Are you thinking of relocating somewhere in the States? Make sure you take a look at the 12 worst places to live in the US before you make any decisions about your next home base. We’ve compiled this list by considering crime reports, annual median incomes, air quality, climate, poverty levels and unemployment rates. Find out which American cities you should avoid based on these factors. Maybe you’re tempted by the cultural scene that New Orleans offers, but you might want to rethink moving to a city that’s been named the “murder capital of the country.”
12. St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is a major US port in eastern Missouri. The city, whose population is estimated to be 318,500, is the second largest in the state. Over 14% of St. Louis’ population is living below the poverty line. Missouri was one of only two states in the country to experience a fall in annual household income last year. The crime rate in St. Louis is also very high, making it one of the worst places to live in the US, especially for families. The murder rate in St. Louis is reported to be 35.3 per 100,000 residents, which ranks it as one of America’s most dangerous cities too.
11. Reno, Nevada
Reno is known as “The Biggest Little City in the World,” and is also referred to as Las Vegas’ poorer cousin. Before the 1950s, Reno was the gambling capital of the US. Then Vegas was developed and Reno has been on the economic decline ever since. The Nevadan city sits in a high desert at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Reno has a population of 225,221 and a median household income of $44,846. Over 14% of the population lives beneath the poverty line. The crime rate is another factor which may impact your decision to live there. Reno experiences nearly 39 annual crimes per 1,000 residents.
10. Modesto, California
Modesto’s economy is based largely on the agricultural industry, as fertile farmland surrounds the city. Modesto is also home to the largest winery in the world, E & J Gallo Winery, which employs over 3,000 workers. However, unemployment rate was 10.9% as of August 2014 and nearly 19% of the city’s population is living below the poverty line. Both violent crimes and property crimes are higher in Modesto than in the rest of California. Modesto ranks number one in the country for car theft. There are also reported to be between 5,000-10,000 gang members operating in Modesto, which is a sizable percentage in this population of 200K.
9. Oakland, California
Oakland is a major port city on the West Coast, it is also the busiest port in the San Francisco Bay. The population of Oakland is 406,253. The economy in Oakland is strong with a median household income of $51,683. Oakland’s gross GDP in 2013 was $360.4 billion, ranking it eighth among metropolitan areas in the US. But the city’s economic stability is not what makes it one of the worst places to live. Oakland is home to as many as 50 gangs with a gang population of over 2,000. Although the crime rate in Oakland has decreased significantly over the past ten years, it is still considered to be one of the most dangerous cities to live in the country. Oakland recorded 34,305 violent and property crimes in 2013. Aside from crime, Oakland also suffers from high traffic congestion and poor air quality, 190% worse than the national average.
8. New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a great city to visit, but living there year round is a different story. New Orleans suffers from some of the highest crime rates in the country and it also has one of the worst toxic-substance records. New Orleans has still not recovered from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, as the population is 25% below what it was before the natural disaster hit. Although New Orleans is known for its cultural and entertainment activities, crime is still an ongoing problem for this southern city. In 2012, Travel and Leisure magazine named New Orleans number two of “America’s Dirtiest Cities.” With a murder rate of 57.6 per 100,000 in 2011, New Orleans had the highest murder rate of any U.S. city with a population of 100,000 or more. It is also ranked as the 21st most dangerous city in the world. So enjoy the jazz and Cajun cooking, but only for a few days visit.
7. Birmingham, Alabama
Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama, with a population of 212,237. The median income for a household in the city is $31,898, with 27.3% of residents living below the poverty line. Violent crimes occur at a rate of 1,483 per 100,000 residents due to the prominent drug trade and high poverty rate. Birmingham has also been criticized for its high sales tax which, at 10%, is one of the highest in the nation. This sales tax is regressive, meaning it hurts the poorer population disproportionately. If you’re interested in Alabamian living, nearby Auburn may be a better bet.
6. Stockton, California
Stockton is located in north-central California on the San Joaquin River. The city has a population of 300,899. Stockton suffered significantly during the recent recession, as housing prices dropped by nearly 39% in 2008. Then in 2012, the city of Stockton filed for bankruptcy. Stockton also has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. As of July 2014, 13.4% of the population was without a job. Forbes has voted Stockton as one of the most dangerous cities in America due to its high crime rates. A total of 20,369 violent and property crimes were committed last year, making Stockton safer than only 3% of US cities. With little opportunity for growth and development, Stockton is firmly on the list of the worst places to live in the US.
5. Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis rests in the southwestern corner of Tennessee. With a population of 653,450, it is the largest city in Tennessee as well as the largest city on the Mississippi River. In both the 2011 and 2012 edition of Travel & Leisure magazine, Memphis was voted in the top ten of “America’s Dirtiest Cities” – not a very flattering honor. The median income for a household in the city is $32,285 and is it estimated that 20.6% of the population live below the poverty line. Memphis has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country at 1,583 per 100,000 residents. There is a 1 in 12 chance of being a victim of crime in Memphis. More promising opportunities are available in nearby Nashville.
4. New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven is the second largest city in Connecticut after Bridgeport. New Haven is well-known for being the home of Yale University, one of the most prestigious schools in the country. However, the surrounding areas of New Haven are impoverished and crime ridden. The population of the Connecticut city is 130,741. The economy of New Haven was originally based in manufacturing, but since the end of the war New Haven’s working class population has been hit hard. The median household income in New Haven is $29,604 (half the annual cost for a student to attend Yale!) and approximately 25% of the city’s residents live below the poverty line. New Haven also has a significantly high crime rate, as it’s ranked safer than only 3% of US cities. Nearly 68 crimes occur annually for every 1,000 residents. Unless you’re moving there to study, we don’t recommend residing in New Haven.
3. Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland is located in northeastern Ohio on the southern shore of Lake Erie. According to the 2013 Census, Cleveland has a population of 390,113. The median household income in the city is $26,556 and nearly 27% of residents are living below the poverty line. Aside from the unstable economy, the harsh winter weather conditions also make Cleveland one of the worst places to live in the US. Cleveland records an average of 60 inches of snowfall each year. Cleveland is also considered one of the most corrupt cities in the country, as over 350 public officials have been convicted of crime over the last ten years.
2. Detroit, Michigan
Detroit suffered a significant population decline from 2000 to 2010, falling nearly 25%. Today, Detroit has 688,701 residents, but the drastic population decline lead to a number of abandoned households and commercial buildings. The city is suffering from urban decay. Although Detroit is home to major Fortune 500 companies including General Motors, Ally Financial and DTE Energy, the unemployment rate stands at 14.5%. The median household income in the city is $25,787, with 32.3% living below the national poverty line. According to the FBI’s 2012 Uniform Crime Reports, Detroit had the highest rate of violent crime of any city over 200,000. In May 2014, JPMorgan Chase said it planned to inject $100 million over five years into the Detroit economy to kick-start projects and provide development funding for employment, residential development and other community-related programs. Hopefully this will remove it from the list of worst places to live in the US in the future.
1. Camden, New Jersey
Camden has been voted onto Forbes’ list of “America’s Most Miserable Cities” for years. The small city that sits directly across the Delaware River from Philadelphia has a population of just over 77,000. Camden was once known for its manufacturing industry, but today it is riddled with urban decay and political corruption. Camden is considered the most impoverished city in the US, with a median household income of $18,007 and 42.5% of residents living below the poverty line. Camden also has one of the highest crime rates in the country, at 560% above the national average. As of July 2014, the unemployment rate in Camden was 14.3%, almost three times higher than the national average. Life in Camden is dreary and dangerous, so moving here is to be discouraged.