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The 20 Most Miserable Cities in the U.S

Gary, Indiana

The United States is a wealthy nation, but some cities are not that great to live in. The miserable cities have several things in common: devastation, few opportunities, high addiction and crime rates, natural disasters, and often abandoned homes. Below, we have identified 20 most miserable cities in the United States using census data from different cities while considering population change, the median household income, median commute times, the number of people who lack healthcare, and those living in poverty. In the opinion of Business Insider, natural disasters have also devastated some of these cities. Some have to deal with high rates of crime and blight, while others have high addiction rates.

Lancaster, California

20. Lancaster, California

This is a desert town that has about 160,000 people. Fifty-one percent of the population work, and twenty-three percent live in poverty. It has experienced crime issues with neo-Nazis and meth addiction. However, the mayor is doing his best to kickstart the city, including looking to China for investment.

St Louis, Missouri

19. St Louis, Missouri

This city has about 303,000 individuals, but it lost five percent from 2010 to 2018. Seventy-five percent of the residents work, and one-quarter of them live in poverty. The city has struggled with gun violence and crime. In 2015, deaths rose 33 percent from the previous year to 159 deaths. The city’s gun laws are relatively relaxed, and this includes enabling people to carry loaded guns in vehicles without permits.

Pasadena, Texas

18. Pasadena, Texas

Pasadena employs about 153,000 people, and sixty-five percent of them work. A fifth of the population lives in poverty. The medium income is $50,207, and about twenty-nine percent of the people have health insurance. Most residents are working class. This city is based close to petrochemical plants and is famous for race problems. Pasadena used to be the headquarters of the Klu Klux Klan. The city is now divided, with many whites living in the south and most Latinos living in the north.

Macon-Bibb County, Georgia

17. Macon-Bibb County, Georgia

This city has 153,000 individuals, but it lost 1.7 percent of its population from 2010 to 2018. Fifty-six percent of the population work and twenty percent live in poverty. One significant issue with the county is blight. About 3,700 buildings in the city are unoccupied. Many are dilapidated and have overgrown yards.

Danville, Virginia

16. Danville, Virginia

The population of this city is 40,000. However, its population fell by 5.5 percent from 2010 to 2018. Fifty-five percent of individuals work in the city, and 21 percent live in poverty. In the past, it was one of the wealthiest cities in the Piedmont area. However, it has struggled since its textile and tobacco mills shut down. The city is now fighting for a comeback. It has set up solar farms, and its downtown is under rehabilitation to transform abandoned warehouses into mixed-use developments.

Shreveport, Louisiana

15. Shreveport, Louisiana

Shreveport has around 189,000 individuals, and it lost about six percent of its population from 2010 to 2018. Fifty-eight percent of the population work, and twenty-six percent live in poverty. In 2015, the city struggled with flooding after the Red River swelled. The city’s murder rate also doubled from 2015 to 2016, with up to forty-two murdered. The city also has an increase in other crimes such as robbery, rape, and aggravated assault.

Mansfield, Ohio

14. Mansfield, Ohio

About 46,000 residents live in Mansfield, but it lost 2.7 percent from 2010 to 2018. Forty-eight percent of the people work, and 24 percent live in poverty. Much of the industrial work used to occur in the city, with people making stoves, machinery, and steel. However, that dried up in the 1970s and 1980s. Much recently, in 2010, a factory owned by General Motors closed its doors, leading to more job losses. The crime rates also surged from 2012 to 2017, and violent crimes increased by 37 percent.

Hemet, California

13. Hemet, California

Hemet’s population is 85,000 people, and beginning from 2010 to 2018, it grew by 8.5 percent. However, the city has struggled since the 2008 recession. Twenty-three percent of the individuals in the city are poor, and its crime rates are high. The city is reputed for having higher violent crime, gang violence, and property crime incidents than other California cities. In 2016, 170 robberies were reported, 623 vehicles were stolen, and the police logged 398 aggravated assaults. According to Desert Sun, the economic downturn in the city has hit the budget of homeowners. After decades of housing construction and economic growth, the city of trailer parks and homes was hardly hit by the housing crisis and economic downturn the followed. As a result, many homeowners could not pay their mortgages on time, which led to their foreclosure. The tax revenue that Hemet relied on funding schools and public safety plummeted. In 2008, Hemet collected over 15 million dollars in property taxes, and in 2018, it collected 7.1 million. As businesses closed, the sales tax revenue plummeted by thirty-eight percent from 2008 to 2010. However, an audit performed in 2018 showed that sales tax revenue is rising.

San Bernardino, California

12. San Bernardino, California

San Bernardino has 216,000 residents. Fifty-seven percent are employed, and 30 percent live in poverty. The city is situated sixty miles from Los Angeles, and its history is interesting. MacDonald’s and the Hells Angels motorcycle gang began in the city. This city's problems include a hard recession and the closure of an Air Force base and steel plant. This has led to fewer jobs.

Compton, California

11. Compton, California

Compton has 96,000 individuals, forty percent of who are not working, and Twenty-three percent of them live in poverty. The residents of the city struggle with unemployment and poverty. However, it is not as dangerous as the film Straight Outta Compton portrayed it. In 1991, 87 murders took place, and in 2014, the murders were down to 17.

