America - home of the brave, land of the proud - and breeding ground of some real dumps that make Osama Bin Laden's cave look like the Ritz Carlton. This list is a no holds barred look at the 10 worst cities in America and a fearless trip to the bottom of the barrel that is both funny and disturbing, like before and after pictures of Michael Jackson's face.
Our 10 worst cities in America 2011 are listed in order of their "AreaVibe". An AreaVibe is a score out of 100 calculated by our unique algorithm, which takes into account the most important metrics for evaluating a city, such as: cost of living, crime rates, education, employment, health & safety, housing, weather, transportation, local businesses and even user reviews. A city has to have a population of over 200,000 to qualify. So without further ado let's get to the list.
- 1. Detroit, MIScore: 65.3/100
© jmsmith000 - flickr
When it comes to dumpy American cities Detroit is number 1 with a bullet, both figuratively and literally. A sinking ship ever since Ford starting closing plants and cutting jobs, Detroit has been dying slower than the springs in Al Bundy's grossly abused couch.
Like the long suffering NFL Lions, Detroit has been mired in a serious slump. High unemployment and crime usually goes together like peas and carrots, and Detroit offers up hearty servings of both. The unemployment rate is a staggering 14.3% (34% percent higher than the national average). Even more damning is the poverty level of 26.1%, a whopping 112% higher than national levels. Fuelling this fire is the worst violent crime index in all of America, which is 457% greater than the national average! In 2010 alone car thefts are up 83%, robberies are up 50% and property destruction is up 42%. Throw into the mix a dismal, freezing climate, crumbling architecture and a high concentration of toxic waste dumps and it doesn't get any better (or worse) than this.
If you are considering moving to Detroit we suggest you look elsewhere, like maybe Afghanistan or North Korea. It's safer in both of those places and there is actually the possibility of finding a job.
Visit our complete Detroit City Guide for other valuable city information.
- 2. Stockton, CAScore: 68.2/100
© autohistorian - flickr
Since the crash of the real estate market in 2007 Stockton has been in serious decline, so much so that its main claim to fame is now an annual Asparagus Festival. What better vegetable to pay tribute to than the noble asparagus, famous for its ability to make pee smell?
Stockton was hit hard by the collapse of the sub-prime lending market, and as a result it has had one of America's highest foreclosure rates since 2007. Housing prices have fallen faster than Paris Hilton's music career, while unemployment rates have conversely risen. The result is a severe economic depression. Unemployment in Stockton stands at 16.5% (43% greater than the national level) and those who are lucky enough to find work just aren't making much. The income per capita in Stockton is just $19,410 (26.8% lower than nationally).
Crime rates are also higher than Amy Winehouse after a 3 day bender, and Forbes Magazine has named Stockton as one of the most dangerous places to live in America. An understaffing of police officers (only 2.2 per 1000 residents, or 21% less than the national average) has led to an overall crime index 119% higher than the national average. If you plan to head to Stockton pack the car, the kids and the steel bars for your windows.
Visit our complete Stockton City Guide for other valuable city information.
- 3. Santa Ana, CAScore: 68.4/100
© hungry_i - flickr
For many years now Santa Ana has been a black eye for the state of California, a place where dreams have gone to die. Boasting a deplorable education record, Santa Ana manages to be both expensive and mind numbingly dumb, much like Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber.
The education statistics for Santa Ana are impressive in a way, and that way is if you compared them to a shanty town in Kenya. To begin with, only half of all residents have even completed 8th grade! A lowly 43.2% have completed high school (54% worse than the national average) and a mere 9.2% have completed a bachelors degree (compared to 22.8% on average nationally). Santa Ana is a breeding ground for the Mcdonald's fry station.
Santa Ana is also an expensive place that requires the uneducated masses to dig deep into their pockets to put a roof over their head. The overall cost of living index is 47% higher than the national average, and the housing index is a crippling 148% higher than national levels. The median asking price for a home is $373,510, or 93.9% more expensive than the national average. The result is that 50% of all residents rent, meaning the only equity being built in Santa Ana is in bong hits, Cheetos and Family Guy marathons.
Visit our complete Santa Ana City Guide for other valuable city information.
