Special Report

50 Worst Cities to Live In

Source: Thinkstock

34. Buffalo, New York
> Population: 256,908
> Median home value: $83,500
> Poverty rate: 30.5%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 26.7%

Based on a number of socioeconomic indicators, Buffalo is the worst city to live in in New York state and one of the worst in the country. Buffalo is one of just a handful of cities nationwide where the typical household earns less than $33,000 a year. The low median income is due in part to the high jobless rate. Some 6.3% of Buffalo’s labor force is out of a job, above both the state unemployment rate of 4.8% and the national rate of 4.9%. The jobs market has not improved meaningfully in the western New York city in recent years. Between 2014 and 2016, city employment grew by only 0.1% compared to 3.5% total employment growth nationwide over the same period.

As is the case with most Northeastern cities on this list, Buffalo has lost residents in recent years. In the past half decade, the city’s population count declined by 1.6%, even as the U.S. population expanded by 3.7% over the same period.

Source: Thinkstock

33. Canton, Ohio
> Population: 71,329
> Median home value: $73,400
> Poverty rate: 31.5%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 15.0%

Only 15 cities nationwide have a higher poverty rate than Canton, Ohio, where 31.5% of the population lives below the poverty line. The high poverty rate is likely due in part to the bleak jobs picture. The number of people working in the city fell by 1.3% from 2014 to 2016, and the annual unemployment rate stands at 6.4%. In comparison, employment climbed 3.5% nationwide over the same period and the annual U.S. unemployment rate stands at 4.9%.

Low-income areas often also have low property values, and Canton has some of the cheapest real estate in the country. The typical area home is worth just $73,400 compared to the national median home value of $205,000.

Source: JMora24 / Wikimedia Commons

32. Fresno, California
> Population: 522,021
> Median home value: $227,500
> Poverty rate: 28.1%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 21.6%

Fresno is one of half a dozen cities in California to rank among the worst cities to live in nationwide. Like most California cities, Fresno is an expensive place to live. The typical area home is worth $227,500, or about five times the median income of $44,905 in the city. In comparison, the typical American home value of $205,000 is only about 3.6 times the national median income of $57,617.

Fresno is situated in California’s San Joaquin Valley, a region with some of the nation’s worst air quality. In the Fresno area, about 14% of days in a given year have hazardous air quality, compared to only 6% of days nationwide on average.

Source: Thinkstock

31. Tucson, Arizona
> Population: 530,690
> Median home value: $144,000
> Poverty rate: 24.1%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 26.1%

Tucson is the second most populous city in Arizona and the only city in the state to rank among the worst U.S. cities to live in. The typical Tucson household earns $40,021 a year, only about three-quarters of the median annual household income in Arizona. Additionally, nearly one in every four city residents live in poverty, compared to 14.0% of Americans and 16.4% of people in Arizona. Crime is also relatively common in Tucson. There were 799 violent crimes and 5,891 property crimes in the city in 2016 per 100,000 people, more than double the comparable crime rates on a national scale.

Source: Thinkstock

30. Trenton, New Jersey
> Population: 84,065
> Median home value: $86,500
> Poverty rate: 27.8%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 14.8%

In Trenton, one of the poorest cities in the country, more than one in four residents live in poverty, and the typical household earns just $31,592 a year. Low-income Trenton residents live with additional financial stress as goods and services in the county around the New Jersey state capital are about 18% more expensive than they are on average nationwide.

Crime is often more common in poor cities, and Trenton is no exception. There were 1,341 violent crimes for every 100,000 Trenton residents in 2016, a crime rate more than five times that of New Jersey.

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