Special Report

Worst City to Live in Every State

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Alabama: Bessemer
> Population: 26,697
> Median home value: $84,000 (state: $132,100)
> Poverty rate: 29.7% (state: 18.0%)
> Violent crimes per 100,000 people: 2,986 (state: 524)

Based on a range of measures related to affordability, economy, quality of life, and community, Bessemer ranks as the worst city to live in in Alabama. The violent crime rate in the small northern Alabama city of about 27,000 is a staggering 2,986 incidents per 100,000 people, nearly six times the state violent crime rate of 524 incidents per 100,000 people.

Crime is often concentrated in poorer areas, and Bessemer residents are far more likely to struggle financially than residents of the state. The typical household in Bessemer earns just $31,308 a year, well below the median annual household income of $46,472 across Alabama.

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Alaska: Anchorage
> Population: 298,225
> Median home value: $304,500 (state: $261,900)
> Poverty rate: 8.1% (state: 10.2%)
> Violent crimes per 100,000 people: 1,203 (state: 829)

Of the 12 cities in Alaska considered, Anchorage ranks as the worst to live in. The port city, home to nearly 300,000, has a violent crime rate of 1,203 incidents per 100,000 people, the highest rate of any city in the state and well above the violent crime rate of 829 per 100,000 statewide.

Anchorage also has a high cost of living. In addition to having the highest property taxes in the state, in terms of median amount paid, goods and services are also about 27.7% more expensive in Anchorage than they are nationwide on average.

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Arizona: Douglas
> Population: 16,576
> Median home value: $88,200 (state: $193,200)
> Poverty rate: 31.9% (state: 17.0%)
> Violent crimes per 100,000 people: 249 (state: 508)

Douglas is a small city of less than 17,000 in southern Arizona along the U.S.-Mexico border. The city has a far lower concentration of restaurants, bars, and cultural attractions than typical. A relatively large share of area residents are struggling financially as the poverty rate in Douglas of 31.9% is well above the 17.0% poverty rate across the state as a whole.

Like many other cities on this list, Douglas’s population is shrinking. Over the last five years, the city lost 4.4% of its population. The resulting falling demand for housing has contributed to depressed property values. The typical home in Douglas is worth just $88,2000, over $100,000 less than the typical Arizona home.

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Arkansas: Helena-West Helena
> Population: 11,210
> Median home value: $75,400 (state: $118,500)
> Poverty rate: 42.5% (state: 18.1%)
> Violent crimes per 100,000 people: 1,112 (state: 555)

Crime can detract from the overall quality of life in any city — and Helena-West Helena is relatively dangerous. There were 1,112 violent crimes reported for every 100,000 people in the city in 2017, roughly double the violent crime rate of 555 per 100,000 across Arkansas. The unsafe streets may be pushing people out of the city as Helena lost 8.3% of its population in the last five years.

Joblessness is also a major problem in the city. According to Census estimates, an average of 10.2% of area workers were unemployed over the last five years, more than double the 3.6% state unemployment rate over the same time.

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Source: RichardHarrison / Wikimedia Commons

California: Mendota
> Population: 11,396
> Median home value: $139,000 (state: $443,400)
> Poverty rate: 49.5% (state: 15.1%)
> Violent crimes per 100,000 people: 646 (state: 449)

Of the over 500 cities in California considered, Mendota, a small city in the Central Valley, ranks as the worst place to live. Nearly half of all area residents live below the poverty line, more than triple California’s 15.1% poverty rate. Even though homes are relatively inexpensive in Mendota, incomes are so low that the typical home costs over five times what the typical area household earns. For reference, nationwide, the typical home is worth 3.4 times as much as the median annual household income.

For those with disposable income in the area, there is little in the way of entertainment options. The concentration of places like restaurants, bars, museums, and movie theatres in Mendota is far lower than it is nationwide.

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