- 4. Oakland, CAScore: 68.5/100
© pfsullivan_1056 - flickr
California is the Britney Spears of this list, the state that keeps on putting out. Its third entry is Oakland, a city that reached its apex in the '89 World Series when 2 juice bags with massive forearms took the nation by storm. Since then it has been all downhill, and now Oakland offers choice morsels like traffic gridlock, suffocating pollution and escalating crime.
The roads in Oakland are more congested than the line at a KFC on two dollar Tuesdays. Drivers in the Oakland area spend an average of 100 maddening hours a year sitting in traffic (30% higher than the national average). This translates into an average one way commute to work time of 34 minutes, which is 31% greater than the national level of 26 minutes. All the idle exhaust and fuel consumption has also wreaked havoc with air quality, as the pollution index in Oakland is 190% worse than the national average.
If all that bad air doesn't kill you a stray bullet just might. Oakland appears on lists of the most dangerous cities in America more frequently than Carrot Top appears on Leno, and the results are equally gruesome. The violent crime rate is a staggering 469% greater than the national average, and the overall crime index is 111% greater than nationally. San Francisco anyone?
Visit our complete Oakland City Guide for other valuable city information.
- 5. Riverside, CAScore: 68.7/100
© amayzun - flickr
Like grape juice hitting a white t shirt, Riverside has been a stain on the state of California for several years now. Widespread unemployment and constant traffic congestion are just a couple of Riverside's redeeming features.
You will have a better chance scoring an invitation to the Prince William and Kate Middleton wedding than you will finding gainful employment in Riverside. Unemployment sits on the toilet at 14.4% (compared to a national average of 9.5%). According to Forbes magazine, Riverside has now spent 35 straight months as America's worst city for finding a new job, and it currently has half as many job openings as the next worst city (Memphis). Women will also be disappointed to know that in Riverside pay equality with men is a notion that carries less weight than Verne Troyer. The median earnings for females comes in at only $21,819, which is 37% lower than the male median earnings of $33,956.
Much like Joan Rivers' face, there has been constant construction on Riverside's 3 main freeways. The result has been an eyesore that has led to the main interchange being named one of the worst in America and created continuous heavy traffic, making Riverside one of the most congested cities in the nation. It may take forever to get to work but thankfully nobody has a job to get to.
Visit our complete Riverside City Guide for other valuable city information.
- 6. Anchorage, AKScore: 70.2/100
© wonderlane - flickr
Anchorage is located in Alaska, the state that gave rise to the strangely attractive spitfire that is Sarah Palin. For that fact alone it merits a spot on this list. But there are more pieces to this rotten pie, not the least of which is the truly terrible weather.
The weather in Anchorage would stop the march of even the most resilient penguin. The winters are brutal, dark and long, oh so long. The temperature in January routinely hits -25°F, and the snowfall averages more than 70 inches in the winter months. Throw into the mix instances of Polar Night (where it is dark for more than 24 hours) and you can understand why arsenic cocktail is the local drink of choice. Consider also that the average temperature is 38Ã‚Â°F in April and 37Ã‚Â°F in October, and it shows just how fleeting warm weather in Anchorage is.
The cost of living is also distressingly high (23% greater than nationally on average). This is most evident in the cost of groceries (28% higher than the national average), which is not surprising given Anchorage's remote location and the lack of fresh produce in winter months. Certain items, like a dozen eggs (76% higher) and coffee (34% higher) are more inflated than at set of implants at 35,000 feet.
Visit our complete Anchorage City Guide for other valuable city information.
- 7. Baltimore, MDScore: 70.5/100
© grahamhisskoul - flickr
Baltimore has often been compared to New York City. Unfortunately it is New York City circa 1985, when strung out Drag Queens ruled the night. Baltimore is a great place to live, if you love rampant drug use, violent crime and cops on every corner.
A major problem with Baltimore is that for many years the streets have been flooded with hard drugs. Particularly heroin, enough to make Keith Richards blush in his prime. Unlike other big cities where heroin use has declined steadily, in Baltimore it remains prevalent. In fact, there were more than 200 deaths by heroin overdose in 2009 alone, and in a recent report the DEA cited Baltimore as home to more heroin addicts and incidents of heroin related crime than any other city in America.
