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The 20 Worst Places to Live in Massachusetts

Springfield, Mass.

If you're planning a move to the most populous New England state, Massachusetts – what part of the state would meet your and your family’s needs?

Massachusetts is rooted in the bedrock of American history and is home to some of the oldest and finest institutions of education. On its eastern shores is the state capital and largest city – Boston, the urban core of New England’s largest metro area. Just south of Bean Town is Plymouth Rock/Plymouth Colony (Mayflower’s Pilgrims circa 1620 home), Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and the infamous Kennedy family compound.

Springfield and Holyoke are the larger cities in the western sections of the state, which are home to the Berkshire Mountains, Tanglewood Music Festival, and many spiritual retreats.

Based on the state’s diverse offerings, there are both desirable and non-desirable places to live in the nearly 10,600 square miles within the borders of Massachusetts. So, which are the worst places to live in Massachusetts?  Our ranked list of the worst places to live in the Bay State is noted below.

Our Methodology

Identifying the worst places to live in Massachusetts requires the review of objective data regarding factors that have a high potential of impacting one’s quality of life. The analysis applied violent and property crime per capita statistics for each Massachusetts location that had more than 4,000 residents.

  • The source of these crime metrics was the FBI's Crime Data Explorer, a comprehensive database created by the National Incident-Based Reporting System.
    • Massachusetts had 19,964 violent crimes (rape, robbery, aggravated assault, homicide, etc.) in 2022.
    • Massachusetts had 77,636  property crime incidents reported in 2022.
  • Poverty rates for Massachusetts cities were obtained from Data USA, Census.gov, and World Population Review.
  • Current population data for our analysis based on the worst towns in Massachusetts was obtained from Neighborhood Scout’s most recent data.

Below, we have listed our ranking of the 20 worst places to live in Massachusetts as determined by the overall quality of life based on crime rates gathered from lists noted by Neighborhood Scout’s Violent Crime and Area Vibes. However, other pertinent data was also used in the final analysis – population employment prospects, median home values, public education quality, affordability, and more.

The 20 Worst Places to Live in Massachusetts

These are the Massachusetts cities and towns it will likely be best to avoid -

20. Fitchburg

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 4.55
  • Population (2023) – 41,502
  • Poverty Rate – 13.9%

Fitchburg, according to Roadsnacks, is among one of the less desirable places to live in Massachusetts but was once a bustling Mill Town. Located in the northcentral part of the state, along the Nashua River (near the New Hampshire border), Fitchburg’s violent crime rate – especially rape statistics, exceeds the state and national average, with a 1 in 220 chance of becoming a victim.

19. Memorial Square

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 5.024
  • Population (2023) – 4,372
  • Poverty Rate – 9.2%

Memorial Square refers to a small historic district within the city of Springfield that is listed on the National Registers. Area Vibes has given it an F score for this location’s crime rate, employment opportunities, and public school system. In fact, this part of Springfield has a crime rate (equivalent to a chance of 1 in 24) that is 32% higher than Springfield’s overall crime rate. The unemployment rate in this Massachusetts location is 10%, which is nearly four times the state average at the end of 2023.

18. South End

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 5.06
  • Population (2023) – 12,527
  • Poverty Rate – 30%

South End is a town in Hampden County near Springfield, the largest city in western Massachusetts. South End’s history is showcased by the many architectural styles within the town limits that reflect the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With about 1 in 3 residents living at or below the established poverty level, South End is facing some rough times, which places it on the list of the 20 worst places to live in Massachusetts.

17. Lawrence

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 5.06
  • Population (2023) – 87,954
  • Poverty Rate – 19.21%

Lawrence is located in Essex County – about 25 miles north of Boston and reflected in the statistical metropolitan area surrounding Boston. Located along the Merrimack River, Lawrence was once a textile giant but now faces serious crime and poverty rates. Violent crime rates – at a 1 in 198 chance, are more than 50 percent above state levels, and assaults are committed at a rate nearly twice the Massachusetts average. The number of crimes per square mile in Lawrence is nearly ten times the state level at 168.  

16. Chicopee

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 5.47
  • Population (2023) – 54,980
  • Poverty Rate – 14.55%

Chicopee is a medium-sized city in Hampden County. It is situated on the Connecticut River and is part of the Springfield metropolitan area. Violent crimes exceed national and state levels, with rape incidents 50% higher than the country’s level. Property crime rates are 80% higher than state averages, with a 1 in 53 chance of being victimized. Both poverty rates and crimes per square mile exceed the Massachusetts average, which makes Chicopee a ranking member of the 20 worst places to live in Massachusetts.

15. Worcester

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 6.23
  • Population (2023) – 205,319
  • Poverty Rate –19.3%

Worcester is New England's second-largest city and another of the college cities/towns on the east coast. Although Worcester is known as the heart of the Commonwealth due to its central location, its violent crime and property crime levels exceed state crime levels. The poverty rate for residents of one of the worst places to live in Massachusetts is nearly twice the state average.

14. New Bedford

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 6.31
  • Population (2023) – 100,682
  • Poverty Rate – 18.68%

New Bedford refers to a coastal city in Bristol County and is well known for its fishing fleet and profitable seafood industry. However, crime rates in the south coast/bay area of Massachusetts. Violent crime rates – including robberies, for New Bedford approach a level twice that of the state and 50% higher than national averages. Residents have a 1 in 64 chance of becoming property crime victims in New Bedford, and the incident rate of crime/square mile is 109 or five times the state level.

