Special Report

The Worst City to Live in Every State

Oklahoma: McAlester
> Population: 18,045
> Median home value: $101,600 (state: $136,800)
> Poverty rate: 19.5% (state: 15.7%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 6.9% (state: 5.0%)

McAlester is a small city in eastern Oklahoma. The worst place to live in the state, McAlester’s population contracted by 1.7% over the last five years. High crime may be driving many residents away. There were 5,824 property crimes and 555 violent crimes per 100,000 people in 2019, well above the national rates of 2,110 and 367 per 100,000, respectively.

Economic conditions in McAlester are also worse than in much of the state. Residents are slightly more likely to be unemployed and live below the poverty line than the typical Oklahoma resident.

Source: Rex_Wholster / iStock via Getty Images

Oregon: Klamath Falls
> Population: 21,335
> Median home value: $159,500 (state: $312,200)
> Poverty rate: 22.7% (state: 13.2%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 9.3% (state: 5.5%)

Klamath Falls, Oregon, ranks as the worst place to live in the state partially because of high crime rates. There were 3,301 property crimes and 468 violent crimes per 100,000 people in the city in 2019, well above the national rates of 2,110 and 367 per 100,000, respectively. Crime can discourage investment and result in reduced economic opportunity — and in Klamath Falls, the five-year average unemployment rate of 9.3% is considerably higher than the comparable 5.5% state rate.

For those who are working in Klamath Falls, incomes are relatively low. The typical area household earns just $41,444 a year, far less than the state and national median incomes, which are each about $62,800.

Source: Lee Paxton / Wikimedia Commons

Pennsylvania: McKeesport
> Population: 19,225
> Median home value: $48,000 (state: $180,200)
> Poverty rate: 31.4% (state: 12.4%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 12.1% (state: 5.3%)

The small Pittsburgh suburb of McKeesport ranks as the worst place to live in Pennsylvania. Over the last five years, McKeesport reported a 2.2% population decline. Limited economic opportunity may be pushing residents out. Most households in McKeesport earn less than $30,000 a year, and nearly 15% of local households earn less than $10,000 annually.

An improved job market would likely reduce financial hardship in McKeesport, as the five-year average unemployment rate in the city of 12.1% is more than double the comparable 5.3% state rate. However, a high concentration of serious crime may be hampering economic development. There were 1,531 violent crimes reported for every 100,000 people in McKeesport in 2019, well above the 367 per 100,000 U.S. violent crime rate.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Rhode Island: Central Falls
> Population: 19,429
> Median home value: $159,100 (state: $261,900)
> Poverty rate: 30.2% (state: 12.4%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 6.8% (state: 5.4%)

Of the 14 Rhode Island cities and towns with sufficient data, Central Falls ranks as the worst place to live. Central Falls residents are more than twice as likely as the typical Rhode Islander to live below the poverty line. Partially as a result, a far larger than average share of city residents depend on government assistance to afford basic necessities. An estimated 39.6% of area households rely on SNAP benefits, by far the largest share in the state and more than triple the national SNAP recipiency rate of 11.7%.

Homeownership is one of the most practical ways to build wealth in the United States, and in Central Falls, the homeownership rate is only 20.2%, less than one-third of the 64.0% national rate. For many Central Falls residents, buying a home is prohibitively expensive. The median home value in the area is $159,100, 4.8 times higher than the median household income of $32,982. Meanwhile, the national home value-to-income ratio is just 3.5.

Source: Calatayudboy / Wikimedia Commons

South Carolina: Lancaster
> Population: 9,143
> Median home value: $141,600 (state: $162,300)
> Poverty rate: 35.3% (state: 15.2%)
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 18.0% (state: 5.7%)

Lancaster, South Carolina, ranks as the worst place to live in the state largely because of widespread financial hardship. An estimated 35.3% of local residents live below the poverty line, and the local five-year average unemployment rate is 18.0% — each well above the respective state rates of 15.2% and 5.7%.

Homeownership is one of the most practical ways to build wealth in the United States, and in Lancaster, the homeownership rate is only 44.2%, less than the 64.0% national rate. For many Lancaster residents, buying a home is prohibitively expensive. The median home value in the area is $141,600, 4.7 times higher than the median household income of $30,122. Meanwhile, the typical American home is worth just 3.5 times more than the median income.