- Given the rising cost of living in many parts of the country, it’s understandable that many Americans are considering moving.
- If moving is on your mind, then you’ll want to consider several factors before picking the new city to call home.
- In addition to data like the poverty rate and median home value, consider a city’s recreational options to take a holistic view.
Thinking of moving to a new city? Keep in mind that not every city is created equally. The same thing goes for states. Some places have limited opportunities, safety concerns, or few recreational options. In short: where you live impacts your life in many ways.
So, before you pack up your life and move somewhere new, check out 12 American cities to avoid living in. We used data compiled by 24/7 Wall St., Data USA, and U.S. News & World Report to select the featured cities.
Poverty rate: 30.1% (state: 15.1%)
5-yr. avg. unemployment: 11.4% (state: 5.9%)
Median home value: $100,300 (state: $225,500)
U.S. News State Ranking: 39
Located along the U.S.-Mexico border, Douglas is a small southern Arizona city. Although Arizona’s population is booming, the population of Douglas is shrinking. According to U.S. Census data, the city lost 9.3% of its population between 2010 and 2018. Perhaps its declining population can be partly explained by the city’s high poverty rate and lack of opportunity.
Douglas has a poverty rate of 30.1% compared to the statewide poverty rate of 15.1%. Then there’s the weak job market — over the last five years, the average unemployment rate was 11.4%. At any rate, Douglas is a quaint town that isn’t without its charms. There are local museums, a ghost tour, and an emerging arts scene.
Poverty rate: 31.4% (state: 12.4%)
5-yr. avg. unemployment: 12.1% (state: 5.3%)
Median home value: $48,000 (state: $180,200)
U.S. News State Ranking: 40
McKeesport’s low median home value might look attractive to someone hoping to find an affordable place to enter the housing market. Unfortunately, residents face limited economic opportunities. While Pennsylvania’s poverty rate is 12.4%, McKeesport’s poverty rate is 31.4%. So, McKeesport residents are more than twice as likely to live below the poverty line than the average Pennsylvanian.
The city’s unemployment rate is a related issue of concern. Its five-year average unemployment rate of 12.1% is significantly higher than the statewide unemployment rate of 5.3%. Nevertheless, McKeesport’s relatively close proximity to Pittsburg means it could be an option as a commuter suburb.
Poverty rate: 34.7% (state: 17.3%)
5-yr. avg. unemployment: 11.6% (state: 5.5%)
Median home value: $100,200 (state: $141,000)
U.S. News State Ranking: 41
After a tornado devastated Mayfield in December 2021, the small Kentucky city is still rebuilding. According to The Guardian, “the onslaught destroyed 15,000 buildings and trailer homes and caused at least $3.5bn in damage.” But even before this natural disaster, things weren’t bright in the city.
Over the last half-decade, job availability in Mayfield has been limited compared to elsewhere in the state. In addition to a high unemployment rate, the city also has a poverty rate of nearly 35%. The national poverty rate, by contrast, is 11.4%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Of course, the community prides itself on its resiliency, so there are good things to say about Mayfield.
Poverty rate: 35.3% (state: 15.2%)
5-yr. avg. unemployment: 18.0% (state: 5.7%)
Median home value: $141,600 (state: $162,300)
U.S. News State Ranking: 42
If homeownership is a goal of yours, then Lancaster, South Carolina, is a city to avoid. In fact, its homeownership rate is well below the national average. While the national homeownership rate is 64.1%, only 44.2% of Lancaster residents own their homes, according to Data USA.
Additionally, the median home value of $141,600 is about 4.7 times higher than Lancaster’s median household income, which Data USA says is $30,122. The high poverty and unemployment rates further illustrate the city’s weak economic situation. That said, Lancaster’s known for its small-town Southern charm. It has many historic homes and buildings to explore.
Poverty rate: 19.5% (state: 15.7%)
5-yr. avg. unemployment: 6.9% (state: 5.0%)
Median home value: $101,600 (state: $136,800)
U.S. News State Ranking: 43
McAlester is another city with unfortunate economic conditions. Although the discrepancy between the local and statewide poverty and unemployment rates isn’t as significant as some cities, McAlester residents are more likely to live below the poverty line and be unemployed than the average Oklahoman.
Beyond McAlester’s tough economic reality, it also has a concerningly high crime rate. As a matter of fact, 24/7 Wall St. says the city’s overall crime rate is 95% higher than Oklahoma’s overall crime rate. As with any city, though, McAlester has its attributes. For example, there’s a charming Old Town Historic District and wineries.
Helena-West Helena, AR
Poverty rate: 45.2% (state: 17.0%)
5-yr. avg. unemployment: 11.8% (state: 5.1%)
Median home value: $73,400 (state: $127,800)
U.S. News State Ranking: 44
The median household income in Helena-West Helena is $22,177, according to Data USA. That’s significantly lower than the national median annual income of $65,712. Likewise, the poverty rate of 45.2% is much higher than the state and national poverty rate. As a result of such harsh economic conditions, many Helena-West Helena residents rely on government assistance programs to meet basic living needs.
