Special Report

50 Worst Cities to Live In

5. Fall River, Massachusetts
> Population: 88,705
> Median home value: $230,600
> Poverty rate: 22.8%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 13.1%

The median household income in fall river is only $35,037, just roughly half the income a typical Massachusetts household earns and about $18,500 less than the income the typical American household earns. Placing further pressure on residents wallets, a single dollar also has less purchasing power in the city as goods and services are roughly 19% more expensive in the city than they are across the country as a whole. In Fall River, 22.8% of people live below the poverty line, a considerably larger share than the 15.5% of impoverished Americans.

As is often the case in cities with a high poverty rate, Fall River also has a violent crime problem. Violent crime is about 3.2 times more common in the city than it is across the country as a whole.

4. Hawthorne, California
> Population: 87,591
> Median home value: $427,700
> Poverty rate: 16.1%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 19.7%

Hawthorne, California, is one of the worst cities to live in the country. Both economically and environmentally, Hawthorne residents are at a disadvantage. Incomes are lower than average in Hawthorne, while a higher than average cost living in the city further weakens residents’ purchasing power. Housing is especially expensive in the city. Hawthorne residents pay roughly 30% more on housing than the typical American. Residents are also at a greater risk of health issues that can arise from poor air quality. The city has hazardous air quality nearly 15% of the year, far more than the nationwide average of 6% of the year with poor air quality.

3. Paterson, New Jersey
> Population: 146,746
> Median home value: $239,300
> Poverty rate: 30.7%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 10.8%

Paterson is home to the Great Falls of the Passaic, which used to power the mills of the city’s once vibrant textile manufacturing industry. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Paterson’s textile industry was so productive in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that the city became known as “Silk City.” Close to 16% of the city’s workforce is employed in the manufacturing sector, still well above the national proportion. Like many American industrial cities, Paterson’s economy is no longer prospering as it once was. More than 30% of the area’s residents live in poverty, nearly double the national poverty rate.

2. Detroit, Michigan
> Population: 680,281
> Median home value: $41,900
> Poverty rate: 39.3%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 13.8%

Unlike most cities on this list, Detroit’s housing market is not expensive. The median value of homes in Detroit is just $41,900, less than a quarter of the national median home value. The incredibly low value housing market is not an especially positive signal, and the economic circumstances of many residents mirrors the poor health of the real estate market. Close to two out of every five city residents live in poverty, roughly two and a half times higher than the national poverty rate.

The long struggling city was hard hit by the recent recession and filed for bankruptcy in 2013. Urban decay has characterized the auto manufacturing hub for decades. The number of manufacturing jobs in Detroit and the surrounding region rose from a decades-long low of 161,500 to 241,000 as of this April, but the industry’s workforce is still well below the roughly 390,000 manufacturing employees it had just 15 years ago.

1. Miami, Florida
> Population: 430,341
> Median home value: $245,000
> Poverty rate: 26.2%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 23.6%

No city in the United States is worse to live in than Miami. The city’s median home value of $245,000 is well above the national median of $181,200. However, with a median household income of only $31,917 a year, well below the national median of $53,657, most of these homes are either out of reach or a financial burden on most Miami residents. Like most of the worst cities to live in, more than one in every four people in Miami live in poverty. According to recently released research from the nonprofit think tank the Economic Policy Institute, the top 1% of earners in the Miami metro area make about $2 million annually, 45 times greater than the average income of the other 99% of earners. This earnings gap makes the metro area nearly the most unequal of any U.S. city.

Citywide violence is closely associated with a range of negative social and economic outcomes, including incarceration, unstable employment, lower cognitive functioning among children, and anxiety. A disproportionately large portion of Miami residents likely experience some of these outcomes as the city’s violent crime rate, at 1,060 incidents per 100,000 people, is several times higher than the national rate.

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