Special Report

50 Worst American Cities to Live In

Source: Thinkstock

15. Jackson, Mississippi
> Population: 170,811
> Median home value: $92,600
> Poverty rate: 31.7%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 26.9%

Mississippi lags behind most of the country in many socioeconomic measures, and Jackson, the largest city in the state, is one of the worst places to live. Jackson has fewer bars, libraries, recreational centers, and movie theaters per capita than the U.S. as a whole, and is home to some of the cheapest real estate in the country. The median home value in Jackson is just $92,600, less than half the $194,500 national figure. Some 31.7% of the population lives in poverty, more than twice the 14.7% national rate.

Like much of Mississippi, Jackson’s economic growth has slowed substantially in recent years. Jackson lacks the high-tech STEM industries that have fueled growth in other mid-size metro areas, and the city’s 6.4% unemployment rate in 2015 was significantly higher than the 5.3% national rate. Jackson’s labor force grew by just 2.4% from 2013 to 2015, less than the 4.0% national job growth over the period.

Source: Thinkstock

14. Baltimore, Maryland
> Population: 621,849
> Median home value: $155,600
> Poverty rate: 22.9%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 29.9%

Baltimore is one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. The city’s murder rate hit an all time high in 2015. That year, there were 1,536 violent crimes in the city for every 100,000 residents, the eighth highest violent crime rate of any U.S. city. The violence may have been partly fueled by the influx of drugs on the street following the looting of pharmacies during the unrest sparked by the police killing of Freddie Gray.

Others blamed the record year in crime in the city on economic and social disparities. Some 22.9% of Baltimore’s population lives below the poverty line, more than double the 9.7% poverty rate across Maryland.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

13. Stockton, California
> Population: 305,650
> Median home value: $224,300
> Poverty rate: 21.8%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 17.8%

There were 1,352 violent crimes per 100,000 Stockton residents in 2015, more than three times the national violent crime rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 Americans. In addition to a high crime rate, Stockton suffers from heavy air pollution. San Joaquin County has good air quality just 331 days out of the year on average, less than most U.S. counties.

Stockton was one of the cities hit hardest by the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis. The city’s financial situation became so dire that in 2012 Stockton became the largest city to ever file for bankruptcy — only to be outdone by Detroit the following year. While Stockton returned to solvency in 2015, the area’s economy remains in rough shape. The city’s unemployment rate of 9.6% in 2015 was far higher than the 5.3% national rate.

Source: Thinkstock

12. Springfield, Missouri
> Population: 166,798
> Median home value: $113,500
> Poverty rate: 24.1%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 28.0%

Few cities have a greater crime problem than Springfield, Missouri. The city’s annual violent crime rate of 1,356 incidents per 100,000 residents is more than three times the national violent crime rate of 373 per 100,000. Springfield’s property crime rate, at 7,795 incidents per 100,000 people, is also over three times the national property crime rate and the third highest of the 551 cities reviewed.

High crime in a city often coincides with high poverty in a somewhat circular cause and effect. Springfield’s poverty rate of 24.1% is nearly 10 percentage points greater than the national poverty rate.

Source: Thinkstock

11. San Bernardino, California
> Population: 216,137
> Median home value: $201,300
> Poverty rate: 32.6%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 12.2%

Some 32.6% of San Bernardino residents live in poverty, the second highest poverty rate of any California city and more than double the 14.7% U.S. poverty rate. Serious financial hardship is partially the product of a stagnant job market. The city’s 8.2% unemployment rate is higher than in the vast majority of U.S. cities and well above the 5.3% nationwide jobless rate.

San Bernardino is not marred only by poor economic conditions, but also by poor environmental conditions. Air quality in San Bernardino County is hazardous for 57 days a year on average, more than nearly any U.S. county and more than twice the 22-day national average.

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