Special Report

Worst City to Live in Every State

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Kansas: Junction City
> Population: 23,703
> Median home value: $138,700 (state: $145,400)
> Poverty rate: 12.0% (state: 12.4%)
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 6.8% (state: 4.4%)

The five-year average unemployment rate of 6.8% in Junction City, Kansas, is higher than the comparable 4.4% state average but not nearly as high as in many of the other cities and towns on this list. Still, jobs appear to be disappearing in the eastern Kansas city as over the last half decade, overall employment has fallen by 9.0%. Though the city’s poverty rate of 12.0% is slightly lower than the statewide rate of 12.4%, overall incomes are relatively low in the city. The typical area household earns $51,198 a year, about $6,000 less than the typical Kansas household.

As is often the case among the cities on this list, people are leaving Junction City faster than they are moving in. The city’s population contracted by 1.8% over the last five years.

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Kentucky: Middlesboro
> Population: 9,583
> Median home value: $88,000 (state: $135,300)
> Poverty rate: 40.6% (state: 17.9%)
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 8.1% (state: 6.1%)

Middlesboro, Kentucky, is one of the poorest places in the United States. Most households in the area earn less than $25,000 a year, and nearly one-quarter of households live on an income of less than $10,000 annually. Incomes tend to rise with educational attainment, and in Middlesboro, fewer than one in every 10 adults have a bachelor’s degree, about a third of the national bachelor’s degree attainment rate.

Many parts of the country with flagging economies are those hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. Across Bell County, where Middlesboro is located, there are 40 drug overdose deaths for every 100,000 people annually, above the state rate of 34 fatal overdoses for every 100,000 people.

Source: Billy Hathorn / Wikimedia Commons

Louisiana: Bastrop
> Population: 10,521
> Median home value: $76,000 (state: $157,800)
> Poverty rate: 47.9% (state: 19.4%)
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 7.3% (state: 6.9%)

Bastrop, a small city in northeastern Louisiana, ranks as the worst place to live in the state. Nearly half of the local population lives on poverty level income, more than double the 19.4% state poverty rate, which itself is far higher than the 14.1% national poverty rate. Bastrop is also a relatively dangerous city. The city’s violent crime rate of 1,344 incidents per 100,000 people is more than triple the national rate of 381 per 100,000.

The area’s low incomes and high crime may be pushing many out of Bastrop. Over the last five years, the number of people living there fell by 6.2%. High crime and reduced demand for housing are likely driving down real estate values in the area. The typical home in Bastrop is worth just $76,000, less than half the median home value of $157,800 across Louisiana.

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Maine: Bangor
> Population: 32,098
> Median home value: $150,700 (state: $184,500)
> Poverty rate: 22.5% (state: 12.5%)
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 6.6% (state: 4.6%)

Bangor is a relatively poor city in Maine. Most households in the city earn less than $43,000 a year, and one in every 10 households live on an income of less than $10,000 annually. Many low-income areas have been hit especially hard by the opioid epidemic. In Bangor, there are 37 drug deaths for every 100,000 people annually compared to 29 per 100,000 across the state as a whole.

Maine has been struggling with sluggish population growth in recent years. The number of people living in Bangor has fallen by 2.4% in the last half decade.

Source: Courtesy of Famartin via Wikimedia Commons

Maryland: Lansdowne
> Population: 8,571
> Median home value: $151,100 (state: $305,500)
> Poverty rate: 27.9% (state: 9.4%)
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 10.1% (state: 5.6%)

Lansdowne, Maryland, is a small Census designated place located less than 10 miles south of Baltimore. Part of the reason Lansdowne ranks as the worst place to live in the state is the high concentration of violent crime in and around the community. Across Baltimore County, where Lansdowne is located, there were 583 violent crimes reported for every 100,000 people in 2018, making it the most dangerous county in the state.

In Lansdowne, residents are about twice as likely to be unemployed and three times more likely to live below the poverty line than the typical Maryland resident.