13. Lynn

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 6.58
  • Population (2023) – 100,891
  • Poverty Rate – 10.9%

Lynn is a larger city in Essex County along the Atlantic Ocean that is located only a few miles north of Boston and is therefore considered part of the metro urban core. It is the state’s 5th oldest settlement but is facing serious violent crime issues, with residents having a 1 in 152 of becoming a violent crime statistic. Murder and robbery rates in Lynn both exceed national levels, and the city’s crime per square mile is 161, or about eight times the incident rate for all of Massachusetts.

12. Boston

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 6.60
  • Population (2023) – 650,706
  • Poverty Rate – 17.5%

Boston is the state’s largest and one of the most popular cities for tourism in the state, known affectionately as Bean Town. It's loaded with fascinating historical sites, entertainment venues, and some amazing choices to dine in. Boston, like most urban centers, has a serious violent crime problem, with a poverty rate that far exceeds the state and national levels. Residents experience robbery, assault, and murder rates higher than national averages. The city’s crime per square mile statistic is a staggering 345, or 18+ times the state average.

11. Brockton

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 6.79
  • Population (2023) – 104,826
  • Poverty Rate – 11.5%

Brockton, which is often called the City of Champions, is located in eastern Massachusetts in Plymouth County. It is home to two successful boxers, Marvin Hagler and Rocky Marciano. This city south of Boston has serious violent crime rates – that are twice the state level. Assault, murder, and rape statistics all exceed national levels. Property crime and crime/square mile metrics make it one of the worst towns in Massachusetts.

10. Pittsfield

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 7.53
  • Population (2023) – 43,310
  • Poverty Rate – 12.71%

Pittsfield is the third largest city in Western Massachusetts and is the county seat of Berkshire County, not far from the state’s border with upstate New York. The most dangerous sections of Pittsfield are Morningdale and downtown. The violent crime for Pittsfield is significantly high, with a 1 in 133 chance of becoming a victim. Each category of violent crime (murder, robbery, assault, rape) in Pittsfield exceeds national averages.

9. Chelsea

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 8.15
  • Population (2023) – 38,637
  • Poverty Rate – 22.47%

The small city of Chelsea is located in Suffolk County, across the Mystic River from Boston. It is also considered the state’s smallest city, covering just 2.5 square miles. Violent crime rates in Chelsea are about 2.5 times the state average, and the poverty rate is exceptionally high. Given the dense population in Chelsea and the high crime rates, it should come as no surprise that the crime per square mile statistic for Chelsea is a remarkable 457 – 24 times the Massachusetts average.

8. Springfield

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 8.69
  • Population (2023) – 154,064
  • Poverty Rate – 26.3%

Springfield is situated along the banks of the Connecticut River and is the largest city in western Massachusetts and the third largest in the state after Boston and Worcester. Violent crime rates in Springfield are 2.5 times the state level, with residents having a 1 in 115 chance of being victimized in Springfield.

7. Pine Point

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 9.38
  • Population (2023) – 11,260
  • Poverty Rate – N/A

Pine Point is a neighborhood in Springfield that ranks among the worst places to live in Massachusetts, mostly due to its exceptionally high crime rates. Another indicator that Pine Point is not a place to set down roots is that the real estate market appears stagnant or even depressed, with a median real estate price of $201,178 – which translates to a median value of less than 98.4% of Massachusetts neighborhoods.

6. Holyoke

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 9.65
  • Population (2023) – 37,720
  • Poverty Rate – 26.5%

Holyoke is considered a planned industrial city - located in western Massachusetts, about 8 miles from Springfield. The city lies on the Connecticut River, and it has seen some recent rough times with regard to crime and poverty. Property crime is nearly four times the state average.

5. Fall River

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 9.98
  • Population (2023) – 93,682
  • Poverty Rate – 19%

Fall River  - home of Lizzie Borden, has been trying to improve upon its reputation. The chances of becoming the victim of a Fall River property or violent crime are 1 in 25. Violent crime rates rise to an astonishing 1 in 100 chance of being victimized in Fall River. Nearly 20% of the population lives at or below the poverty level.

4. North Adams

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 10.17
  • Population (2023) – 12,777
  • Poverty Rate – 14.2%

North Adams is a city in Berkshire County and home to the largest contemporary art museum in the country, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Crime remains a problem for this small community in western Massachusetts. The murder rate in this small city is nearly three times the national average.

3. Old Hill (Springfield)

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 13.37
  • Population (2023) – 4,602
  • Poverty Rate – 36.3%

Area Vibes lists Old Hill among the worst places to live in Massachusetts due to extremely high poverty and violent crime rates, where Old Hill residents have a 1 in 98 chance of being a violent crime victim.  Even property crime is high in North Adams, with a 1 in 41 chance of being a victim.

2. McNight and Bay (Springfield)

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 14.32
  • Population (2023) – 5,282
  • Poverty Rate –33.3%

McKnight and Bay refer to an urban neighborhood in Springfield that ranks among the city’s smallest – with the highest variety of Victorian Homes outside the greater metro Boston area. Its high crime rates make it a poor choice for a family, but the neighborhood comes in at #2 on our list of the worst towns in Massachusetts.

1. Maple High-Six Corners

  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 16.97
  • Population (2023) – 6,151
  • Poverty Rate – N/A

Maple High in Springfield ranks as THE WORST place to live in Massachusetts. In addition to having the state’s worst violent crime level, Maple High-Six Corners’ schools are poorly performing and have been deteriorating for some time. Area Vibes ranks the overall livability of this neighborhood as poor.

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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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