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:
- Clearlake (Photos)
- Dos Palos
- Mendota (Photos)
- Avenal (Photos)
- Red Bluff (Photos)
- Los Banos (Photos)
- Chowchilla (Photos)
- Oroville (Photos)
- 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.
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
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.
Population: 15,070Rank 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.
Population: 11,394Rank 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.
Population: 13,590Rank 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.
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
Population: 14,065Rank 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
Population: 37,012Rank 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.
Population: 18,195Rank 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.
Population: 18,884Rank 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.
Population: 301,443Rank 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:
- Los Altos (Pop. 30,238)
- Los Altos Hills (Pop. 8,376)
- Piedmont (Pop. 11,201)
For more Northern California reading , check out:
- 10 Best Places To Raise A Family In Northern California
- 10 Most Boring Cities In Northern California
- 10 Best Places To Live In Northern California
Detailed List Of The Worst Cities In Northern California
|South Lake Tahoe||60||145|
|El Paso De Robles (Paso Robles)||71||179|
|East Palo Alto||87||168|
|San Luis Obispo||94||261|
|Half Moon Bay||98||227|