Special Report

Worst City to Live in Every State

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Hawaii: Makaha
> Population: 8,740
> Median home value: $383,200 (state: $587,700)
> Poverty rate: 28.0% (state: 9.9%)
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 16.7% (state: 4.5%)

Makaha is a small Census designated place on Oahu’s west shore, just northwest of Honolulu. Though there are several local beaches, there are not many employment opportunities. Over the last five years, the jobless rate in Makaha has averaged 16.7%, more than triple the 4.5% comparable statewide average. With a weak job market, local residents are more likely to struggle financially. The poverty rate in Makaha is 28.0%, nearly three times the 9.9% poverty rate statewide.

Idaho: Blackfoot
> Population: 11,854
> Median home value: $124,100 (state: $192,300)
> Poverty rate: 15.4% (state: 13.8%)
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 1.9% (state: 4.7%)

Variation in overall quality across Idaho is not as stark as it is in much of the country. Partially as a result, even though it ranks as the worst place to live in the state, Blackfoot is not grappling with many of the serious social and economic problems other cities on this list.

One of the reasons Blackfoot ranks on this list is food insecurity. Nearly three in every four people in the city and surrounding county live in urban areas that are at least 1 mile from a grocery store or in rural areas that are at least 10 miles from from a grocery store. Incomes in Blackfoot are also lower than average. The median household income is just $42,606 a year, about $11,000 less than the median in the state.

Source: Mark Schierbecker / Wikimedia Commons

Illinois: East St. Louis
> Population: 26,647
> Median home value: $52,200 (state: $187,200)
> Poverty rate: 37.8% (state: 13.1%)
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 17.4% (state: 6.6%)

East St. Louis is a small city in western Illinois, directly across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri. Like its neighbor across the river, East St. Louis is a relatively dangerous city. There were 1,190 violent crimes reported in the city for every 100,000 residents compared to just 404 for every 100,000 people across Illinois.

Crime is often concentrated in lower-income areas, and in East St. Louis, many are struggling financially. The city’s poverty rate of 37.8% is nearly three times higher than the 13.1% statewide poverty rate. The area’s high crime rate is also likely depressing real estate values. Most homes in East St. Louis are worth less than $53,000, less than a third of the median home value of $187,200 across Illinois.

Indiana: East Chicago
> Population: 28,448
> Median home value: $73,900 (state: $135,400)
> Poverty rate: 32.5% (state: 14.1%)
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 12.3% (state: 5.4%)

Located in the northwest corner of Indiana, about 20 miles southeast of downtown Chicago, East Chicago has been suffering economically for years. City residents are more than twice as likely to be unemployed and almost twice as likely to live in poverty than the typical Indiana resident.

East Chicago and the surrounding area have also been hit harder than most of the country by the opioid epidemic. There were about 29 drug overdose deaths in Lake County — where East Chicago is located — for every 100,000 people annually. Across Illinois, the overdose death rate is 21 per 100,000 people.

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Iowa: Denison
> Population: 8,358
> Median home value: $90,700 (state: $142,300)
> Poverty rate: 16.0% (state: 11.7%)
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 10.7% (state: 3.9%)

Denison, a small city in western Iowa, ranks as the worst place to live in the state. While Iowa’s unemployment rate has remained relatively low in recent years, Denison’s has not. An average of 10.7% of the local labor force has been out of work in the last half decade, compared to the 3.9% comparable statewide average.

Americans with higher educational attainment are less likely to face joblessness than those with more limited formal education. In Denison, fewer than two in every three adults have a high school diploma.