Montebello, California

10. Montebello, California

Of the 62,632 people in Montebello, 60 percent are employed, and fourteen percent live in poverty. Nineteen percent of the population lack health insurance. A big problem is affordable housing. According to the New York Times, in 2019, prospects for people to buy their homes for the first time were not great, and opportunities were few.

Harlingen, Texas

9. Harlingen, Texas

This city’s population is 65,000. Fifty-six percent work, and thirty percent reside in poverty. The city is hot and does not get much rainfall. However, in recent years, it has dealt with flooding. It is among the three cities where two thousand immigrants were released in 2019, which placed pressure on the town to assist them. Its rate of crime is higher than 86.7 percent of cities in the U.S.A. It has many low-income areas, and the poverty rate is high. Many of its citizens have problems related to substance abuse. The city has a low cost of living, and some residents are affluent.

Cleveland, Ohio

8. Cleveland, Ohio

According to Forbes, the inhabitants of Cleveland endure harsh winters, a tortured sports history, and high crime. Cleveland also has hefty taxes, dismal weather, mediocre sports teams, and corruption. In 2019, Cleveland had the highest poverty rate among the large cities in the U.S.A. The city’s overall poverty rate fell from 33.1 to 30.8 percent. There has also been an increase in the number of seniors living in poverty. The number of individuals over 65 living in poverty grew to 22.7 percent. Many people have chosen to migrate out of the city. Over the last five years, 71,000 people migrated out of the city.

Reading, Pennsylvania

7. Reading, Pennsylvania

About 88,495 people live in Reading. About 62 percent of the population works, and 36 percent live in poverty. The New York Times reported that it was the poorest city in the United States in 2011. The economy struggled after factories downsized or closed down, leading to layoffs. About 44 percent of households live on food stamps. Reading has an unemployment rate of 12.9 percent, meaning that about 13 out of 100 people lack jobs. These people are likely living below the poverty line. The median home value is $73,200, indicating a low demand for homes because few people want to live there. The city is not ideal for raising a family. In addition, the yearly household income is $32,176 and has high crime reports. Over the last decade, many Hispanics have moved into the city from large cities drawn by the promise of a better life and cheaper rent. This raised the flagging population and reinforced its already acute issues with education. Problems hit young men because they have to compete for jobs, ceasing to work and leaving women to support their kids. The economy makes it more difficult for even young individuals with a bachelor’s degree.

Hallandale Beach, FL

6. Hallandale Beach, FL

About 40,000 people live in Hallandale Beach, and 60 percent of them are working. Twenty percent of the residents live in poverty. Over 29 percent of people do not have health insurance. The city also has numerous strip clubs and has earned the nickname Hound-ale Beach. The city also lacks diversity because its population is mainly Hispanic. NBC Miami claims that twenty percent of its population lives in poverty.

Anderson, Indiana

5. Anderson, Indiana

About 55,000 people live in Anderson, but it lost two percent from 2010 to 2018. Fifty-six percent of the residents are employed, and one-quarter reside in poverty. Things deteriorated when General Motors, which had twenty-four factories, closed them, and 23,000 individuals were laid off. The city’s residents also deal with blight. In 2015, the city received 2.8 million dollars to tear down a hundred abandoned homes, and hundreds of more homes could have qualified.

Port Arthur, TX

4. Port Arthur, TX

Oil refineries surround this city, which has a population of 55,000 residents. Fifty-three percent have jobs, and thirty percent reside in poverty. In the years 2005, 2008, and 2017, many hurricanes hit the city. The latest hurricane to hit it was Harvey, and it caused $1.3 billion in destruction, according to WSJ. Officials fear that if many people keep leaving the city, its population will fall below 50,000 individuals, which will render it ineligible for federal grants.

Detroit, Michigan

3. Detroit, Michigan

The city’s population is about 672,000. Beginning from 2010 to 2018, it lost about six percent of the population. Fifty-four percent of the city’s population work, but thirty-eight percent are poor. The median household income in the city is $27,838. The city lost a majority of its residents between 1950 and 1980. This occurred because of the collapse of the manufacturing industry. Detroit has about 43,000 abandoned homes, struggles with blight, and is among the most dangerous cities.

Putnam, Texas

2. Putnam, Texas

This city has experienced a streak of hurricanes that have caused millions of dollars in destruction, leading many residents to move out. Storms hit the city in 2005, 2008, and 2017, causing 1.3 billion dollars in damage. The hurricanes flooded homes throughout the area. Thirty percent of the people live in poverty. A study claims that if people continue leaving the city, its population will be less than 50,000, rendering it ineligible for grants. There are many refineries here.

Gary, Indiana

1. Gary, Indiana

Gary has 75,000 residents, but it lost six percent from 2010 to 2018. About half of the population works, and thirty-six percent live in poverty. Gary was once a manufacturing mecca, but this is no longer the case. The city has many murders and drug use cases. In addition, jobs dried up, and many whites left. Now, about eighty-four percent of people who reside in the city are African American. Gary is trying to revitalize the area, which includes selling abandoned homes at very low prices.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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