When you think of Minnesota, your mind probably turns to gorgeous scenery, lakes, friendly people, and hockey. Because Minnesota is a nice state, right? A nice state with nice people and nice things. And by and large, it is.
But nowhere is perfect. In some of Minnesota's towns and cities, there's a seedy underbelly to all that niceness that's far from appealing. If you're considering packing up and relocating to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, there are a few little things you need to know about first.
If you want to keep your wealth, your safety, your job prospects, and your happiness intact, you're going to need to scratch beneath the surface and look at the cold, hard facts. Alternatively, you could let someone else do your homework for you.
To help out, we've dug around the dirt, reviewed the crime stats, examined the unemployment rates, and picked through the evidence to decide which of the state's cities and towns are the most disreputable. If you want to live happily ever after, you might want to think twice before setting your sights on any of these 20 worst places to live in Minnesota.
Brainerd is a small city in Crow Wing County, Minnesota, that's oozing with small-town charm and surrounded by some of the best natural scenery in the state. So far, so good. But dig beneath the surface of this little city, and the picture's far from pretty.
Although the property crime rate comes in at a fairly respectable 3,380 incidents per 100,000 people, the real problem is violent crime. With 455 crimes per 100,000 people, no amount of scenery and pleasantness is going to distract from the fact that Brainerd is a surprisingly dangerous place to live.
Property prices in Fridley might be low for Minnesota, but you might want to resist the temptation of buying here if you value your savings. As well as boasting some of the lowest incomes in the Minneapolis metro area, the city has one of the worst unemployment rates in the region.
On the plus side, it's only around 8 miles from downtown Minneapolis, so if you do happen to have a bit of change in your pocket, you won't have to travel far to spend it.
Like to sleep safe in your bed at night? Then do yourself a favor and steer clear of Duluth. According to onlyinyourstate.com, the city has one of the highest crime rates of all Northern Minnesota's biggest cities. Based on the latest states, there are 358 violent crimes per 100,000 people. Property crimes are even more prevalent, with 4,286 incidents per 100,000 people.
If you'd rather keep your laptops, your mobiles, and your TV's to yourself, don't move to Maplewood. This Minneapolis suburb of 41,341 people has not only had the bad luck to be named one of the Twin Cities's worst suburbs by Road Snacks, it's also got a crime rate that's going to make your jaw drop. Last year, the city reported 1,627 larcenies.
The burglary rate is the 2nd highest in the state, giving residents a 1 in 19 chance of being the victim of a property crime. If all that wasn't bad enough, it's the 16th worst for uninsured people in the state and the 24th worst for income. It also has the 17th highest unemployment rate (4.56%) in the Minneapolis metro area.
16. West St. Paul
St Paul might be one of the worst places to live in Minnesota, but its little sister West St Paul is no great shakes either. Sat just a little south of St Paul, West St Paul has a sizeable community of 19,694 but a tiny space of just 5 square miles.
With everyone crammed together like sardines in a can, it's probably understandable why the crime rate is so high. Live here and your chances of being the victim of a property crime are a mammoth 1 in 14. While the violent crime rate is considerably lower, the city still manages to have the 7th highest murder rate in the state.
Patch.com ranks Anoka as one of the very worst places to live for families in Minnesota. Why? For a start, the crime rate. According to the latest FBI data, Anoka has a crime rate that is higher than 86% of the state's other cities and towns.
Not exactly a nice thought for families, right? Factor in the higher-than-average unemployment rate and you can see what made Patch come to its conclusion.
14. Spring Lake Park
Whatever life is in Spring Lake Park, it's not pretty. Not for all of its residents, anyway. 6.6% are out of work, making it the 5th worst city for unemployment in Minnesota.
Those that have managed to find a job are pulling in an average household income of $59,076 a year - not too shabby in comparison to some of the other entries on our list, but still the 49th worst in the state. The average home price of $176,900, meanwhile, is the 47th lowest in the state. If you want a decent quality of life, the message is clear: go somewhere else.
If you want to live within commuting distance of the thrills and spills of Minneapolis, you might think that the small suburb of Jordan is a good prospect. It's not. Not if you value your health, your wealth, and your happiness, in any case.
For a start, there's almost nothing to do here. And even if there were places to go and things to see, people wouldn't have the money to do either. The unemployment rate of 5.5% is one of the worst in the entire Minneapolis metro area. In more bad news, it's the 15% worst for insurance and the high school dropout is depressingly high.
Virginia is clearly a city in need of a lot of love right now. An Iron Range town with about 8,500 people, it boasts the 29th highest crime rate in the state, a rapidly shrinking population (numbers have decreased a massive 5% in the past decade), and the 2nd worst unemployment rate in the state (7.3% by the latest reckoning). On the plus side, you can buy a house here for the tiny price of just $88,200... although why you'd want to is anyone's guess.
