Special Report

This Is the Worst City To Live in America

psyberartist / Flickr

The United States is a rather vast nation, with an abundance of incredible places to call home. Not only does the nation have the largest economy across the globe as well as a rather high standard of living, but according to the World Migration Report, since 1970 it has also been the most popular destination for international migrants throughout the world.

The immigration population of America has grown exponentially since 2001, and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2023 was marked by the highest level of immigrants entering the country in just one year than in the last two decades. It is estimated that more than one million immigrants were added to the population, and a 2023 Current Population Survey conducted by the Census Bureau shows that 15% of the current population is foreign-born, which marks the largest number on record.

But, where does one choose to put down roots? Not all locations fair as great as others and it can be hard to decide where to live, not just for immigrants but for natural-born citizens. Many parts of the country fail to live up to America’s reputation as “the land of opportunity.” In cities and towns across the United States, quality of life is diminished by widespread poverty, high crime rates, weak job markets, and limited access to essential services, among other factors. (Here is a look at the best city to live in every state.)

24/7 Wall St. created a weighted index of 22 measures to identify the least desirable cities to live in the U.S. by using data from the Census Bureau, the FBI, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The measures used in the index fall into one of three broad categories: economy, community, and overall quality of life. All places in the U.S. with sufficient data and populations of at least 8,000 were considered. Our list includes cities, towns, villages, boroughs, and unincorporated communities. To avoid geographic clustering, we only considered the lowest-ranking place in a given county.

Many of the communities on this list are among the poorest places in the country. Nearly all of them have poverty rates that exceed the 12.6% national rate (based on 2022 American Community Survey data), and in the vast majority, the typical household earns between $30,000 and $45,000 less annually than the typical American household earns. Several of the places listed here have been hit hard by the ongoing opioid epidemic, with fatal overdose rates as much as 350% higher than the national average of 28.5 overdose deaths per 100,000 people a year. 

Although the locations listed span the country, a large majority are clustered in the South, including five in both Louisiana and North Carolina. Just six of the worst places to live are in the Midwest, while four are in the West, and only three are in the Northeast. 

In many of these places, the state of the housing market may be a reflection of the low overall quality of life. Home prices tend to fall when demand declines, and in every city and town on this list, the typical home is worth at least $53,000 less than the $244,900 national median home value, based on the latest census estimates. In nearly half of these places, most homes are worth less than $100,000. (Here is a look at the cheapest city to buy a home in your state.)

Here are the least desirable cities to live in the U.S.

See below to read our detailed methodology.

50. Dunn, North Carolina

Source: Gerry Dincher from Hope Mills, NC / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 23.2%
  • Median home value: $142,900
  • Median household income: $37,409
  • Drug-induced mortality: 37.9 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 8,616

49. Laurinburg, North Carolina

Source: gerrydincher / Flickr
  • Poverty rate: 33.2%
  • Median home value: $108,600
  • Median household income: $35,776
  • Drug-induced mortality: 40.5 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 15,242

48. Palatka, Florida

Source: Patrick Baehl de Lescure / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 33.2%
  • Median home value: $82,400
  • Median household income: $28,082
  • Drug-induced mortality: 35.3 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 10,399

47. Fitzgerald, Georgia

Source: Roberto Galan / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 24.0%
  • Median home value: $85,100
  • Median household income: $30,268
  • Drug-induced mortality: N/A
  • Total population: 9,028

46. Crowley, Louisiana

Source: davidwilson1949 / Flickr
  • Poverty rate: 42.3%
  • Median home value: $130,400
  • Median household income: $28,775
  • Drug-induced mortality: 36.4 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 11,916

45. Cordele, Georgia

Source: By Michael Rivera - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24070651
  • Poverty rate: 39.5%
  • Median home value: $77,700
  • Median household income: $27,922
  • Drug-induced mortality: N/A
  • Total population: 10,316

44. Muskegon Heights, Michigan

Source: Lana2011 / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 33.7%
  • Median home value: $45,500
  • Median household income: $34,281
  • Drug-induced mortality: 34.2 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 10,058

43. Orange Cove, California

Source: Bobak Ha'Eri / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 48.7%
  • Median home value: $191,300
  • Median household income: $28,626
  • Drug-induced mortality: 18.6 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 9,680

