Special Report

The Worst City to Live in Every State

South Dakota: Huron
> Population: 13,282
> Median home value: $91,900 (state: $167,100)
> Poverty rate: 19.7% (state: 13.1%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 1.6% (state: 3.4%)

Huron, South Dakota, is a small city in the eastern half of the state. It ranks as the worst place to live in South Dakota largely because of economic conditions. Nearly one in every five Huron residents live below the poverty line compared to 13.1% of state residents.

Home values can be indicative of an area’s desirability as a place to live. In Huron, the typical home is worth just $91,900. The median home value in South Dakota is $167,100, and the typical home U.S. home is worth $217,500.

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

Tennessee: Memphis
> Population: 651,932
> Median home value: $101,800 (state: $167,200)
> Poverty rate: 25.1% (state: 15.2%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 8.7% (state: 5.2%)

Memphis, the worst place to live in Tennessee, is one of the most dangerous large cities in the United States. There were 1,901 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in the city in 2019, five times the U.S. violent crime rate of 367 incidents per 100,000 that year. As is often the case in dangerous cities, economic opportunity is limited in Memphis. The local poverty rate of 25.1% is well above the 15.2% rate across Tennessee.

Greater job availability would likely go a long way toward reducing financial hardship in the area. Over the last five years, an average of 8.7% of the local labor force were unemployed, compared to the 5.2% five-year statewide average.

Texas: Robstown
> Population: 11,400
> Median home value: $64,000 (state: $172,500)
> Poverty rate: 38.4% (state: 14.7%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 15.4% (state: 5.0%)

Robstown, a small city in southeast Texas, ranks as the worst place to live in the state. Over the last five years, Robstown reported a 1.7% population decline. Limited economic opportunity may be pushing residents out. Most city households earn less than $36,000 a year, and over 16% of local households earn less than $10,000 annually. The local poverty rate of 38.4% is the highest in the state and more than double Texas’ 14.7% poverty rate.

Because of the widespread financial hardship in Robstown, a larger share of residents depend on government assistance to afford basic necessities. An estimated 36.2% of area households rely on SNAP benefits, more than triple the national SNAP recipiency rate of 11.7%.

Utah: Price
> Population: 8,265
> Median home value: $144,700 (state: $279,100)
> Poverty rate: 21.9% (state: 9.8%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 7.7% (state: 3.6%)

Utah is one of the fastest growing states in the country. Price, a small city in central Utah, ranks as the worst place to live in the state. The city is one of the few in Utah to report recent population decline. Over the last five years, Price’s population contracted by 3.7%. Price is also shedding jobs as total employment in the area fell by 6.8% over the same period.

Financial hardship is one reason people may be leaving Price. It is the only city or town in the state with sufficient data where more than one in every 10 households earn less than $10,000 a year. Substance misuse tends to be more common in places with limited economic opportunity, and across Carbon County, where Price is located, there are 44.6 accidental drug overdose deaths for every 100,000 people annually, the most of any county in Utah and nearly double the 22.5 per 100,000 national rate.

Source: John Phelan / Wikimedia Commons

Vermont: Barre
> Population: 8,646
> Median home value: $158,300 (state: $227,700)
> Poverty rate: 22.8% (state: 10.9%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 7.4% (state: 3.6%)

Of the half dozen cities and towns in Vermont with sufficient data, Barre ranks as the worst place to live. The five-year average unemployment rate in Barre of 7.4% is by far the highest of any city or town in the state, and has likely driven up the poverty rate, which at 22.8%, is more than double Vermont’s 10.9% poverty rate. Poverty and limited economic opportunities mean that a relatively large share of Barre residents rely on government assistance to afford basic necessities. Barre is the only city or town in the state where more than one in every four households receive SNAP benefits.

Crime is more of a problem in Barre than it is elsewhere in Vermont. There were 748 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in the city in 2019, the most of any city or town in that and more than double the 367 per 100,000 national rate that year.