According to 24/7 Wall St., 36.8% of the city’s households receive SNAP benefits. In contrast, 12.1% of Arkansas households across the state receive SNAP benefits. On the positive side, the city is rich in history. Not only was it a contested spot during the Civil War, but it also has a long history with blues music.
Poverty rate: 11.0% (state: 10.7%)
5-yr. avg. unemployment: 7.7% (state: 6.8%)
Median home value: $211,500 (state: $270,400)
U.S. News State Ranking: 45
While the poverty rate in Fairbanks is similar to the national average, the city has a below-average homeownership rate. Nationally, the homeownership rate is 64.1%. By contrast, the homeownership rate in Fairbanks is only 35.8%. Since owning a home is historically a way to build wealth, such a low homeownership rate is concerning.
Crime is also an issue in Fairbanks. In fact, its “overall crime rate is 34% higher than the overall crime rate in Alaska,” according to 24/7 Wall St. However, there are rivers, lakes, and parks in and around the city. So, Fairbanks does have scenery going for it.
Poverty rate: 34.6% (state: 16.7%)
5-yr. avg. unemployment: 15.7% (state: 5.9%)
Median home value: $94,300 (state: $142,700)
U.S. News State Ranking: 46
Located in southern Alabama, Atmore is a small city that’s shrinking. According to U.S. Census data, it lost 18% of its total population between 2010 and 2020, making it the fastest shrinking city in the state. Atmore’s economic outlook may have something to do with that.
For one thing, the city’s poverty rate is more than double the statewide rate. And the five-year average unemployment rate is nearly triple. But it isn’t all beak for residents. If you live in Atmore, several state parks and wildlife reserves are nearby.
Poverty rate: 32.3% (state: 17.6%)
5-yr. avg. unemployment: 6.8% (state: 6.5%)
Median home value: $98,200 (state: $119,600)
U.S. News State Ranking: 47
Huntington, West Virginia, is still recovering from the damage the opioid crisis did to its community. While the city is actively working to turn things around, the economic situation is challenging for many residents. Nearly one out of three Huntington residents live below the poverty line.
The high poverty rate goes hand in hand with a low median annual income. According to Data USA, Huntington’s median annual income is $31,162. That’s about half the median annual income of $65,712 nationwide. It’s worth mentioning that there are things to do and see in Huntington. For instance, there’s an amusement park, a year-round farmers market, and a historic WWI memorial arch.
Poverty rate: 28.4% (state: 19.1%)
5-yr. avg. unemployment: 7.4% (state: 6.6%)
Median home value: $132,000 (state: $171,400)
U.S. News State Ranking: 48
While Gallup, New Mexico, has a gorgeous red rock landscape, its economic conditions are tough. The local poverty rate is 28.4%, and the five-year average unemployment rate is 7.4%. In addition to widespread financial hardship, Gallup residents have limited access to fresh food and public spaces for recreation.
24/7 Wall St. says 60% of Gallup’s residents don’t live close to a grocery store. That means those in urban areas live over a mile away from a grocery store, and those in rural areas live over 10 miles away. Additionally, the source says only 43.3% of residents have easy access to parks and recreation centers. By comparison, 84.2% of Americans nationwide have easy access to recreational spaces.
Yazoo City, MS
Poverty rate: 44.8% (state: 20.3%)
5-yr. avg. unemployment: 20.5% (state: 7.4%)
Median home value: $70,900 (state: $119,000)
U.S. News State Ranking: 49
According to the Sun Herald, Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the country. Yazoo City has an even higher poverty rate, though. Unfortunately, the local poverty rate of 44.8% is more than double the already high 20.3% across the state. Yazoo City also has a weak job market — the five-year average unemployment rate is 20.5%.
Additionally, 39.1% of households in Yazoo City receive SNAP benefits, according to 24/7 Wall St. That’s more than triple the national rate of 11.7%. That said, it’s a quirky little city with a charming main street full of boutiques and restaurants. And apparently, the historic cemetery is a popular tourist stop.
Poverty rate: 43.3% (state: 19.2%)
5-yr. avg. unemployment: 8.8% (state: 6.4%)
Median home value: $98,100 (state: $163,100)
U.S. News State Ranking: 50
U.S. News & World Report ranks Louisiana last of all 50 states. It scores at or near the bottom in every category, including crime, education, health care, and infrastructure. Notably, 24/7 Wall St. ranks Opelousas last among the state’s many cities. Not only does the city have a high poverty rate of 43.3%, but it also has an incredibly high crime rate.
“Opelousas’s overall crime rate is 182% higher than the overall crime rate in Louisiana,” according to 24/7 Wall St. The source also says the city has one of the highest crime rates in the country. On the plus side, Opelousas is a historic city known for its antique shops, Cajun cuisine, and Victorian architecture.