New Jersey’s beaches, midlands, and mountains are beautiful. They attract millions of tourists every year. Some of those tourists end up becoming so enamored by the attractions of the Garden State, they never leave. Which is understandable… New Jersey has a lot of great things going for it. But nowhere is completely immune to problems, New Jersey included. For every exclusive, glitzy beachside community, there’s a trouble spot. In some of New Jersey’s less salubrious destinations, unemployment and poverty rates are skyrocketing, while crime, drug dealing, and other nefarious activities are getting worse by the day. If you’re considering packing up and heading to New Jersey, there are a few places you might want to think long and hard about before moving in. To help you narrow down your options, we’ve rounded up the 20 worst places to live in New Jersey. Here, in ascending order, they are.
When it comes to crime, Buena isn’t actually doing too badly at all. In fact, it’s doing very well for itself, with statistics putting its crime rate at almost 32% lower than the national average. So, why has it made our list? Because simply put, a good crime rate is about the only positive thing Buena has going for it. The unemployment is one of the worst in the state, the median income is among the lowest, and the median home value of just $180,600 smacks of a place no one wants to invest in.
19. Penns Grove
Penns Grove is a town in trouble. Its crime rate is a massive 73.14% higher than the US national average. Almost a third of its population lives below the poverty line. Its schools are some of the worst founded and worst-performing in the state. Unemployment is a giant 18%. The median income, by contrast, is a tiny $34,500. It’s poor, it’s dispirited, and it’s in desperate need of a good-news day.
Affordability might be nice, but you have to question the desirability of a place where the average home sells for just $86,000. Salem is just such a place. Spend a little time here, and you’ll soon understand why no one is prepared to pay a decent price for a home. For a start, there’s nothing here. Secondly, the job market is about as buoyant as a dead fish. Thirdly, 41.3% of the population lives below the poverty line. Fourthly, the median income is a minute $24,841. We could go on, but Salem clearly has enough problems to deal with without us adding to its woes.
17. Jersey City
Jersey City isn’t all bad, but it’s far from ideal. One of its worst crimes is the work/life balance it offers its residents. According to gobankingrates.com, it has the 3rd worst work/life balance in the country. Most residents spend almost 40 minutes commuting to work, leaving them little chance to enjoy the fruits of their labor…although considering that extends to a rather low median income of $62,739, maybe that’s not as bad as it seems.
16. Ashbury Park
Ashbury Park isn’t a place that could truthfully advertise itself as desirable. Incomes are low and unemployment rates are rocketing by the day. And as for the crime rate, it’s bad and getting worse. As app.com reports, gun shootings have surged in the past few years, with police blaming the increasing trend for young men, many of whom have had difficult upbringings, to join street gangs and settle disputes with guns. “These kids don’t have a direction,” Officer Butkoff tells the publication, adding “I don’t think they fully understand the danger they are creating.”
15. Laurel Lake
Laurel Lake… sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? It’s not. With one of the lowest median home values in New Jersey, a depressingly high poverty and unemployment rate, and a median income that comes in way below the national average, this isn’t the kind of place that many of us would choose to live willingly.
Trenton isn’t the worst place to live in New Jersey, for sure. New Jersey’s capital is big, bustling, and steeped in history. Unfortunately, it’s also steeped in plenty of other, less desirable things. Crime is rife – with a crime rate of 3,217 per 100 thousand residents, your chance of being a victim here is 1 in 32, 29% higher than the US average. And the bad news doesn’t stop there. The median income is a tiny $34,412 – 38% lower than the US average. The unemployment rate of 10% is 107% higher than the national average, while the median home value of $100,000 is 46% lower than the US average. Even more worryingly (at least as far as the future of the city is concerned), the high school graduation rate of 66% is a full 20% lower than the US average. School test scores are 65% lower. Time to pull your socks up, Trenton.
If you thought small towns were charming, you clearly haven’t come across the likes of Wildwood in your travels. Despite having just 5,042 residents to its names, it’s got more problems than a city three times its size. For a start, there’s the crime. How many crimes can happen in such a small population, you might ask? Judging by FBI data, an awful lot more than you might think. According to the statistics, Wildwood is the second biggest hub of crime in New Jersey. If that wasn’t enough for unlucky residents to deal with, they’re also blighted by one of the worst unemployment figures in New Jersey – according to homefacts.com, unemployment hit an all-time of 26.9% in April 2020 before dropping to a slightly lower but still depressing figure in the second half of the year. Equally depressing (although perhaps unsurprising), almost 20% of the population live below the poverty line. It’s poor, it’s crime-riddled, and all in all, it’s really not the kind of place you want to call home.
