50 Worst American Cities to Live In
35. Lansing, Michigan
> Population: 114,110
> Median home value: $75,800
> Poverty rate: 26.8%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 26.0%
Typical in less desirable places to live, home values in Lansing are low. The median home value is only $75,800, 12th lowest of any U.S. city and less than half the $194,500 median home value nationwide. A dwindling population likely contributes to low home values in Lansing. The population has fallen by 4.7% over the last decade, even as the total U.S. population has climbed by 11.5%.
Like many cities on this list, Lansing is relatively dangerous. There were 1,157 violent crimes for every 100,000 city residents in 2015, one of the highest rates of U.S. cities and well more than double the statewide violent crime rate of 416 incidents per 100,000 people.
34. Rochester, New York
> Population: 209,808
> Median home value: $76,900
> Poverty rate: 33.2%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 21.6%
The typical Rochester household earns only $31,946 a year, slightly more than half the statewide median income of $60,850. In addition to very low incomes, serious financial hardship is relatively common in the western New York city. About one in three Rochester residents live in poverty, a higher poverty rate than in all but 14 other U.S. cities.
Property values in Rochester are very low on average. More than half of all homes in the city are worth less than $77,000, one of the lowest median property values in the country. High property taxes saddle area residents with additional financial burdens. Homeowners pay 3.3% of their home value in property taxes on average on an annual basis, far higher than the 1.2% the typical American homeowner pays.
33. Reading, Pennsylvania
> Population: 87,873
> Median home value: $69,100
> Poverty rate: 38.8%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 11.5%
Once a prosperous industrial center, Reading’s economy and standard of living has declined since Reading Company, operator of the main coal transporting railroad in the area, declared bankruptcy in 1971. The city’s population declined in the following years but has grown steadily over the past few decades. Still, Reading’s population has yet to return to its 1930 peak of 111,000 people.
Today, Reading is one of the poorest of U.S. cities. Just 11.5% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, less than half of the 30.6% national figure. With such low earnings potential, the city’s typical household earns just $26.531 a year, less than half the national median household income of $55,775. Reading’s poverty rate of 38.8% is the fifth highest of any U.S. city.
32. Salt Lake City, Utah
> Population: 192,660
> Median home value: $262,400
> Poverty rate: 19.1%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 44.4%
While Salt Lake City has a growing economy, and is home to a large share of college graduates and low unemployment, the city struggles with frequent crime and unaffordable housing. The median home value in Salt Lake City is $262,400, 5.4 times the city’s median annual household income of $48,761. By comparison, the U.S. median home value is only 3.5 times higher than the typical American household income.
In 2015, there were 9,331 property crimes — burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson — per 100,000 Salt Lake City residents, a higher property crime rate than any city other than Miami Beach. While not as prevalent as property theft, violent crime is also relatively common in the city. There were 855 violent crimes per 100,000 Salt Lake City residents, more than twice the national rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 Americans.
31. Syracuse, New York
> Population: 144,152
> Median home value: $93,100
> Poverty rate: 31.0%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 29.0%
An economic powerhouse in the industrial era, Syracuse has been in decline for decades. Today, some 31.0% of Syracuse residents live in poverty, roughly double the New York state poverty rate of 15.4%. The high poverty rate is likely fueled, in part, by a struggling job market. The city’s annual unemployment rate of 6.6% is well above the statewide unemployment rate of 5.3%. Total employment in the city fell by about 1% between 2013 and 2015, even as employment nationwide climbed 4% over the same time period.
Often indicative of less desirable places to live, property is relatively cheap in Syracuse. The typical area home is worth only $93,100, less than a third of the statewide median home value of $293,500.