Breaking Down The 50 Worst Cities To Live In

People looking to buy a new home or potentially relocate to a new city or state spend a lot of time checking out the “best of” lists to find out where the jobs, families, amenities, quality schools, and strong home values are. But have you considered the worst places to live?

You know, those cities where the home prices so far exceed the national average you need the income of a small, oil-rich country to afford to buy there?

Or one whose real estate market and/or job market is stagnant, or worse?

Or one with a crime rate that is enough to scare off (literally!) potential buyers?

There are also lists that outline where not to buy for these and various other reasons, like this one from 24/7 Wall St. that whittled down 550 cities into a scroll of “America’s 50 Worst Cities To Live In.” Their methodology was based on data “in nine major categories: crime, demographics, economy, education, environment, health, housing, infrastructure, and leisure.”

Many of the cities on the list are expected – places like Detroit that have been hard-hit by the economy and show few signs of recovery (more on that below). But, you might be surprised by the No. 1 city on their list of: Miami.

Miami Herald
“No city in the United States is worse to live in than Miami,” they said. “The city’s median home value of $245,000 is well above the national median of $181,200. However, with a median household income of only $31,917 a year, well below the national median of $53,657, most of these homes are either out of reach or a financial burden on most Miami residents.”

Unlike the images of seaside mansions and bikinied beachgoers that may spring to mind when you think of Miami, it turns out the city is not all glitz and glamour, thanks to a mindboggling disparity between the tippy-top of the city’s wealthy…and everyone else.

“According to recently released research from the nonprofit think tank the Economic Policy Institute, the top 1% of earners in the Miami metro area make about $2 million annually, 45 times greater than the average income of the other 99% of earners,” they said. “This earnings gap makes the metro area nearly the most unequal of any U.S. city.” The city’s crime rate is also a factor, with a “disproportionately large portion of Miami residents likely (to) experience” violent crime. The “rate of 1,060 incidents per 100,000 people is several times higher than the national rate.”

Second on the list, the aforementioned Detroit, whose problems have been well-documented. Low home values and a high poverty level, not to mention the city’s bankruptcy in 2013, make progress a challenge. But the high crime rate and educational issues might be the most upsetting factors.

“Although it’s hard to pick out the city’s biggest problem, crime is a worthy contender,” said Area Vibes, who named Detroit No. 1 on their list of worst cities. “A criminality rate that’s 155% above the national average will have residents huddled in their homes after dark. Detroit’s struggles extend to the classroom, with a bare 70% of area residents graduating from high school.”

Detroit was also No. 3 on Neighborhood Scout’s website of the Most Dangerous Cities. This site breaks out crime rates by violent and personal, and then further breaks down the data by type – a useful tool for those who want specific info related to cities they might be considering. East St. Louis, MI was No. 1 on their list of Most Dangerous Cities.

The rest of the “worst” according to 24/7 Wall St. include:

3. Patterson, NJ – “Like many American industrial cities, Paterson’s economy is no longer prospering as it once was,” they said. “More than 30% of the area’s residents live in poverty, nearly double the national poverty rate.”

4. Hawthorne, CA – “The poverty rate is not as high as in some other cities on the list, but the home values that are just astronomical make it near impossible for many of Hawthorne’s residents to afford a home,” said Cities Journal. “It should also be pointed out that Hawthorne is a very polluted city where the air is hazardous about 15 percent of the year. The national median is about 6 percent.”

5. Fall River, MA – “The median household income in Fall River is only $35,037, just roughly half the income a typical Massachusetts household earns and about $18,500 less than the income the typical American household earns,” said 24/7 Wall St.

6. Birmingham, AL – Low home values, low incomes and a poverty rate of 30.5% – almost double the rate across the country – put Birmingham on the list.

7. Memphis, TN – Despite its deep musical roots, Memphis has experienced hard times of late. About a third of those in the city are living in poverty and violent crime is nearly five times higher than the national rate.

8. Flint, MI – The city of Flint, Michigan “has seen more than its fair share of struggles in the past few years, said Business Insider. “It’s known as one of the most dangerous cities in America, and the poverty that afflicts the city is part of the reason its residents have been exposed to such dangerous levels of lead,” which led to a state of emergencyin the city. Flint has the second – highest poverty rate of any city in the U.S., at approximately 40%.

9. Cleveland, OH – At just $24,701 a year, Cleveland’s median household income is the second lowest in the country, and its 39.2% poverty rate the fifth highest.

10. Gary IN – “Gary was called the murder capital of the world in the 1990s, but violent crime is down dramatically in Gary in recent years,” said Forbeson their list of Most Miserable Cities. Still, the city is “plagued by high foreclosures and migration out of the city.”

In fact, 24/7 Wall St. reports that, “Gary’s population is shrinking faster than that of any other U.S. city. The number of people that call Gary home has dropped by 26.7% in the last decade and by 25.5% in the last five years. A declining population is not especially surprising given the city’s bleak economic conditions.”


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