Special Report

The Worst City to Live in Every State

Source: afiler from Seattle (ex-Minneapolis) / Wikimedia Commons

New Mexico: Gallup
> Population: 21,854
> Median home value: $132,000 (state: $171,400)
> Poverty rate: 28.4% (state: 19.1%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 7.4% (state: 6.6%)

Gallup, New Mexico ranks as the worst place to live in the state due in part to limited access to key amenities. For example, over 60% of Gallup’s nearly 22,000 residents have limited access to fresh, healthy food — meaning those living in urban areas are over a mile away from a grocery store, and those in rural areas are over 10 miles away. Additionally, Residents of McKinley County, where Gallup is located, have relatively limited access to public spaces for recreation and exercise. An estimated 43.3% of county residents have easy access to places like parks and recreation centers, compared to 84.2% of all Americans.

Gallup is also a dangerous place. There were 1,992 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in the city in 2019, more than five times the national violent crime rate of 367 per 100,000 that year.

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New York: Binghamton
> Population: 45,140
> Median home value: $91,000 (state: $313,700)
> Poverty rate: 32.6% (state: 14.1%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 10.4% (state: 5.4%)

Binghamton is a city of about 45,000 in the Southern Tier of New York state. The city ranks as the worst place to live in the state partially because, compared to the typical New Yorker, Binghamton residents are more than twice as likely to live below the poverty line and are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed.

Public health issues like risky substance use are often more common in areas with limited economic opportunity, and in Broome County, where Binghamton is located, there are 32.9 accidental drug overdose deaths for every 100,000 people annually, nearly the most in the state and well above the 22.5 per 100,000 national drug fatality rate.

Source: Indy beetle / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en / Wikimedia Commons

North Carolina: Reidsville
> Population: 13,915
> Median home value: $103,500 (state: $172,500)
> Poverty rate: 24.3% (state: 14.7%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 9.5% (state: 5.5%)

Reidsville, North Carolina, is a small city of about 14,000 people in the northern part of the state. It ranks as the worst place to live in North Carolina due in part to its high violent crime rate, which, at 752 incidents per 100,000 people is more than double the 367 per 100,000 national rate.

Limited access to key amenities also reduces quality of life in the city. More than one in every five Reidsville residents have limited access to fresh, healthy food — meaning those living in urban areas are over a mile from a grocery store, and those in rural areas are over 10 miles. Additionally, in Rockingham County, where Reidsville is located, residents have relatively limited access to public spaces for recreation and exercise. An estimated 65.4% county residents have easy access to places like parks and recreation centers, compared to 84.2% of all Americans.

North Dakota: Jamestown
> Population: 15,289
> Median home value: $144,800 (state: $193,900)
> Poverty rate: 14.7% (state: 10.7%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 3.2% (state: 2.7%)

Of the nine cities in North Dakota with sufficient data, Jamestown, located in the eastern half of the state, ranks as the worst place to live. Over the last five years, the number employed Jamestown residents fell by 4.4%. Meanwhile, every other city in the state added jobs over the same period. Perhaps due in part to reduced job opportunities, the local poverty rate of 14.7% is higher than the 10.7% state poverty rate, and labor force participants in Jamestown are more likely to be out of work than their workers across the state as a whole.

Home values can be indicative of an area’s desirability as a place to live, and in Jamestown, the typical home is worth $144,800, the lowest of any city in the state and well below the $193,900 median home value across the state as a whole.

Source: jauretsi / Flickr

Ohio: East Cleveland
> Population: 17,200
> Median home value: $58,100 (state: $145,700)
> Poverty rate: 37.5% (state: 14.0%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 18.8% (state: 5.3%)

East Cleveland, Ohio, ranks as the worst place to live in the state largely because of the share of local residents struggling financially. Most households in the city earn less than $21,000 a year, and nearly one in every four earn less than $10,000 a year. The local poverty rate of 37.5% is more than double the 14.0% state poverty rate.

The area’s widespread poverty is partially attributable to a lack of economic opportunity. Only 33.2% of the population in East Cleveland are employed, compared to 47.7% of all Americans. Additionally, over the last five years, an average of 18.8% of the local labor force have been unemployed, more than triple the five-year average jobless rate across Ohio.