Arkansas is located in the Deep South, and while it offers some beautiful recreation, not all areas are the same. In fact, quite a few cities are plagued with high crime, problems with education, and more.
Whether you’re moving to Arkansas or you’re relocating from one city to another, it’s important to know what the various areas have to offer – and if they’re going to offer you favorable living conditions.
To help you learn more about the areas to stay away from, we’ve compiled a list of 20 of the worst places to live in Arkansas.
The worst places to live in Arkansas have been identified by considering a number of different sources. We consider such things as crime rates, graduation rates, employment rates, and more. This allows us to provide a full picture of life in a particular location.
With 75 counties across Arkansas, we look at how many are ranked in the areas of crime and education, too – which helps us with our own ranking.
We have relied on a number of sources:
Educational statistics: We use sites like Stacker.com and others to determine percentages of the population with degrees and with less than a diploma.
Crime rates: Sites such as Property Club and other crime sites will help us look at the cities that are highest in property and violent crime.
Government websites: These sites allow us to learn about unemployment rates and economic standings.
With as many facts as possible about the various cities, we have ranked the 20 worst cities in Arkansas to help you decide where you may want to move within the state.
Marianna is the county seat of Lee County, Arkansas. Unfortunately, Lee County ranks as one of the worst counties regarding education. About 24% of the population has less than a high school diploma, and only about 10% has a bachelor’s degree or higher.
The population is dropping within the city, which likely has to do with the educational opportunities and the entire economic outlook. There simply aren’t many job opportunities nearby. During the 2010 census, the population was 4,115. By 2018, it had dwindled down to a bleak 3,477.
With the area only about 3.6 square miles, many people find that bigger cities boast bigger opportunities and more earning possibilities.
Fayetteville is a town in Washington County with a population of 83,736 residents. Although Fayetteville is not in the top 20 most dangerous places for violent crimes, it is one of the most dangerous places to live in terms of property crimes. In fact, Neighborhood Scout places the total crime index at a 3 (with 100 being the safest).
The risk of becoming a victim of property crime puts many people off living in this location. However, the area has many positive features if you can overcome the crime issue. For example, there are highly-rated public schools, a diverse community, and various activities to enjoy in the area.
Alma is a town in Crawford County that is home to under 6,000 people. The town ranks where it is because of crime – both property and violence. It’s also important to note that it can suffer some colder winter temperatures with snow and ice. This can make it difficult to travel on the roads, and some businesses and schools may even close due to extreme weather in the winter, according to The Weather Channel.
Other issues in Alma include a lack of job opportunities and few outdoor activities in the area. On the other hand, there are some positive elements of living in Alma, as the public schools are above average, the community is diverse, and there are decent transport links.
The crime rates in Wynne deter people from living in the city. Based on FBI statistics over the last reporting year, Wynne ranked 12th in the state for violent crime and 22nd for property crime, resulting in the city ranking in the 17th position overall.
There are also many other issues in Wynne that make it one of the worst places to live in Arkansas. Employment opportunities are limited, transport links are poor, and outdoor activities and nightlife are lacking. Additionally, education is lacking, so approximately 16.4% of the population does not have a high school diploma.
Paragould makes it to the list because of its high crime rate. It has the 9th highest crime rate according to Property Club. The population of only 29,000 has proven to be filled with those who don’t have the best of intentions – especially when you consider the city’s crime rate is about 112% higher than the average in the nation. The most common crimes include burglaries and vehicle thefts, though violent crimes also include assault and robbery.
Crime isn’t the only reason Paragould lands on Arkansas's list of the worst places to live. Poverty is relatively high and affects a large percentage of the population – and this is made worse by the lack of employment opportunities. Most residents earn an average of 27% below the national average. This makes it even harder for some people because Paragould was recently listed as one of the more expensive cities in the state, with the cost of living being about 11% higher than the state average.
The city, which is located in Greene County, only has 16.2% of its population with a bachelor’s degree or higher – and 11.8% have less than a high school diploma, based on Stacker.com.
15. Fort Smith
Fort Smith is a town in Sebastian County with a population of 87,639, says Niche. The main reason that Fort Smith is on this list is the high crime rates, as it is the 13th most dangerous place to live in Arkansas.
Property crimes are the biggest issue, as Fort Smith has the 9th most property crimes in the state. However, there are also some good points about this location, which is why it does not rank further up the list of Arkansas's worst places to live.
The public schools are highly rated; there is community diversity, and many leisure activities for people to enjoy in the area. Many find that there are plenty of job opportunities, which is why the unemployment rate sits only at 3.4%, compared to the national average of 3.7%.
According to BestPlaces, Fort Smith has a cost of living index of 76.7, which is cheaper than the national average of 100. However, it is considered more expensive than other parts of Arkansas, so many people within the state view the cost of living as high, so it’s all about perspective.
