50 Worst Cities to Live In

Print Email

15. St. Louis, Missouri
> Population: 317,419
> Median home value: $113,800
> Poverty rate: 28.5%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.0%

St. Louis is one of the most crime ridden cities in the United States. There are 6,253 property crimes — such as burglary and auto theft — for every 100,000 city residents, far more than the national annual property crime rate of 2,596 incidents per 100,000. Violent crimes, such as assault and murder, are also quite common in St. Louis. There are 1,679 violent crimes a year for every 100,000 city residents, the fifth highest violent crime rate of any city in the country.

Cities with relatively high college attainment rates tend to have higher income levels. Yet this is not the case in St. Louis. While 32.0% of city adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, higher than the 30.1% national college attainment rate, the city’s median household income is far lower than average. The typical St. Louis household earns only $35,959 a year, about $17,700 less than the typical American household. Also, St. Louis’s 28.5% poverty rate is nearly double the 15.5% national poverty rate.

14. Buffalo, New York
> Population: 258,699
> Median home value: $69,900
> Poverty rate: 31.3%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 23.7%

Buffalo is one of several upstate New York cities that have struggled with economic decline for decades. Byproducts of the city’s economy include long-term population decline, as well as depressed home values. The city’s population fell by 4.3% in the past five years. The median home value in the Western New York city is only $69,900, well below half the value of the typical American home, of $181,200. The cost of goods and services in Buffalo is also 14.2% lower than it is on average across the country.

Though the city may be relatively affordable, incomes in Buffalo are well below incomes nationwide. The typical Buffalo household earns only $31,919 a year, far less than the $53,657 national median household income. The city’s 31.3% poverty rate is nearly double the U.S. poverty rate.

13. Dayton, Ohio
> Population: 140,995
> Median home value: $66,200
> Poverty rate: 36.9%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 16.3%

Dayton, Ohio, is one of the poorest cities in the country. The typical Dayton household earns only $26,131 a year, less than half the income the typical American household earns. The cost of living in Dayton is 10% less than it is on average across the U.S. But while goods and services are relatively affordable, the city’s 36.9% poverty rate is one of the highest of any U.S. city. Low incomes and high poverty are bad for business, and poor economic conditions may partially explain the city’s declining population. In the last five years, the city’s population declined by 8.3%.

Negative population growth can have a detrimental effect on property values. Perhaps not surprisingly, a typical home in Dayton is worth only $66,200, nearly three times less than a typical American home, which is valued $181,200.

12. Jackson, Mississippi
> Population: 171,146
> Median home value: $90,800
> Poverty rate: 28.2%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 29.1%

City populations with high educational attainment rates tend to also have high incomes, although this is not always the case. Approximately 29% of adults in Jackson have at least a bachelor’s degree, within one percentage point of the national college attainment rate. Yet, the typical area household earns only $34,039 a year, well below the $53,657 national median household income.

On the other hand, the city has an abundance of amenities for leisure activity. There are 333 restaurants and cafes and about 21 fitness and recreation centers in Jackson for every 100,000 city residents, each far more than the corresponding national figures of 238 eateries and 13 fitness centers per 100,000 people.

11. Westminster, California
> Population: 92,062
> Median home value: $512,900
> Poverty rate: 20.3%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 22.2%

The median household income in Westminster of $54,622 a year is roughly $1,000 more than the median income nationwide. However, the cost of living in the city is almost 30% higher than it is across the country as a whole. For example, housing costs in Westminster are twice as much as they are nationwide. A typical home in the city is worth of half a million dollars, while a typical American home is worth about $181,200. After adjusting for cost of living, the city ranks among the least affordable in the country.

As is the case with many other California cities, the air quality in Westminster is poor. The city has poor air quality for roughly a month out of every year, compared to a national average of poor air quality about 20 days a year. As result, Westminster residents are at greater risk of certain illnesses that can be triggered by hazardous air quality.