Special Report

Worst Cities to Live in Every State

Source: Thinkstock

31. New Mexico
> Worst city to live: Albuquerque
> Population: 559,131
> Median home value: $189,200
> Poverty rate: 20.0%
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.6%

Albuquerque is one of most dangerous cities in the country. There were 966 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Albuquerque residents in 2015, the most of any large city in New Mexico and among the most of any city in the country. Albuquerque also has missed out on much of the job growth that most mid-size cities enjoyed over the past few years, and it continues to struggle with high poverty. While total employment in the U.S. grew by 4.0% from 2013 to 2015, the number of jobs in Albuquerque increased by just 0.1% over the same period. The city’s poverty rate of 20.0% is much higher than the nationwide poverty rate of 14.7%.

Source: Thinkstock

32. New York
> Worst city to live: Buffalo
> Population: 258,066
> Median home value: $75,800
> Poverty rate: 33.0%
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 23.9%

Buffalo is the second largest city in New York, and by many measures the most economically and socially distressed. The typical Buffalo household earns only $32,509 a year, and about one in three area residents live below the poverty line. In comparison, the median annual household income across the state is $60,850, and about 15.4% of state residents live in poverty. Financial prosperity is undercut by a lack of employment opportunities. The city’s 7.1% unemployment rate is the highest of any large city in the state and well above the 5.3% statewide rate.

An economic turnaround may be in the city’s near future, however. In a joint venture with Tesla, Panasonic invested several hundred million dollars in a South Buffalo solar cell manufacturing plant. Once the plant hits production capacity in 2019, the venture is anticipated to add some 1,400 new jobs. The deal is one of several major investments that have been announced in the last few years.

Source: Mark Clifton / Flickr

33. North Carolina
> Worst city to live: Gastonia
> Population: 74,550
> Median home value: $134,300
> Poverty rate: 19.7%
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 23.0%

A suburb of the fast-growing Charlotte metropolitan area, Gastonia’s population has more than tripled in size since 1950. Despite the steady growth, Gastonia lags behind most U.S. cities in a number of quality of life measures. The city’s poverty rate of 19.7% is one of the highest in the state and well above the nationwide rate of 14.7%. Also, there were 716 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Gastonia residents in 2015, one of the highest violent crime rates of any U.S. city.

While over the past few decades Charlotte economy has developed into a major banking and financial center, Gastonia has remained relatively dependent on manufacturing. U.S. manufacturing activity has declined in recent years, and a number of plant closings in Gastonia have contributed to job losses throughout the city. Gastonia’s 2015 unemployment rate of 6.2% is higher than both the 5.7% statewide rate 5.3% national rate.

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34. North Dakota
> Worst city to live: Fargo
> Population: 119,250
> Median home value: $192,400
> Poverty rate: 13.5%
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 36.1%

Though Fargo is the most dangerous city in North Dakota, it is safer than the nation as a whole. There were 349 violent crimes in Fargo for every 100,000 residents in 2015, slightly below the comparable U.S. violent crime rate of 373. Relative safety comes at a cost in Fargo. The typical area home is worth 4.2 times as much as the median salary in the city. In comparison, the income-to-home value ratio is 3.9 in Bismarck, North Dakota and 3.5 nationwide.

Despite ranking as the worst city in North Dakota, Fargo is a relatively appealing place to live. The city boasts more sports teams, movie theaters, museums, recreation centers, and theatre companies per capita than is typical nationwide. In the last decade, Fargo’s population has climbed by 34.3% — tripling U.S. population growth over the same period.

Source: Thinkstock

35. Ohio
> Worst city to live: Canton
> Population: 71,895
> Median home value: $62,700
> Poverty rate: 31.6%
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 14.4%

In Canton, Ohio nearly one-third of residents live in poverty, more than double the 14.8% statewide poverty rate. Prevalent poverty has wide-reaching effects on a city’s overall standard of living and economy. For example, violent crime rates tend to be higher in poor cities and Canton’s violent crime rate of 1,129 incidents per 100,000 residents is nearly four times worse than Ohio’s violent crime rate.

Low educational attainment in an area can coincide with many other negative quality of life-outcomes, including lower incomes and higher unemployment. In Canton, just 14.4% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, less than half the 30.6% U.S. bachelor’s attainment rate.

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