Trumann is considered an undesirable place to live as it is Arkansas's tenth most dangerous location. Trumann’s significant increase in crime rates means it has risen up the ranks of the most undesirable locations in the state.
It is not a great place to live for families, as there is a lack of family-oriented activities to enjoy, and the public schools are rated as significantly below average. Poinsett County ranks #7 in the least educated cities, with about 11% of the population over 25 not earning at least a high school diploma.
For the most part, there’s simply not a lot happening in Trumann – for entertainment or for employment. As such, many people in town drive to Jonesboro, the nearest “large” city, for work. That can result in longer commute times and more money spent on gas.
Jacksonville is a suburb of Little Rock with a population of under 29,000 residents. Both property crimes and violent crimes have continued to rise in Jacksonville over the last few years, so it is now considered one of the most dangerous places to live in Arkansas.
According to Neighborhood Scout, it is only safer than 2% of the neighborhoods in the US. The property and violent crimes are higher in Arkansas than the nation as a whole – and Jacksonville is twice as dangerous as Arkansas as a whole.
Crime is not the only issue in Jacksonville, as the schools are well below par, and there is a lack of activities for residents to enjoy in the area. It leads people to travel into Little Rock to take advantage of anything. It’s one of the reasons why the unemployment rate is about 1% higher than the national average.
12. Forrest City
In the past, Forrest City was not considered an overly dangerous place to live. In fact, property crimes have continuously decreased over the last few years.
The reason that Forrest City is now higher on the list is because the violent crime rates have seen a significant increase. Residents of the city now have a one in 112 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime, such as rape, assault, or even murder.
Forrest City doesn’t have much to offer its residents. While it has a population of 12,900, there isn’t much to do. The city gained its notoriety during the Civil War. It offers a sports complex and some convention facilities, but that’s about it.
It’s likely that it is even remotely popular because of its central location between Little Rock and Memphis – and it’s not uncommon for residents to choose one of those major cities to commute to in order to find better (and higher paying) employment opportunities.
11. Little Rock
Little Rock makes it onto the list of the worst places to live in Arkansas as it is the most dangerous place to live in the state, says Only In Your State. The city contributes significantly to Arkansas being ranked as one of the more dangerous cities in the United States
As the state’s capital, it has a population of 201,998. It’s not uncommon for state capitals and highly populated areas of any city to be filled with crime, and Little Rock has certainly garnered that reputation.
In terms of violent crime, Little Rock is the second most dangerous place in Arkansas, and there is a one in 69 chance of becoming a victim of violent crime. With such high risks attached to living in Little Rock, it may seem surprising that almost 200,000 people have chosen to live in the state capital.
US News adds that Little Rock isn’t a great city, either, because of the weather. While the city does experience all four seasons, there are severe weather events such as hail storms and tornadoes.
Hope is perhaps an ambitious name for this city, as its residents have very little hope of a good lifestyle while living there. It is in Hempstead County, and it only has 9,847 residents – and the population is decreasing on a regular basis.
The unemployment rate is relatively high at 6.2 percent, and Hope has the seventh-worst median home value in the state. Property crime is also high, as residents have a one in 25 chance of becoming a victim of this type of crime.
There’s even more bad news for anyone considering a move to Hope, Arkansas. Another one of the reasons why it’s one of the worst cities to live in Arkansas is that the poverty rate is very high – 28%, according to World Population Review.
9. El Dorado
Some people may argue that a low cost of living is a positive feature of an area, but low house prices usually reflect a lack of demand. With the median house value at $89,600, the property prices in El Dorado are significantly lower than the state average.
Median household income is also low, and 8.9 percent of the people are unemployed. Crime is also an issue, as El Dorado has one of the highest crime rates in Arkansas overall. Crime sites at 103% above the national average, too.
One of the biggest complaints about the city is found on Niche.com, with the area not being kid-friendly. This has to do with the small population and the minimal attractions that are found in and around the area.
On the plus side, the public schools in El Dorado are above average. In fact, when it comes to the education level, a large number of people have at least a high school diploma, and over 30% of the population has a Bachelor’s degree or higher.
8. Pine Bluff
Pine Bluff is one of the largest cities on the list in terms of population, as it is home to almost 44,000 people. It is surprising that so many people want to live there as there are many factors that make this a bad place to live.
Perhaps the most significant issue in Pine Bluff is the depressing unemployment rate of 13 percent, Arkansas's highest unemployment rate.
This city also ranks as one of the more dangerous places to live in the state, as it has high violent crime rates and property crime rates. Furthermore, the schools are poor, and leisure options are limited.
Why would anyone choose to live here, then? Well, the cost of living is extremely low compared to other places in Arkansas and the nation. BestPlaces lists it as an index of 67.9 – and a median home cost of only about $80,200.
