Special Report

50 Worst Cities to Live In

25. Camden, New Jersey
> Population: 77,317
> Median home value: $82,700
> Poverty rate: 36.5%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 7.8%

Opportunities to socialize and the presence of entertainment venues help increase the quality of life in a community. Camden has very few social amenities. There are only 163.0 restaurants, cafes, or similar eateries for every 100,000 people in the city, far fewer than the national concentration of 238.4 per 100,000 people nationwide. An increase in the number of such establishments would likely make the city a more attractive place to live.

Camden has more serious economic problems than the lack of leisure time amenities, as well as environmental problems. Only 7.8% of area adults have a bachelor’s degree, far fewer than the 30.1% of American adults. This likely makes the area less attractive to businesses seeking highly-skilled workers. Low air quality can greatly increase certain health risks, and the air quality is hazardous 8.1% of days each year in Camden, far more than the national 5.9% share of low air quality days.

24. Houston, Texas
> Population: 2,240,796
> Median home value: $134,500
> Poverty rate: 22.4%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30.4%

Home to more than 2.2 million people, Houston is one of the biggest cities in the country. While many major cities have a high cost of living, Houston does not. Goods and services are about 5% less expensive in Houston than they are on average across the country. Despite the benefits of a low cost of living, 22.4% of Houston residents live in poverty, a larger share than the 17.2% state poverty rate and the 15.5% national rate.

In addition to poverty, Houston also has a crime problem. There are 991 violent crimes and 4,694 property crimes for every 100,000 city residents each year, far more than the 366 violent crimes and 2,596 property crimes per 100,000 people nationwide.

23. Springfield, Massachusetts
> Population: 153,994
> Median home value: $146,900
> Poverty rate: 31.7%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 17.3%

Making ends meet is difficult for many Springfield residents. The typical area household earns only $33,425 a year, less than half the income the typical Massachusetts household earns annually. Making matters worse, goods and services are nearly 8% more expensive in Springfield than they are on average nationwide. Springfield’s poverty rate of 31.7%, which does not account for cost of living, is one of the highest poverty rates of any city in the country.

The city’s woes are not only economic. Springfield’s annual violent crime rate of 1,081 reported incidents per 100,000 residents is nearly three times the corresponding national rate.

22. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
> Population: 599,653
> Median home value: $111,900
> Poverty rate: 29.0%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 23.5%

Like many of the once-thriving American industrial cities, Milwaukee’s economy is suffering from a number of social and economic difficulties. While the cost of living is about 5% lower in Milwaukee than it is across the country as a whole, incomes are also far lower than the national median. The typical household in the city earns only $35,049 a year, about $17,600 less than the typical Wisconsin household and $18,600 less than the typical American household.

Violent crime is also a major problem in Milwaukee. With 1,476 reported incidents of violent crime a year for every 100,000 residents, violent crimes are about four times more common in Milwaukee than across the nation as a whole.

21. Albany, Georgia
> Population: 73,016
> Median home value: $100,600
> Poverty rate: 34.4%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 18.2%

As a whole, the population of Albany, Georgia is among the poorest in the country. The typical area household earns only $29,613 a year, far less than the $53,657 median household income nationwide. Poverty is also relatively common in Albany. More than a third of the city’s residents live below the poverty line, a larger share than in all but a handful of other U.S. cities.

Low incomes in the area are largely explained by industry composition. Industries such as services, retail, and manufacturing make up a larger share of the city’s economy than is typical across the country. Such industries tend to offer low-skilled, low-paying jobs. Perhaps not surprisingly, the city’s work force has lower education levels than much of the country. Only 18.2% of adults in Albany have a bachelor’s degree, a considerably smaller share than the 30.1% national college attainment rate.

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