Linden scores dismally across almost every variable. Crime is high (your chance of getting robbed is a massive in 1 in 34.4). The unemployment rate of 7.2% is one of the highest in the state, and the average home price is one of the lowest. The commuting time is one of the longest in NJ, with most people spending an average 30.60 minutes every day commuting to work.
Vineland has a crime rate of 38 per one thousand residents, giving it one of the highest crime rates in America compared to all communities of all sizes – from the smallest towns to the very largest cities. Not great, is it, especially when you consider that it gives residents a one in 26 chance of being a victim of either violent or property crime. Unless you like the idea of becoming just another statistic, you might want to choose somewhere else to live.
10. Atlantic City
Back in 2015, onlyinyourstate.com ranked Atlantic City as one of the most dangerous places in the state. In the five years since, not a lot has improved. Crime is still rife, problems are escalating, and beneath the glitz and glamour of this popular tourist destination, is a city struggling to find its place.
If you like the idea of having a well-paid job, don’t move to Woodbine. Boasting an unemployment rate of a massive 7.9% and a median income of a tiny $36,667, Woodbine’s job market isn’t exactly what you’d describe as hot… something that may or may not explain why over 27% of this small town’s population are living in poverty.
Plainfield has 50,362 residents. It’s a regional hub for Central New Jersey and a sleeper suburb of New York. It’s got plenty of recreational opportunities, shops, nightclubs, and bars. It’s even got a handful of libraries, galleries, and cultural sights. But that’s where the good news ends. With an unemployment rate of 7.9%, a median income that just scrapes past the poverty line, and a crime rate that ranks as one of the worst in the state, Plainfield isn’t the kind of place many people would willingly spend their day, let alone their lives.
7. Long Branch
There are worse places to live than Long Branch, but you’ll have your work cut out finding them. After all, how many places can compete with an unemployment rate that’s pushing 8%? Or a median income that’s one of the lowest in New Jersey? Or a crime rate that gives you a 1 in 48.8 chance of being robbed and a 1 in 279 chance of being attacked, assaulted, raped, or even murdered? Thankfully, not many.
6. Seabrook Farms
Seabrook Farms is one of the worst small towns in New Jersey. It’s not hard to see how they’ve come to their conclusions. For a start, there’s the fact that most households are drawing the tiny median income of $35,083. Secondly, 34.6% of the population is living in poverty. No matter what else is has going for it, it’s always going to be hard to see the bright side of a town where a third of its residents are struggling to put bread on the table.
Camden might have enough shops, bars, and restaurants to keep its 74,002 residents entertained, but you’ll find precious few people that can afford to visit them. With an unemployment rate of 12.9% and a median income that ranks way below the national average, most Camden residents can barely afford the necessities of life, let alone the luxuries. The crime rate is, quite frankly, abysmal, while the fact that 36.4% of the population live below the poverty line is a stain on New Jersey’s conscience.
4. Egg Harbor City
Like the idea of living in a small, friendly, charming town in the Garden State? Then whatever you do, don’t hitch your wagon to Egg Harbor City. It may tick the box on ‘small,’ but as for everything else, forget it. This small but uncharming town has a dire unemployment rate of over 14%, a poverty rate of almost 20%, and a crime rate that’s 22% above the national average. If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s basically nothing to do here, with even the most basic kinds of amenities being short on the ground.
If you want to live somewhere safe and affluent, you might want to give Bridgeton a miss. With the 3rd highest unemployment rate in New Jersey, the 4th lowest median income, and the 8th worst crime rate, it’s not the kind of place many of us would consider desirable. As an added kick in the teeth, the commuting time is one of the longest in the state.
First up, a positive. Lindenwold doesn’t have the worst crime rate in New Jersey. Its schools are also far better than those in many comparatively sized cities. And there endeth the good news. The unemployment rate in this city of 17,320 residents is a massive 7%. Median incomes are depressingly low at just $45,789 a year, while the average property price is a tiny $124,200. All in all, Lindenwold is a city that’s in desperate need of a makeover.
Unless you’re happy to live in a city with one of the worst unemployment rates in New Jersey, you might want to avoid Newark. The largest city in New Jersey is also one of its most jobless – a massive 11.3% of the population is unemployed. Just to put that in perspective, that’s more than double the US average. Even those lucky enough to have a job aren’t exactly living in style, with most households pulling in the distinctly below-average income of just $35,199 – over $20,000 less than the US average. Crime isn’t quite as bad as it is in some other places, but it still manages to fall within the bottom 5% percent.