Special Report

50 Worst Cities to Live In

Detailed Findings

Problems like poverty, high unemployment rates, and high crime rates can have far reaching effects — and rarely does one exist without the others.

By itself, a high concentration of violent and property crime is bad for any city. People living in high crime areas are at greater risk of being the victim of a crime — and even if they are not victims themselves, high crime rates can take a toll on residents’ mental health.

High crime rates can also have economic implications for a city. Employers and small business owners may be less likely to operate in cities with high crime rates. This can then lead to higher jobless rates and economic stagnation. Of the 50 cities on this list, 39 have both higher than typical violent crime rates as well as unemployment rates above the 4.9% nationwide annual average.

The high unemployment rates in the cities on this list may also be due in part to their poorly educated labor pools — a less educated workforce may make a city less attractive for major employers. Only a dozen of the 50 cities on this list are home to a larger share of adults with a bachelor’s degree than the 31.3% share nationwide.

A weak job market tends to lower the typical income in an area, and the cities on this list tend to be relatively poor. In the majority of the worst cities to live in, the median income is less than $40,000 a year. Oakland, California, is the only city on this list with a median household income above the national median of $57,617. However, in many of the higher income cities like Oakland, a high cost of living offsets the higher incomes. In Oakland, goods and services are 27.4% more expensive on average than they are nationwide.

For many American homeowners, their home comprises the bulk of their wealth. However, low incomes, high crime rates, and stagnant economies have depressed home values in many of these cities. In 17 of the 50 cities on this list, the typical home is worth less than $100,000, and only 12 cities have a higher median home value than the national median of $205,000. In those cities with higher home values, homeownership may be prohibitively expensive as in most cases the median home value is more than five times the median income. Nationwide, the median home value is worth only about 3.6 times the median income.

In addition to some of the interconnected social and economic measures included in our index. We considered several factors that tend to move independently of one another, including air quality, average commute times, and risk of natural disasters.

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