42. Beckley, West Virginia

Source: puddintain850 / Flickr
  • Poverty rate: 22.9%
  • Median home value: $110,600
  • Median household income: $39,845
  • Drug-induced mortality: 129.1 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 17,261

41. Lancaster, South Carolina

Source: Calatayudboy / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 35.5%
  • Median home value: $163,400
  • Median household income: $29,738
  • Drug-induced mortality: 51.1 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 8,489

40. Cahokia, Illinois

Source: Anon a mouse Lee / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 35.4%
  • Median home value: $40,900
  • Median household income: $30,556
  • Drug-induced mortality: 36.5 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 12,440

39. Carneys Point, New Jersey

Source: chucka_nc / Flickr
  • Poverty rate: 10.5%
  • Median home value: $147,200
  • Median household income: $64,589
  • Drug-induced mortality: 57.4 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 8,091

38. Mayfield, Kentucky

Source: Roberto Galan / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 29.9%
  • Median home value: $107,400
  • Median household income: $37,212
  • Drug-induced mortality: N/A
  • Total population: 10,041

37. Oak Hill, West Virginia

Source: Malepheasant / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 19.5%
  • Median home value: $103,800
  • Median household income: $45,460
  • Drug-induced mortality: 87.6 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 8,228

36. New Kingman-Butler, Arizona

Source: jgareri / E+ via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 23.3%
  • Median home value: $79,300
  • Median household income: $39,139
  • Drug-induced mortality: 27.8 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 12,858

35. DeRidder, Louisiana

Source: BOB WESTON / Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 19.0%
  • Median home value: $137,200
  • Median household income: $50,889
  • Drug-induced mortality: 20.5 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 10,060

34. Española, New Mexico

Source: psyberartist / Flickr
  • Poverty rate: 19.9%
  • Median home value: $165,600
  • Median household income: $42,611
  • Drug-induced mortality: 100.3 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 10,492

33. Saginaw, Michigan

Source: ehrlif / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 35.6%
  • Median home value: $43,900
  • Median household income: $32,241
  • Drug-induced mortality: 30.9 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 44,796

32. Poteau, Oklahoma

Source: Clinton Steeds / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 22.5%
  • Median home value: $120,100
  • Median household income: $40,711
  • Drug-induced mortality: 18.9 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 8,741

31. Monroe, Georgia

Source: JENNIFER E. WOLF / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 33.7%
  • Median home value: $161,400
  • Median household income: $39,015
  • Drug-induced mortality: 25.1 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 14,675

30. Fort Valley, Georgia

Source: By Bubba73 (Jud McCranie) - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42228897
  • Poverty rate: 33.5%
  • Median home value: $89,500
  • Median household income: $30,574
  • Drug-induced mortality: N/A
  • Total population: 8,829

29. Bloomingdale, Tennessee

Source: Purdue9394 / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 20.9%
  • Median home value: $115,400
  • Median household income: $45,726
  • Drug-induced mortality: 37.2 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 8,759

28. Moody, Alabama

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 11.8%
  • Median home value: $177,500
  • Median household income: $69,846
  • Drug-induced mortality: 37.0 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 13,100

27. Inkster, Michigan

Source: kenlund / Flickr
  • Poverty rate: 37.8%
  • Median home value: $59,900
  • Median household income: $34,122
  • Drug-induced mortality: 48.5 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 25,849

26. Roxboro, North Carolina

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 40.3%
  • Median home value: $84,900
  • Median household income: $33,883
  • Drug-induced mortality: 27.8 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 8,097

25. Somerset, Kentucky

Source: JerryGrugin / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 30.6%
  • Median home value: $117,000
  • Median household income: $30,107
  • Drug-induced mortality: 42.4 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 11,696

24. Uniontown, Pennsylvania

Source: halbergman / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 24.8%
  • Median home value: $81,700
  • Median household income: $32,016
  • Drug-induced mortality: 55.4 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 9,988

23. Lexington, North Carolina

Source: J. Michael Jones / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 24.9%
  • Median home value: $117,100
  • Median household income: $32,698
  • Drug-induced mortality: 50.6 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 19,347

