Special Report

The Worst City to Live in Every State

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Massachusetts: Holyoke
> Population: 40,241
> Median home value: $195,800 (state: $381,600)
> Poverty rate: 29.3% (state: 10.3%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 6.0% (state: 4.8%)

Holyoke, Massachusetts, located just north of Springfield, ranks as the worst place to live in the state. One of the poorest places in the state, Holyoke’s poverty rate of 29.3% is nearly three times higher than the state poverty rate of 10.3%

Homeownership is one of the most practical ways to build wealth in the United States, and in Holyoke, the homeownership rate is just 40.7%, well below the 64.0% national rate. For many in the city, owning a home is not affordable. The typical house in the city is worth $195,800, 4.8 times more than the local median household income of $40,769. Nationwide, the median home value is only 3.5 times higher than the median income.

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Michigan: Highland Park
> Population: 10,867
> Median home value: $45,700 (state: $154,900)
> Poverty rate: 46.5% (state: 14.4%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 22.6% (state: 5.9%)

Highland Park, an independent city in Michigan bordered on all sides by Detroit, ranks as the worst place to live in the state. The city, like many others in the Rust Belt, is struggling economically. The five-year average unemployment rate in the city of 22.6% is about four times higher than the comparable 5.9% statewide average. Additionally, an estimated 46.5% of Highland Park residents live below the poverty line, compared to 14.4% of all Michigan residents.

Job growth and economic development are likely being held back, at least partially, by high crime in the city. There were 2,065 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in Highland Park in 2019, more than five times the national violent crime rate of 367 per 100,000 that year.

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Minnesota: Virginia
> Population: 8,484
> Median home value: $92,200 (state: $223,900)
> Poverty rate: 25.5% (state: 9.7%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 6.4% (state: 3.6%)

Virginia, a small city of about 8,500 residents in Minnesota’s Iron Range, is the worst place to live in the state. The region, named for its iron mining industry, has struggled since the collapse of the U.S. steel industry in the 1980s. The city’s poverty rate of 25.5% is more than double the 9.7% rate across Minnesota.

The prevalence of financial hardship may be pushing people out of the city. Over the last five years, the number of people living in Virginia has declined by 2.2%. Likely due to both population decline and widespread poverty, home values in the city are low. The typical area home is worth just $92,200, less than the median home value in any other city or town in Minnesota with adequate data.

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Mississippi: Yazoo City
> Population: 11,063
> Median home value: $70,900 (state: $119,000)
> Poverty rate: 44.8% (state: 20.3%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 20.5% (state: 7.4%)

Yazoo City, located in Mississippi’s Delta region, is the worst place to live in the state. With a poverty rate of 44.8%, the city is nearly the poorest in the state and one of the poorest places in the United States. For context 20.3% of Mississippi residents and 13.4% of the U.S. population live below the poverty line. Widespread financial hardship in the area is due in part to a lack of jobs. An average of 20.5% of the local labor force have been unemployed in the last five years, well above the 7.4% statewide average over that time.

A lack of economic opportunity has left many Yazoo City residents needing to depend on government assistance to afford basic necessities. An estimated 39.1% of area households rely on SNAP benefits, more than triple the national SNAP recipiency rate of 11.7%. As is often the case in economically depressed areas, Yazoo City is losing residents. The local population contracted by 3.5% in the last five years.

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Missouri: St. Louis
> Population: 308,174
> Median home value: $138,700 (state: $157,200)
> Poverty rate: 21.8% (state: 13.7%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 7.0% (state: 4.5%)

St. Louis, Missouri, ranks as the worst city to live in the state due to a number of social and economic factors. For one, St. Louis is one of the most dangerous large cities in the United States. There were 1,927 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in St. Louis in 2019, more than five times the national violent crime rate of 367 per 100,000 that year.

Drugs are also taking a serious toll in St. Louis. Across the county, there are 73.2 accidental drug overdose deaths for every 100,000 people annually, more than three times the national drug fatality rate of 22.5 per 100,000. Substance misuse is often more common in areas with limited economic opportunity, and in St. Louis, 21.8% of the population live below the poverty line, well above Missouri’s 13.7% poverty rate.