11. Albert Lea
Albert Lea's residents probably don't take too kindly to the idea of their hometown being among the worst places to live in Minnesota. And in fairness, the city has a lot of positive things going for it.
There are two lakes, plenty of nice parks, and the whole caboodle of shops, restaurants, and recreational venues. It's even home to the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center. But all that good stuff doesn't negate the fact that the city's crime and economic problems are out of control. Residents here have a 1 in 38 chance of being the victim of a property crime.
The unemployment rate of 5.4% is 17th worst in the state. Property prices might be on the lower end at just $97,700, but with most households earning way below the median income, there's still plenty of folks struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments.
10. South St. Paul
The St Paul suburb of South St Paul isn't the kind of place you'd want to live if you value your job prospects. The unemployment rate is one of the worst in the Minneapolis metro area. Compared to the Minnesota standard, the average median income is no great shakes either.
If you're a man, you might not have too many problems in Glencoe. For women, it's a very different story. According to zippia.com, the city ranks as the worst city for women in Minnesota.
According to their research, women have an unpleasantly high chance of living in poverty and being uninsured. For every dollar that men make, women make just $0.58. Only 28.7% of management positions are held by women. In more bad news, 21.5% of the female population of the city are living below the poverty line.
8. Columbia Heights
There are more violent places to live in Minnesota than Columbia Heights. There are places you'll struggle more to find a job and in which you'll earn less if you do. But none of that makes it an attractive prospect.
Sure, you can find worse places, but considering it has the 45th worst crime stats in the state, a higher-than-average unemployment rate of 6.3%, and a median income that's languishing in the bottom percentile, you won't have too many problems in finding better either.
7. Waite Park
Waite Park may have a tiny population of just 7,623, but its crime numbers are huge. A massive 1 in 10 residents reported a property crime in 2020, putting the small city in contention for the most dangerous place in Minnesota. If that wasn't bad enough, the low property prices and low median income levels smack of an overall low standard of living.
6. Brooklyn Center
If you manage to find a job in Brooklyn Center, you're in luck. The median income in this city is by no means terrible. In fact, it's far better than what you earn in most of the other cities on our list. So, what's the problem? The problem is that finding a job here is harder than almost anywhere else in the state. The unemployment rate of 5.9% is the 12th worst in Minnesota. The crime rate is also far from pretty.
5. St. Cloud
Back in 2018, the Wall Street Journal named St. Cloud as the worst place to live in Minnesota. Of the cities it evaluated, St. Cloud had the highest poverty rate and highest annual unemployment rate.
It also had a rapidly shrinking population, losing residents faster than it was attracting them. Two years later, and the situation is still far from pretty. Unemployment is still high, poverty is still rocketing, and the crime rate, while not the worst in the state, is very far from ideal.
Minneapolis might be the most populous city in Minnesota. It might have some gorgeous parks and lakes. It might boast cultural landmarks like the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
The city might have world-class restaurants and first-rate shops. It might even have a bunch of very friendly people. But what it also has in spades is criminals. Yep, Minneapolis is the city where criminals go to make their living.
Minneapolis ranks at #1 for violent crime, with 793 violent crimes per 100,000 people. On the plus side, the property crime rate isn't too terrible, coming in at #9 worst in the state with 3,911 per 100,000 people.
Bemidji might be famous as the setting for 'Fargo,' but it's fast getting a reputation for something a lot more unsettling: crime. The home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox now ranks as one of the most dangerous cities in the state.
Crime rates from 2019 put your chance of being the victim of a property crime here at 1 in 13. The violent crime rate, meanwhile, is the third highest in Minnesota. If you value your safety and don't care to have your wallet stolen, steer clear.
Hawthorne has the disreputable distinction of being one of the most dangerous places to live in the entire state. The total crime rate is 448% higher than the US average.
Even more worryingly, violent crime is a mammoth 728% higher than in most comparatively sized communities across the nation. What does that mean in practice? It means that the residents of Hawthorne have a 1 in 8 chance of becoming a victim of crime. Whatever spin you put on it, those aren't great stats.
1. St. Paul
St Paul might claim to be the “The Most Livable City in America” but research suggests otherwise. The city is at the center of a huge crime wave. "Crime, especially violent crime like robbery and homicide, can greatly detract from the quality of life in any city.
In St. Paul, there were 651 violent crimes for every 100,000 people, more than double the violent crime rate of 238 incidents per 100,000 people across Minnesota as a whole,” the listing reads.
You can also read:
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn