Special Report

50 Worst Cities to Live In

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10. Avenal, California
> Population: 13,119
> Poverty rate: 36.3% (top 10%)
> 2017 violent crimes per 100,000 people: 548 (top 25%)
> Median home value: $129,900

Avenal, California ranks as one of the 10 worst cities to live in part because it is losing jobs at a much faster rate than almost anywhere else in the country. From 2012 to 2017, employment dropped by more than 23% in the California city. This is at least partially explained by the fact that, in the same time period, the city’s population dropped by 14.5%.

Real estate in California is typically much more expensive than the average nationwide, as most homes cost more than $440,000 compared to the median of $193,500 nationwide. Yet in Avenal, the typical home is worth less than $130,000, a reflection of low incomes in the area. More than one in every three Avenal residents live below the poverty line.

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9. Anniston, Alabama
> Population: 22,097
> Poverty rate: 29.5% (top 10%)
> 2017 violent crimes per 100,000 people: 3,434 (top 10%)
> Median home value: $95,700 (bottom 25%)

Like many cities on this list, Anniston, Alabama, is losing residents. In the last five years, Anniston’s population declined by 4.2%. Over the same period, the number of people working in the city fell by a staggering 10.9%.

The city’s population decline may be attributable to low incomes and a high violent crime rate. The typical household in Anniston earns just $32,070 a year. Additionally, there were 3,434 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in Anniston in 2017, the most of any city in the country.

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8. Waianae, Hawaii
> Population: 13,636
> Poverty rate: 27.0% (top 10%)
> 2017 violent crimes per 100,000 people: N/A
> Median home value: $339,500 (top 25%)

Waianae, Hawaii, is one of the few cities on this list with a higher median income than the U.S. as a whole. The typical household in the city earns $60,282 a year, or $2,630 more than the typical American household. Bigger paychecks are not nearly enough to cover the high cost of living in Waianae, however. Goods and services in the area are 61.4% more expensive than they are on average nationwide.

The high cost of living imposes an especially heavy burden on the relatively large share of Waianae residents living below the poverty line. Of the city’s 13,636 residents, 27% live in poverty, a higher poverty rate than in over 90% of U.S. cities.

Source: Billy Hathorn / Wikimedia Commons

7. Bastrop, Louisiana
> Population: 10,643
> Poverty rate: 43.5% (top 10%)
> 2017 violent crimes per 100,000 people: 1,511 (top 10%)
> Median home value: $73,000 (bottom 10%)

In Bastrop, Louisiana, there were 1,511 violent crimes reported for every 100,000 residents in 2017. That means violent crimes occurred there nearly four times as frequently as they did in America as a whole.

Crime is often more common in poorer areas, and Bastrop has one of the highest poverty rates of any U.S. city. Some 43.5% of residents live below the poverty line — nearly three times higher than the U.S. poverty rate. Like many other cities that rank among the worst places to live, Bastrop is losing a significant portion of its residents. In the past five years, the city’s population fell by 6.2%.

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6. Bessemer, Alabama
> Population: 26,697
> Poverty rate: 29.7% (top 10%)
> 2017 violent crimes per 100,000 people: 2,986 (top 10%)
> Median home value: $84,000 (bottom 10%)

With 2,986 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents a year, Bessemer, Alabama, has the second highest violent crime rate in the nation, trailing only Anniston, Alabama. Bessemer also has the sixth highest property crime rate with nearly 9,800 reported property crimes per 100,000 residents.

In addition to high crime, residents face a number of economic challenges. Nearly 30% of residents live in poverty, and more than one in three residents have low access to grocery store or super markets. The typical Bessemer home earns less than $32,000 a year, well below the U.S. median annual household income of $57,652.

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