Special Report

Worst Cities to Live in Every State

Source: W. Scott McGill / Shutterstock.com

36. Oklahoma
> Worst city to live: Lawton
> Population: 96,659
> Median home value: $112,200
> Poverty rate: 16.4%
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 19.7%

Lawton residents have relatively limited access to entertainment and cultural venues. The city has less than half the number of sports teams, recreation centers, museums, and libraries per capita than is typical nationwide. A high crime rate may make the city a less appealing venue for such cultural amenities.The most dangerous large city in Oklahoma, there were 973 violent crimes — murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — in Lawton in 2015 for every 100,000 residents, more than double the comparable 422 figure statewide.

In the last five years, Lawton’s population count has fallen by 1.2% — making it the only large city in the state to report a net population decline since 2011.

Source: Vlad Butsky / Flickr

37. Oregon
> Worst city to live: Medford
> Population: 79,795
> Median home value: $232,400
> Poverty rate: 22.3%
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 20.9%

The typical household in Medford earns $40,806 a year, less than any other similarly sized city in Oregon and the $55,775 national median household income. While incomes in Medford are higher when adjusted for the city’s low cost of groceries, utilities, and other goods, the cost of housing is 11% higher in Medford on average than it is nationwide. Less affordable than much of the country, Medford’s median home value is $232,400, nearly six times the typical city household income. By comparison, the median home value nationwide is only 3.5 times the national median household income.

Like many cities on this list, Medford struggles with crime. There were 6,115 property crimes per 100,000 Medford residents in 2015, by far the most of any large city in the state and one of the highest property crime rates of any U.S. city.

Source: Thinkstock

38. Pennsylvania
> Worst city to live: Reading
> Population: 87,873
> Median home value: $69,100
> Poverty rate: 38.8%
> Adults 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, the smallest share of any large Pennsylvania city. With such low earnings potential, the city’s typical household earns just $26,531 a year, less than half the statewide median household income of $55,702. Reading’s poverty rate of 38.8% is the highest of any large Pennsylvania city and the fifth highest of any U.S. city.

Source: Thinkstock

39. Rhode Island
> Worst city to live: Providence
> Population: 179,204
> Median home value: $177,400
> Poverty rate: 28.1%
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30.1%

Of the Rhode Island cities considered, Providence is the most dangerous. There were 567 violent crimes in 2015 for every 100,000 city residents, more than double the statewide rate of 243 incidents per 100,000 people.

Like many violent cities, Rhode Island’s state capital is relatively poor. The typical area household earns only $39,015 annually, well below the $58,073 median household income across the state. A high cost of living applies additional financial burdens on residents. Goods and services in Providence are 20% more expensive on average than they are nationwide.

Source: Thinkstock

40. South Carolina
> Worst city to live: Columbia
> Population: 133,393
> Median home value: $172,400
> Poverty rate: 22.6%
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 40.7%

Columbia is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S., expanding by 50.8% over the last decade. The local economy does not appear to have handled the influx well. Some 6.1% of the city’s labor force is out of a job — the highest unemployment rate of any large city in the state and considerably higher than the 5.3% U.S. 2015 unemployment rate. Additionally, 22.6% of the city’s population lives below the poverty line, the highest poverty rate of any South Carolina city and higher than the 16.6% statewide and 14.7% nationwide rates.

South Carolina’s capital city is also the most dangerous city in the state. There were 799 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in Columbia in 2015 — well above the comparable 505 figure statewide.

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