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Worst U.S. Cities For Quality of Life

5 minute read

By Katie Ormsby

Where you live can significantly impact your quality of life. Some places struggle with high crime and poverty rates. Others deal with long commutes and expensive prices. That’s why you should read up before moving to a new city.

While quality of life is subjective, there are several measurable factors that influence whether a city has a high or low quality of life. For example, there’s the poverty rate, median household income, median property value, and crime rate — to list just a few factors.

We used data compiled by Data USA and AreaVibes to research those stats and select cities where it’s harder to attain a high quality of life. Here are 10 cities to avoid if you want a higher chance of leading a happy and comfortable life.

Cleveland, OH

Population: 380,989

Poverty Rate: 32.7%

Median Household Income: $32,053

Median Property Value: $71,100

Crime Rate: 165% higher than the state average

Cleveland’s struggles include widespread poverty. For instance, its poverty rate is more than double the statewide poverty rate of 14%. And it’s almost triple the national poverty rate of 11.4%, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Considering the city’s high poverty rate, it isn’t a surprise that its median household income is nearly half the statewide figure of $58,642. And given its staggering crime rate, the city is more dangerous than many parts of the state.

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St. Louis, MO

Population: 300,576

Poverty Rate: 21.8%

Median Household Income: $47,176

Median Property Value: $150,700

Crime Rate: 155% higher than the state average

According to MoneyGeek, St. Louis is the most dangerous city in the United States. Its crime rate is 155% higher than the statewide average. And NeighborhoodScout says a St. Louisan’s chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime is 1 in 50.

By comparison, the typical Missourian’s chances are 1 in 184. St. Louis is also relatively economically disadvantaged, which isn’t uncommon for a city with a high crime rate. Its poverty rate is almost exactly double the national average.

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Detroit, MI

Population: 670,052

Poverty Rate: 35%

Median Household Income: $33,965

Median Property Value: $58,900

Crime Rate: 193% higher than the state average

When you think about urban decline, there’s a decent chance that Detroit springs to mind. What was once a bustling hub of American manufacturing has dwindled over the years. According to USA Today, it had 1.8 million residents in the ’50s.

But flash-forward to today, and that number is down to 670,052. The Detroit of today has notably high poverty and crime rates. For instance, Detroiters have a 1 in 44 chance of being a victim of violent crime, according to NeighborhoodScout

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Baltimore, MD

Population: 593,490

Poverty Rate: 21.2%

Median Household Income: $50,177

Median Property Value: $179,100

Crime Rate: 207% higher than the state average

Much like Detroit, Baltimore is another city with a reputation as dangerous. Unfortunately, the numbers bear that out. Its crime rate is 207% higher than the Maryland average. Beyond crime, residents also deal with long, expensive commutes.

According to WMAR 2 News, the city has the eighth longest commute in the country. And the Baltimore Business Journal says Baltimore drivers spend an average of $9,206 annually to commute. That cuts into free time and the quality of life.

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Albuquerque, NM

Population: 560,504

Poverty Rate: 16.9%

Median Household Income: $55,567

Median Property Value: $211,800

Crime Rate: 76% higher than the state average

On the one hand, USA Today says the area surrounding Alburquerque has experienced rapid development, thanks to “cheap land and low taxes.” However, that hasn’t translated into booming population growth.

The source says the city’s population growth is “less than one-third the national population growth rate.” Crime might have something to do with that. According to NeighborhoodScout, residents have a 1 in 75 chance of becoming a victim of violent crime.

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Little Rock, AR

Population: 197,958

Poverty Rate: 16.6%

Median Household Income: $51,485

Median Property Value: $167,600

Crime Rate: 104% higher than the state average

Little Rock, the capital of Arkansas, is another city with unfortunate economic conditions. Its poverty rate is about the same as the statewide poverty rate of 17%, but that only means that the state as a whole struggles financially.

In addition to Little Rock’s hard economic reality, the city’s crime rate also compromises the quality of life. As a matter of fact, the crime rate is 104% higher than the Arkansas average. So, it’s more dangerous than the rest of the state.

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Trenton, NJ

Population: 367,430

Poverty Rate: 11.6%

Median Household Income: $79,492

Median Property Value: $291,600

Crime Rate: 141% higher than the state average

According to USA Today, goods and services are about 18% pricier than the national average in Trenton. That means money doesn’t go as far in the capital of New Jersey, which is bad for the bottom line of all residents and especially those struggling.

And like many cities dealing with tough economic realities, crime is also an issue. For instance, NeighborhoodScout says Trenton residents have a 1 in 52 chance of becoming a victim of property crime.

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Memphis, TN

Population: 651,088

Poverty Rate: 25.1%

Median Household Income: $43,794

Median Property Value: $115,900

Crime Rate: 150% higher than the state average

Beale Street’s blues nightclubs might be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Memphis, but the city’s reality is less romantic. Both high poverty and crime rates take away from the quality of life for its residents.

Compared to the national poverty rate of 11.4%, the poverty rate is 25.1% in Memphis. That’s even 10% higher than the statewide average. Additionally, the city’s crime rate is 150% higher than the Tennesse average.

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Hartford, CT

Population: 123,088

Poverty Rate: 28.1%

Median Household Income: $36,278

Median Property Value: $165,300

Crime Rate: 135% higher than the state average

Hartford also contends with poor economic conditions. While the statewide poverty rate is just under 10%, Hartford’s approaches 30%. Similarly, Hartford’s median household income is less than half the statewide median household income of $78,833.

Perhaps that at least partly explains why the population of Hartford is shrinking. According to USA Today, the population shrank 1.3% between 2013 and 2018. During that same time, the national population grew by 3.7%.

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Gary, IN

Population: 76,010

Poverty Rate: 30.6%

Median Household Income: $31,936

Median Property Value: $66,100

Crime Rate: 92% higher than the state average

Those familiar with The Music Man might hear the lyrics “my home sweet home” in the voice of little Ron Howard when Gary, Indiana is mentioned. However, the city’s financial situation is less picturesque.

The poverty rate in Gary is more than double the statewide rate of 13.4%. And USA Today says the city’s “low incomes are reflected in the area’s depressed real estate values.” For instance, its median property value is about $90,000 less than the statewide value of $156,000.

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Katie Ormsby

Contributor

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