5% $179,500
Chowchilla 8 82 18,195 8.9% $152,900
Oroville 9 51 18,884 11.7% $152,900
Stockton 10 29 301,443 13.8% $191,000
San Pablo 11 26 29,991 10.1% $221,400
Marysville 12 29 12,176 13.2% $145,200
Huron 13 33 6,821 9.6% $119,100
Anderson 14 40 10,156 10.1% $158,000
Corning 15 32 7,548 21.8% $155,300
Gustine 16 35 5,684 18.9% $151,900
Yreka 17 49 7,598 15.4% $149,800
Merced 18 38 81,461 17.2% $170,500
Willows 19 66 6,080 9.6% $190,600
Shasta Lake 20 62 10,151 10.2% $157,300
Gridley 21 55 6,558 12.4% $158,000
Atwater 22 37 28,906 13.7% $160,200
Fresno 23 61 513,807 12.7% $187,500
Richmond 24 94 108,303 9.3% $330,200
Madera 25 75 63,398 7.5% $165,600
Patterson 26 88 21,205 13.9% $216,500
Firebaugh 27 36 8,176 14.6% $122,400
Eureka 28 99 27,002 9.4% $241,700
Vallejo 29 68 119,644 13.0% $254,100
Orland 30 110 7,504 13.0% $196,200
Modesto 31 70 208,512 13.6% $208,000
Arcata 32 103 17,775 16.4% $322,700
Grass Valley 33 76 12,861 11.5% $254,400
Ukiah 34 95 15,884 15.9% $281,400
Lompoc 35 87 43,678 12.1% $250,300
Newman 36 107 10,808 18.6% $159,600
Coalinga 37 128 16,609 10.7% $153,000
Fort Bragg 38 131 7,260 7.7% $294,900
Livingston 39 77 13,703 11.8% $173,100
Kerman 40 105 14,424 10.0% $191,100
Waterford 41 85 8,708 20.7% $168,700
Fortuna 42 140 11,917 8.9% $244,000
Pittsburg 43 93 67,998 11.8% $280,900
Ceres 44 98 47,231 14.6% $180,200
Susanville 45 115 15,555 11.9% $161,300
Placerville 46 147 10,540 10.7% $270,900
Redding 47 121 91,320 8.1% $232,000
Oakland 48 116 412,040 9.3% $500,500
Antioch 49 108 108,675 9.7% $291,400
Sacramento 50 113 484,530 10.5% $259,400
Galt 51 136 24,848 10.5% $239,000
Turlock 52 120 71,166 11.2% $238,800
Lodi 53 125 63,842 9.7% $252,900
Rancho Cordova 54 138 69,482 10.7% $223,300
Salinas 55 118 155,889 7.3% $303,800
Manteca 56 129 73,570 11.9% $274,200
Watsonville 57 123 52,915 8.7% $361,000
Williams 58 124 5,160 9.6% $162,700
Santa Maria 59 117 103,642 6.8% $276,800
South Lake Tahoe 60 145 21,506 10.9% $343,900
West Sacramento 61 134 51,386 9.5% $276,400
Chico 62 161 89,377 9.3% $270,900
Hayward 63 146 154,507 8.0% $404,500
Fairfield 64 153 110,953 10.7% $305,400
Oakdale 65 137 21,796 13.5% $251,100
Colusa 66 178 5,935 7.5% $194,900
Lemoore 67 142 25,169 7.9% $189,100
Citrus Heights 68 169 85,954 10.0% $218,200
Riverbank 69 183 23,761 12.0% $219,700
Rio Vista 70 135 8,055 8.3% $269,200
El Paso De Robles (Paso Robles) 71 179 31,178 5.9% $388,800
Gilroy 72 167 52,576 7.5% $528,700
Hughson 73 150 7,160 11.6% $256,300
Woodland 74 175 57,552 8.2% $288,200
Marina 75 194 20,816 7.0% $392,500
Concord 76 173 126,938 8.0% $423,100
Winters 77 200 6,974 10.6% $283,600
Paradise 78 205 26,396 9.4% $200,900
Seaside 79 185 34,120 7.2% $366,400
San Leandro 80 199 89,039 6.8% $426,900
Soledad 81 155 25,616 7.9% $251,800
Dixon 82 193 19,144 8.6% $300,500
Auburn 83 226 13,858 7.6% $371,000
Gonzales 84 177 8,401 2.0% $253,700
Guadalupe 85 190 7,252 8.5% $210,900
Hollister 86 182 36,901 10.5% $365,900
East Palo Alto 87 168 29,353 8.1% $515,900
Ione 88 258 7,056 11.7% $243,100
Santa Cruz 89 246 63,310 8.5% $707,600
Tracy 90 196 86,382 9.2% $332,300
Pinole 91 212 19,040 5.9% $387,500
Oakley 92 215 38,968 8.4% $324,000
Loomis 93 271 6,690 7.6% $318,600
San Luis Obispo 94 261 46,716 4.9% $567,600
Emeryville 95 229 11,111 6.3% $396,900
San Rafael 96 247 58,948 5.9% $758,600
American Canyon 97 204 20,334 8.3% $374,200
Half Moon Bay 98 227 12,281 4.9% $774,000
Rohnert Park 99 223 41,928 6.5% $341,000
San Francisco 100 242 850,282 6.2% $858,800

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