Special Report

The Best and Worst Run Cities in America

The Worst-Run Cities in America

10. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
> Population: 599,000 (28th largest)
> Credit rating: Aa2, stable
> Violent crime per 100,000: 1,294 (10th highest)
> 2012 Unemployment rate: 10.1% (27th highest)

Milwaukee struggles with poverty and high crime rates. Last year, a typical household made just over $34,000, and nearly 30% of people lived beneath the poverty line, considerably worse than the country’s figures. There were nearly 1,300 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2012, more than three times the national rate of 387 violent crimes per 100,000 people. The city’s socioeconomic problems were among the reasons Moody’s assigned Milwaukee a Aa2 rating. The agency also expressed management-related concerns, specifically highlighting the city’s debt burden and the complexity of its debt financing.

9. Hialeah, Florida
> Population: 232,000 (83rd largest)
> Credit rating: not rated
> Violent crime per 100,000: 347 (12th lowest)
> 2012 Unemployment rate: 11.7% (14th highest)

Just 71.2% of the adult population in Hialeah had a high school diploma in 2012, one of the worst rates among large cities. Also only 14.5% of adults had a bachelor’s degree or higher that year, about half the national rate. Nearly 15% of jobs in Hialeah were in the generally low-paying retail industry in 2012. The city’s median household income was just $28,878 in 2012, one of the lowest among major U.S. cities. Nearly 36% of residents didn’t have health insurance last year, the most among the 100 largest U.S. cities. Like many other areas in Florida, Hialeah’s recovery from the housing crisis has been strained. One in every 19 homes was in foreclosure at the end of 2012, tied with Miami for the worst foreclosure rate among large cities. This is not surprising, given that the median home value in the area plummeted by 43.1% between 2008 and 2012, one of the sharpest declines over that period.

ALSO READ: Detroit Has Many Homes Worth Less Than $10,000

8. North Las Vegas, Nevada
> Population: 223,000 (90th largest)
> Credit rating: Ba1, stable
> Violent crime per 100,000: 764 (34th highest)
> 2012 Unemployment rate: 13.3% (7th highest)

Incorporated in 1946, North Las Vegas is part of the Las Vegas Valley but is separate from its larger namesake to the south. While both cities were hit hard by the recession and housing crisis, North Las Vegas fared slightly worse. Between 2008 and 2012, the median home value in North Las Vegas fell by 50.7%, the second-largest decline of any large U.S. city over that time. Additionally, last year 13.3% of the city’s workforce was unemployed while one in every 29 homes were in foreclosure. Both figures were not only among the worst in the nation, but were also worse than neighboring Las Vegas — often seen as a poster child for the negative effects of the housing crisis.

7. Cleveland, Ohio
> Population: 391,000 (46th largest)
> Credit rating: A1, stable
> Violent crime per 100,000: 1,384 (8th highest)
> 2012 Unemployment rate: 9.5% (30th highest)

In general, Cleveland residents are not wealthy. A typical household made $24,257 last year, less than half the national median income. Meanwhile, the city’s poverty rate was 36.1%, more than double the national rate and worse than every large U.S. city except for Detroit. According to Moody’s, the city’s socioeconomic profile and long-running population loss remain challenges. Additionally, crime was considerably worse in Cleveland than in most other populous cities, with 1,384 violent crimes per 100,000 people in 2012. High levels of poverty and crime may make it difficult to attract residents to the area. Among large U.S. cities, Cleveland had the second-highest rate of vacant homes at 22.8% in 2012, trailing only Detroit.

ALSO READ: States About To Lose The Most Unemployment Insurance

6. Fresno, California
> Population: 506,000 (32nd largest)
> Credit rating: Ba2, negative
> Violent crime per 100,000: 543 (39th lowest)
> 2012 Unemployment rate: 14.3% (5th highest)

Fresno appears to have made immense progress in fighting organized crime. Following a major crackdown on the Fresno Bulldogs gang, the city’s violent crime has declined. According to FBI statistics, there were 543 violent crimes per 100,000 people last year, worse than the national rate but better than most large cities, where crime tends to be higher. However, the city still faces big challenges. Roughly 25% of adults lacked a high school diploma as of 2012, versus just 13.6% nationally. Additionally, Fresno’s poverty rate of 31.5% was one of the highest among large U.S. cities. Agriculture is a major part of the economy in Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley. While the industry supplies many of the area’s jobs, many residents are often unable to find work. In 2012, the city’s 14.3% unemployment rate was considerably higher than the 8.1% national rate.

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