Because it is difficult for heroin addicts to find jobs as accountants or librarians, most turn to crime to get a fix. The violent crime index is 360% greater than the national average, and the property crime index is 54% greater. In response to this level of crime there are over 3,600 police officers in Baltimore, or 5.8 officers per 1,000 residents (105.8% greater than the national average). A cop on every corner is not a good sign, unless you happen to be a diehard fan of the Village People.
Visit our complete Baltimore City Guide for other valuable city information.
- 8. Newark, NJScore: 70.7/100
© tsmyther - flickr
Newark is the ugly cousin sitting in the shadow of NYC, smart people know that the only reason to come to Newark is for a stopover at the airport. The one good thing you can say about Newark is its close to NYC, and by close we mean proximity.
The education statistics in Newark are about as desirable as watching the pen hit the paper when the New Jersey Devils signed Ilya Kovalchuk to a 75 year $600 million dollar contract. Only 57.9% of Newark residents have completed high school, which is significantly lower (27%) than the national average of 79.3%. When it comes to higher learning the numbers get lower. A paltry 9% have completed bachelor's degrees, compared to 22.8% nationally. You can understand why being a luggage chucker is considered a great job in Newark.
Economic depression has also been far reaching in Newark. More than a quarter of all residents (28.4%) live below the poverty line, which is 131% higher than the national average. The average income per capita is only $16,131, well below the average of $26,505 for the rest of the country, and the median household income is just $33,372. Local businesses have shouldered the burden when you consider that as recently as 2007 Newark had only one supermarket, and a new hotel hasn't been built for 38 years. Not exactly a city on the up and up.
Visit our complete Newark City Guide for other valuable city information.
- 9. Toledo, OHScore: 70.8/100
© rsteup - flickr
And on the eighth day God was tired, hung over and pissed off. The party was over and all that remained was the mess, and nobody hung around to help clean up. So God took out his anger on mankind, and thus Toledo came to be, a dump offering worthless real estate and ample crime.
Unless you are a devotee of the Mud Hens baseball team, this is not a city you want to be in. Toledo is a Midwestern city so bleak, so grey and devoid of life that the value of housing is understandably on par with a penny stock portfolio. In addition to homes being old and decrepit (on average built in 1952), the median value is only $103,180 (53% lower than the national average). Those looking for income from rental properties will not be pleased to discover that the average rent collected is just $625, which is 27% lower than the national average of $799.
As far as goes crime, Toledo has more to offer than Kate Gosselin at the local daycare. The violent crime index is 230% higher than the national average, and when it comes to home burglaries Toledo is third worst in all of America, with 2,055 recorded last year alone. The net result is that the population of Toledo has declined every year since the early 1990's.
Visit our complete Toledo City Guide for other valuable city information.
- 10. Cleveland, OHScore: 70.9/100
© infrogmation - flickr
When LeBron James announced he was skipping town the final nail was hammered into Cleveland's coffin. The irony is that the "fans" in the streets burning their #23 jerseys were too ignorant to realize that they were living in one of the most miserable cities in America, a place beset by rampant poverty, cheap real estate, and choking pollution.
Dubbed the "Mistake by the Lake", poverty in Cleveland has reached staggering proportions. At 26.3% it is more than 113.6% higher than the national average, indicative of the larger economic depression. The median household income is only $30,076 (compared to $54,595 on average nationally). Real estate value has also been in sharper decline than the performance of a 70 year old man without Viagra, with the median value of a home coming in at $99,540 (54% less than nationally). It is hardly surprising that more than 71,000 residents have left the Cleveland metro area over the past 5 years, and population levels are half of what they were 50 years ago.
Befitting the toxic nature of the city itself, the air pollution in Cleveland is off the charts. The pollution index is 329% higher than the national average. The only saving grace is that because the city is uglier than Lyle Lovett, most people don't spend much time outdoors.
Visit our complete Cleveland City Guide for other valuable city information.
You can refer to our Best Places to Live report for real-time, up-to-date and interactive top 100 best and worst list of cities. The report is sortable, and it allows you to discriminate by the population as well as your preferred state.