Special Report

America's 50 Worst Cities to Live

Source: Billwhittaker / Wikimedia Commons

40. Denison, Iowa
> Population: 8,358
> Median home value: $90,700
> Unemployment rate: 10.7%
> Poverty rate: 16.0%

Denson, a small city in Western Iowa, is one of two cities in the state to rank on this list. With an unemployment rate of 10.7%, the city has an especially weak job market. Over the last five years, overall employment has fallen by 4.1%, even as the overall population grew by 0.4%. A high school education is a basic prerequisite for most jobs, and in Denison, only 63.3% of adults have a high school diploma, a far smaller share than the 87.7% of adults nationwide.

As is often the case among the cities and towns on this list, property values are low in Denison. The typical home in the city is worth just $90,700, less than half the national median of $204,900.

39. Atmore, Alabama
> Population: 9,746
> Median home value: $96,100
> Unemployment rate: 19.9%
> Poverty rate: 32.2%

Atmore is located southwestern Alabama along the state’s border with Florida. Industry in the area has long been dominated by agriculture. The city is also currently home to several companies in metal fabrication and textiles industries, and it has a casino. Still, Atmore’s job market is suffering. In the last five years, overall employment in the city fell by a staggering 21.3%, and the five year unemployment rate now stands at 19.9%, more than triple the comparable 5.9% five year national rate.

Atmore also appears to have been affected more than most cities nationwide by the opioid epidemic. There were 31 drug deaths for every 100,000 people on average in the city each year between 2015 and 2017 compared to the national overdose death rate of 20 drug deaths per 100,000.

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38. Pahrump, Nevada
> Population: 36,174
> Median home value: $152,400
> Unemployment rate: 9.8%
> Poverty rate: 16.6%

Pahrump is an unincorporated place in southern Nevada along the California state border. Its ranking on this list is due in large part to poor performance in several measures of quality of life. For example, there were 38 drug deaths for every 100,000 people in the area between 2015 and 2017 compared to the national overdose death rate of 20 per 100,000.

The area’s job market is also relatively weak. Nearly one in every 10 workers in Pahrump are unemployed, well above the comparable 5.9% national unemployment rate.

Source: Courtesy of Google Maps 2018

37. Lakeland Village, California
> Population: 13,170
> Median home value: $249,700
> Unemployment rate: 12.9%
> Poverty rate: 20.6%

Lakeland Village is an unincorporated place in southern California. The area’s job market is relatively weak, as 12.9% of the area’s labor force are unemployed, more than double the comparable 5.9% national five year rate.

Those who are working in the area are more likely to spend more of their day getting to and from work than the typical American. The average commute time in Lakeland Village is about 40 minutes, well above the 27 minute national average. Over the course of a typical work week, this adds up to over an hour of additional commute time.

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36. Makaha, Hawaii
> Population: 8,740
> Median home value: $383,200
> Unemployment rate: 16.7%
> Poverty rate: 28.0%

Makaha, an unincorporated town in Hawaii, is the only place in the state to rank on this list. While most cities on this list are relatively affordable, Makaha is an expensive place to live. Goods and services in the town are 61.4% more expensive than they are nationwide on average.

Area incomes are not sufficiently high to compensate for the higher cost of living. The typical household in Makaha earns $52,097 a year, well below the national median of $60,293. Financial hardship is also relatively common in Makaha, as the area’s poverty rate of 28.0% is nearly double the national rate of 14.1%.