Special Report

50 Worst Cities to Live In

Source: Humbles Art / Wikimedia Commons

20. Benton Harbor, Michigan
> Population: 9,944
> Poverty rate: 48.0% (top 10%)
> 2017 violent crimes per 100,000 people: 2,202 (top 10%)
> Median home value: $56,200 (bottom 10%)

Benton Harbor is a small city in western Michigan. With over 2,200 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents in 2017, it ranks as the most dangerous city in the state and one of the most dangerous in the country. For reference, there were 383 violent crimes for every 100,000 people nationwide the same year.

Unsafe streets can drive current residents away and make a city less appealing to potential residents. In the last five years, Benton Harbor’s population declined by 1.7%, even as the U.S. population grew by 3.8%.

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19. Muskegon Heights, Michigan
> Population: 10,743
> Poverty rate: 39.3% (top 10%)
> 2017 violent crimes per 100,000 people: 1,808 (top 10%)
> Median home value: $42,900 (bottom 10%)

For both individuals and broad populations, incomes tend to rise with educational attainment. In Muskegon Heights, Michigan, just 5.8% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, one of the smallest bachelor’s degree attainment rates of any U.S. city. Incomes in the area are similarly low. The typical household in the city earns just $25,411 a year, less than half the median across the U.S. as a whole of $57,652.

Muskegon also struggles with crime. There were over 6,000 property crimes reported in the city for every 100,000 people in 2017, the most of any city in Michigan. Additionally, the city’s violent crime rate of 1,808 incidents per 100,000 people is higher than over 90% of all U.S. cities.

Source: Steven_Kriemadis / Getty Images

18. Detroit, Michigan
> Population: 679,865
> Poverty rate: 37.9% (top 10%)
> 2017 violent crimes per 100,000 people: 2,057 (top 10%)
> Median home value: $42,800 (bottom 10%)

Home to nearly 700,000 residents, Detroit is by far the largest city to rank among the worst places to live. The quintessential Rust Belt city, Detroit is now a shadow of its former self, declining in population from a mid-century peak of 1.8 million. Though the broader metro area’s iconic manufacturing sector has staged a comeback in recent years, unemployment in Detroit remains high. The Census estimates that an average of 10.6% of the city’s labor force was unemployed over the last five years, more than double the comparable 4.1% national rate.

Struggling economically, Detroit is also dangerous. It is one of only 11 cities nationwide where there were over 2,000 violent crimes reported for every 100,000 people in 2017.

Source: skinnylawyer / Flickr

17. Adelanto, California
> Population: 32,867
> Poverty rate: 38.5% (top 10%)
> 2017 violent crimes per 100,000 people: 706 (top 25%)
> Median home value: $151,600

In Adelanto, California, 38.5% of residents live in poverty, one of the 50 highest poverty rates among more than 4,700 cities considered for this list. Higher poverty rates are often associated with lower educational attainment rates. Just 5.2% of adults Adelanto residents hold a bachelor’s degree, one of the smallest shares of any U.S. city and well below the 30.9% share of American adults.

Adelanto residents also face an average daily commute of more than 41 minutes one way, about 15 minutes longer than the average American’s trip to work. This additional travel time adds up to nearly 2.5 hours in the course of a single week. Lengthy commutes can lead to considerable stress and detract from overall quality of life.

Source: Richard David Ramsey / Wikimedia Commons

16. Hammond, Louisiana
> Population: 20,325
> Poverty rate: 34.1% (top 10%)
> 2017 violent crimes per 100,000 people: 1,487 (top 10%)
> Median home value: $149,400

Hammond, Louisiana, is one of the poorest cities in the country. More than one in every three residents live below the poverty line, and the typical area household earns just $37,059 a year. Hammond also has a high food insecurity rate. An estimated 41.1% of the population have low access to supermarkets or grocery stores, nearly double the 22.4% comparable national share.

Crime is a serious problem in Hammond. There were nearly 9,700 property crimes reported in the city for every 100,000 people in 2017, the most of any city in Louisiana. Additionally, the city’s violent crime rate of 1,487 incidents per 100,000 people is higher than in over 90% of all U.S. cities.

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