22. Indianola, Mississippi

Source: BOB WESTON / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 30.8%
  • Median home value: $100,300
  • Median household income: $32,043
  • Drug-induced mortality: N/A
  • Total population: 9,679

21. Silver Springs Shores, Florida

Source: thinkreaction / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 16.9%
  • Median home value: $138,000
  • Median household income: $47,658
  • Drug-induced mortality: 46.1 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 25,363

20. Troy, Missouri

Source: Wirestock / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 10.8%
  • Median home value: $160,600
  • Median household income: $73,406
  • Drug-induced mortality: 34.9 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 12,463

19. Forrest City, Arkansas

Source: By Ardelta - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48186839
  • Poverty rate: 33.0%
  • Median home value: $68,700
  • Median household income: $33,229
  • Drug-induced mortality: N/A
  • Total population: 13,372

18. Malvern, Arkansas

Source: BOB WESTON / iStock / Getty Images Plus
  • Poverty rate: 26.2%
  • Median home value: $89,100
  • Median household income: $34,880
  • Drug-induced mortality: N/A
  • Total population: 10,626

17. Opelousas, Louisiana

Source: By Z28scrambler - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21189011
  • Poverty rate: 37.2%
  • Median home value: $105,700
  • Median household income: $33,272
  • Drug-induced mortality: 36.2 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 15,884

16. Roma, Texas

Source: ALAN SCHMIERER / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 34.9%
  • Median home value: $72,800
  • Median household income: $25,933
  • Drug-induced mortality: N/A
  • Total population: 11,451

15. Bluefield, West Virginia

Source: sshepard / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 20.6%
  • Median home value: $78,100
  • Median household income: $39,677
  • Drug-induced mortality: 109.0 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 9,699

14. Bonham, Texas

Source: BOB WESTON / Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 18.1%
  • Median home value: $103,200
  • Median household income: $43,736
  • Drug-induced mortality: N/A
  • Total population: 10,295

13. Helena-West Helena, Arkansas

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 43.0%
  • Median home value: $70,700
  • Median household income: $25,735
  • Drug-induced mortality: N/A
  • Total population: 9,707

12. Bogalusa, Louisiana

Source: By Aaron Manning, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57300219
  • Poverty rate: 32.3%
  • Median home value: $96,500
  • Median household income: $32,613
  • Drug-induced mortality: 90.4 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 10,921

11. Prichard, Alabama

Source: Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 30.1%
  • Median home value: $69,300
  • Median household income: $32,900
  • Drug-induced mortality: 22.8 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 19,645

10. East Bakersfield, California

Source: RoschetzkyIstockPhoto / Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 44.8%
  • Median home value: $118,200
  • Median household income: $30,091
  • Drug-induced mortality: 42.4 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 11,025

9. Beverly Hills, Florida

Source: nycshooter / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 27.6%
  • Median home value: $107,800
  • Median household income: $37,728
  • Drug-induced mortality: 47.5 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 10,236

8. Bastrop, Louisiana

Source: Billy Hathorn / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 44.0%
  • Median home value: $82,000
  • Median household income: $23,955
  • Drug-induced mortality: 43.2 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 9,879

7. Bridgeton, New Jersey

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 35.1%
  • Median home value: $109,800
  • Median household income: $39,995
  • Drug-induced mortality: 53.3 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 26,643

6. Yazoo City, Mississippi

Source: Chillin662 / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 39.1%
  • Median home value: $66,400
  • Median household income: $30,092
  • Drug-induced mortality: N/A
  • Total population: 10,887

5. Oxford, North Carolina

Source: dougtone / Flickr
  • Poverty rate: 24.0%
  • Median home value: $143,800
  • Median household income: $39,399
  • Drug-induced mortality: 27.9 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 8,658

4. Atmore, Alabama

Source: formulanone / Flickr
  • Poverty rate: 36.9%
  • Median home value: $98,600
  • Median household income: $29,104
  • Drug-induced mortality: 52.0 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 8,734

3. Beecher, Michigan

Source: kenlund / Flickr
  • Poverty rate: 32.4%
  • Median home value: $33,700
  • Median household income: $33,105
  • Drug-induced mortality: 47.7 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 9,171

