Special Report

The Worst City to Live in Every State

Source: locosteve / Flickr

Montana: Havre
> Population: 9,786
> Median home value: $149,300 (state: $230,600)
> Poverty rate: 17.8% (state: 13.1%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 6.6% (state: 4.0%)

Havre, Montana, is a small city in the north-central part of the state. Havre ranks as the worst place to live in Montana partially because its 6.6% five-year average unemployment rate is the highest of any city or town in the state with sufficient data. With limited job opportunities, residents are more likely than most in Montana to rely on government assistance to afford basic necessities. An estimated 17.1% of area households receive SNAP benefits, the highest recipiency rate of any city or town in the state.

Home values are often indicative of an area’s desirability as a place to live. In Havre, the typical home is worth just $149,300, nearly $80,000 less than the state’s median home value of $230,600.

Nebraska: Scottsbluff
> Population: 14,737
> Median home value: $116,600 (state: $155,800)
> Poverty rate: 18.0% (state: 11.1%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 6.4% (state: 3.3%)

Scottsbluff, located in western Nebraska, is the worst place to live in the state. Of the 19 cities and towns in Nebraska with sufficient data, Scottsbluff has the highest five-year unemployment rate, which, at 6.4%, is nearly double the comparable 3.3% statewide rate. The relative lack of jobs is contributing to the greater likelihood of poverty in the city. An estimated 18.0% of the Scottsbluff population live below the poverty line, also the largest share in the state.

Lagging economies can often drive people away, and Scottsbluff’s population has contracted by 1.7% over the last five years.

Nevada: Fernley
> Population: 20,068
> Median home value: $221,200 (state: $267,900)
> Poverty rate: 9.9% (state: 13.1%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 5.8% (state: 6.1%)

Fernley, Nevada, a small city just east of Reno, is the worst place to live in the state, partially due to issues related to public health and health care access. Across the broader Lyon County, where Fernley is located, there are 34.8 accidental drug overdose deaths for every 100,000 people annually, the most of any county considered in the state and well above the U.S. drug fatality rate of 22.5 per 100,000. Emergency medical care is also relatively difficult to access for Fernley residents as the nearest hospital is nearly 24 miles away. No other city or town in Nevada with adequate data is farther than 14 miles from a hospital.

Across Lyon County, residents have relatively limited access to public spaces for recreation and exercise. An estimated 67.8% county residents have easy access to places like parks and recreation centers, compared to 84.2% of all Americans.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

New Hampshire: Berlin
> Population: 10,221
> Median home value: $92,100 (state: $261,700)
> Poverty rate: 18.5% (state: 7.6%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 8.0% (state: 3.6%)

Berlin, a small city in northern New Hampshire, ranks as the worst place to live in the state. Home values are often a reflection of an area’s desirability, and Berlin is the only place with sufficient data in the state where most homes are worth less than $100,000. The median home value in Berlin is just $92,100, a fraction of the $261,700 statewide median.

The lack of economic opportunity hinders quality of life in the city. The average unemployment rate in Berlin over the last five years is 8.0%, more than double the comparable 3.6% statewide rate.

Source: Smallbones / Wikimedia Commons

New Jersey: Bridgeton
> Population: 24,540
> Median home value: $109,200 (state: $335,600)
> Poverty rate: 31.2% (state: 10.0%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 6.9% (state: 5.5%)

The southern New Jersey city of Bridgeton ranks as the worst place to live in the state. Cumberland County, where Bridgeton is located, has been hit especially hard by the opioid epidemic. There are 63.2 accidental drug overdose deaths for every 100,000 residents annually, nearly three times the U.S. overdose fatality rate of 22.5 per 100,000.

Public health issues like risky substance use are often more common in areas with limited economic opportunity, and in Bridgeton, 31.2% of the population live below the poverty line, well above New Jersey’s 10.0% poverty rate.