50 Worst Cities to Live In

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Source: Brandonrush / Wikimedia Commons

50. Fort Smith, Arkansas
> Population: 88,122
> Median home value: $115,400
> Poverty rate: 21.6%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 20.0%

By a number of measures assessing economic opportunity, education, crime, and public health, Fort Smith is one of the worst cities to live in. Just 20.0% of adults in the city have a bachelor’s degree, far less than the national college attainment rate of 31.3% and the smallest share of any major city in Arkansas. Low educational attainment can limit economic growth in an area and curb the earning potential of its residents. The typical Fort Smith household earns just $38,051 a year, far less than the national median income of $57,617.

Fort Smith also has the highest crime rate of any city in Arkansas other than Little Rock and one of the highest in the United States. There were 808 violent crimes reported in 2016 per 100,000 city residents, far more than the state violent crime rate of 551 incidents per 100,000 people and the national rate of 386 per 100,000.

Source: Thinkstock

49. Salt Lake City, Utah
> Population: 193,776
> Median home value: $285,100
> Poverty rate: 16.1%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 45.6%

One factor detracting from quality of life in Salt Lake City is the area’s high violent crime rate. Some 937 violent crimes were reported in 2016 per 100,000 city residents, more than twice the national violent crime rate of 386 incidents per 100,000 Americans and nearly four times the state rate of 243 per 100,000 Utah residents. Housing prices in Salt Lake City also have been rising fast in recent years and have outpaced the area’s income growth, making housing unaffordable for many low-income residents.

Despite the high violent crime rate, Salt Lake City has experienced substantial economic growth in the last several years. The number of jobs in the city rose 5.1% from 2014 to 2016, a faster pace than the nation as a whole.

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48. Gainesville, Florida
> Population: 131,593
> Median home value: $154,600
> Poverty rate: 33.4%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 42.7%

Gainesville is the home of the University of Florida, one of the top 50 national universities as ranked by U.S. News & World Report and the country’s fifth largest university by undergraduate enrollment. While the presence of a large research university likely has added depth to the area’s talent pool — some 41.7% of Gainesville adults have a bachelor’s degree compared to 31.3% of adults nationwide — quality of life in the city is poor overall.

The typical Gainesville household earns just $32,968 a year, roughly $25,000 less than the national median household income. Some 33.4% of city residents live in poverty, more than twice the U.S. poverty rate of 14.0% and the seventh highest rate of any major U.S. city.

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47. Atlanta, Georgia
> Population: 472,506
> Median home value: $262,600
> Poverty rate: 22.4%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 50.5%

While Atlanta has experienced substantial economic and population growth in recent years, the city’s high violent crime rate continues to hinder the area’s quality of life. There were 1,084 violent crimes reported in 2016 per 100,000 Atlanta residents, nearly three times the national violent crime rate of 386 incidents per 100,000 Americans.

Another factor detracting from quality of life in Atlanta is the city’s poor air quality. According to real estate data provider ATTOM Data Solutions, air quality in Atlanta and the surrounding Fulton County is considered non-hazardous just 89.5% of the year, one of the smallest shares of any major city. Air pollution in Atlanta may be partially exacerbated by the area’s record-setting heat in recent years. The temperature in Atlanta exceeded 85 degrees fahrenheit a total of 136 days in 2016, the city’s hottest year on record.

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46. Tacoma, Washington
> Population: 211,304
> Median home value: $239,100
> Poverty rate: 16.3%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 27.7%

While Tacoma has experienced substantial economic growth in recent years — the number of employed workers in the city rose by 6.1% from 2014 to 2016, compared to a 3.5% growth nationwide — the area still struggles with high unemployment and violent crime. Some 6.6% of the Tacoma workforce is currently unemployed, a far higher jobless rate than the 4.9% national rate.

Although crime has declined in many of the more dangerous neighborhoods in the city over the last several decades, Tacoma’s violent crime rate remains the highest of any city in the state. There were 947 violent crimes reported in 2016 per 100,000 Tacoma residents, far more than the state violent crime rate of 302 incidents per 100,000 Washington residents and the national rate of 386 per 100,000.

Source: Thinkstock

45. Albuquerque, New Mexico
> Population: 559,270
> Median home value: $191,600
> Poverty rate: 17.1%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 35.0%

While cheap land and low taxes have spurred rapid development in much of the area

surrounding Albuquerque, the city’s population growth has been relatively limited in recent years. Albuquerque’s population growth rate of just 1.2% from 2011 to 2016 is less than one-third the national population growth rate of 3.7% over that time. Similarly, the city’s employment growth rate of just 2.4% from 2014 to 2016 was slower growth than in a majority of large U.S. cities over the same period. Some 5.8% of Albuquerque’s workforce is unemployed, a higher jobless rate than the 4.9% national rate.

Albuquerque also struggles with one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. There were 1,117 violent crimes reported in 2016 per 100,000 city residents, the most of any major city in New Mexico and nearly three times the national rate of 386 incidents per 100,000 Americans.