2. La Homa, Texas

Source: John Moore / Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 35.7%
  • Median home value: $76,500
  • Median household income: $29,546
  • Drug-induced mortality: 6.2 deaths per 100,000
  • Total population: 11,924

1. Eidson Road, Texas

Source: Billy Hathorn / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 34.8%
  • Median home value: $68,900
  • Median household income: $30,464
  • Drug-induced mortality: N/A
  • Total population: 9,743

 

Methodology

To identify the worst cities to live in, 24/7 Wall St. created a weighted index of 22 measures across three categories: economy, quality of life, and community.

The economy category consists of seven measures:

  • Employment growth from 2016 to 2021, included at full weight
  • Annual unemployment rate, included at full weight
  • Median household income, included at full weight
  • Poverty rate, included at full weight
  • Percentage of the population 25 years and over with bachelor’s degree or higher, included at full weight
  • Median home value, included at full weight
  • Median real estate taxes as percentage of median home value, included at full weight

The quality of life category consists of 11 measures:

  • Percentage of commuting workers 16 and over took public transportation, walked, or took other means to work, included at full weight
  • Percentage of workers 16 years and over who worked in their place of residence, included at full weight
  • Mean travel time to work, included at half-weight
  • Average hospital 30-day readmission rate, included at half-weight
  • Average hospital mortality rate for heart attack, CABG surgery, COPD, heart failure, neumonia, and stroke, included at half-weight
  • Distance to nearest hospital, included at half-weight
  • Percentage of the population in urban census tracts at least 1 mile from a grocery store and in rural census tracts at least 10 miles from a grocery store, included at half-weight
  • Annual crude drug-induced mortality rate per 100,000 residents, included at half-weight
  • Rate of hospital stays for ambulatory-care sensitive conditions per 100,000 Medicare enrollees, included at half-weight
  • Violent crimes per 100,000 residents, included at full weight
  • Property crimes per 100,000 residents, included at full weight

The community category consists of four measures:

  • Population with access to exercise opportunities, included at full weight
  • Motion picture theaters (except drive-ins), libraries and archives, theater companies and dinner theaters, sports teams and clubs, museums, zoos and botanical gardens, nature parks and other similar institutions, golf courses and country clubs, and marinas per 10,000 establishments, included at full weight
  • Drinking places (alcoholic beverages) per 10,000 establishments, included at full weight
  • Restaurants and other eating places per 10,000 establishments, included at full weight

Data on population, employment, unemployment, median home value, median household income, median property taxes paid, commuter characteristics, average travel time to work, and poverty came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and are five-year estimates for the period 2017 to 2021. Employment data used to calculate five-year employment growth are five-year estimates for the years 2012 to 2016.

Data on the share of the population in urban census tracts or areas at least 1 mile from a grocery store and in rural census tracts at least 10 miles from a grocery store, a measure of poor food access, came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2021 update to the Food Access Research Atlas and is at the county level.

Data on hospital locations came from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Data on 30-day readmission rates and 30-day mortality rates also came from the CMS and are for the period July 2019 to June 2022. Data was aggregated to the city level for cities with at least one hospital, and was aggregated to the county level for cities with no hospitals. Data on the number of drug-related deaths per 100,000 residents per year for the period 2019 to 2021 is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is at the county level. Data on preventable hospitalizations per 1,000 Medicare enrollees and the percentage of the population with access to exercise opportunities came from the 2023 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps program, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and is at the county level.

Data on the number of violent crimes and property crimes reported per 100,000 residents came from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program and are for the year 2020.

Data on the number of motion picture theaters (except drive-ins), libraries and archives, theater companies and dinner theaters, sports teams and clubs, museums, zoos and botanical gardens, nature parks and other similar institutions, golf courses and country clubs, marinas, drinking places, and restaurants came from the Census Bureau’s 2021 County Business Patterns series and is at the county level.

To avoid geographic clustering, we only took the worst-ranking city in a given county. Our list includes cities, towns, villages, boroughs, and census-designated places. We did not include places with fewer than 8,000 residents in our analysis. Cities must also have had data available for 15 of the 22 measures considered.

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