It is Newport’s economy that makes this an undesirable location. Newport has one of the lowest median household incomes in Arkansas, and the unemployment rate is high at 7.3 percent.
A combination of high unemployment and low wages means that 30.1 percent of this city’s residents live below the poverty line. Property prices are also low, as the median house price in Newport is $76,700, which is the third lowest in the state and reflects the area’s lack of desirability. Furthermore, Newport has the 12th worst crime index in the state.
The population is a measly 7800, so anyone who wants to enjoy a “bigger city” feel will find that they have to drive quite a distance – almost an hour to Jonesboro and even further to either Little Rock or Memphis.
6. Hot Springs
Hot Springs is home to just under 37,000 people, though it experiences a significant amount of tourism because of the national park of the same name. It’s actually quite a tourist destination for those looking for spa getaways.
Beyond the tourist attractions, the outlook is rather bleak. The median household income is a little over $34,000 a year. Approximately nine percent of the residents are out of work, which is the ninth-worst unemployment rate in Arkansas.
Crime rates are also significant in Hot Springs, but they are not the area’s biggest problem – it’s the fact that there aren’t a lot of job opportunities. Due to tourism, the area is considered sought after, so the median home price is considerably higher than elsewhere in the state, but it’s still considered 17% lower in housing than the national average, based on Payscale.com data.
On the other hand, Hot Springs is home to some of the higher-rated public schools in the area.
Osceola has a higher median household income than most other cities on this list, which is the only reason the city does not rank higher in the worst places to live.
Despite the reasonable median household income, almost 12 percent of the residents are unemployed, which is the third-worst unemployment rate in Arkansas. Also, Osceola also ranks seventh overall for combined violent and property crime rates, so it is not a safe place to reside.
It only gets worse when you look at the education. It’s considered one of the lesser-educated counties in the state. Stacker.com shows that about 13.8% of the population over the age of 25 has a bachelor’s degree. Combine that with 18.9% of the population having less than a high school diploma, and it’s easy to see why the unemployment is high…and, in turn, the crime.
Blytheville’s combined property and violent crime rate is one of the highest in Arkansas, so it is not a safe place to live. There is a one in 17.1 risk of being robbed if you live in this city. It’s located east of the state, only about 60 miles from West Memphis, where even more crime occurs.
Crime is not the only reason that Blytheville is an undesirable place to live. At 10.2 percent, it has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. Also, the median household income is barely above the poverty line.
Additionally, the city struggles with such things as poorly rated schools. As such, those who are growing up in the city are likely not to earn a high income, leading to a perpetual problem of low income and high unemployment.
3. Helena-West Helena
Employment opportunities are limited in Helena-West Helena, which is a big issue for its 10,000 residents – and the population is declining, likely because it’s not one of the best places to live in Arkansas. It means that 12.2 percent of the population is out of work, and this is the second-worst unemployment rate in Arkansas.
The median household income and house value are significantly below the state average, which are signs of the area’s poor economy. Crime is another problem, as Helena-West Helena has the fourth-highest violent crime rates and the 14th-highest property crime rates in Arkansas.
Beyond crime and unemployment, you have to look at what there is for fun – and you won’t find much of it. Trip Advisor lists such things as cultural centers and historic houses as the “best things to do,” which, if you have a family, isn’t too exciting. It means that if you are raising a family, Helena-West Helena may not be the place for you to do it.
In recent years, Camden has consistently ranked in Arkansas's top five worst places to live. Crime is one of the city’s biggest issues, as the crime rates are seemingly rising. Unemployment is another issue, as seven percent of residents are out of work.
Perhaps the most striking statistic about Camden is that a whopping 31.4 percent of its residents live below the poverty line. It is hardly surprising that Camden has the fourth-lowest median house value in the state, at $76,300.
Camden is found in Ouachita County – which also finds itself on lists as one of the lower-educated counties in Arkansas. Very few people have anything higher than a Bachelor’s degree…and close to 14% of its residents don’t even have a high school diploma. It means that earnings are low, which explains the poverty level.
1. West Memphis
According to Road Snacks, the worst place to live in Arkansas is West Memphis, which has a population of just over 25,000 people. There are two main reasons that this city is considered an undesirable place to live.
First, it has the highest crime rate in the state according to Property Club. With it being so dangerous, many people don’t want to raise a family here. Violent crimes include murder, assault, and robbery. Violent crime is actually so high that it’s 597% higher than the US national average.
Second, the unemployment rate is high at 10.9 percent, which means West Memphis has one of the highest unemployment rates in Arkansas.
The only thing the city has going for is the cost of living, which sits at 75.9 on the index. Housing and groceries are lower than both the state and national average – but the crime is so high that it makes you want to think twice about moving here.
The entire area around West Memphis isn’t much better. Just down the road is Marion, which has been one of our top 10 worst places to live in Arkansas in the past.
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Written by Liz Flynn
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