Ohio has plenty to offer. It’s got beautiful scenery, world-class attractions, vibrant cities, and charming small towns. But nowhere is immune to 21st-century problems. In some of the state’s cities and towns, almost half the population is struggling to make ends meet. Unemployment is growing, while crime rates are rising to astronomical levels. Fortunately, there are plenty of other places to live where these problems aren’t a major concern. The trick is knowing which ones are which. If you’re considering relocating to the Buckeye State, don’t move a muscle until you’ve caught up with which of its communities rank among the 20 worst places to live in Ohio.
In 2012, The Globe and Mail described Springfield as the ‘unhappiest city’ in the US. A major part of the problem was attributed to a shrinking economy and growing job losses. In the 8 years since, not a lot has changed. Unemployment is still high, the poverty rate is still unpalatable, and crime is becoming increasingly problematic. It might not be the worst place in Ohio, but it’s certainly one of the most miserable.
With a poverty rate of 31.5 percent, an unemployment rate of 11.15 percent, and a relentlessly bleak job market, Canton ranks as one of the poorest cities in the US. Unsurprisingly, the bottom fell out of the property market a long time ago. Today, homeowners struggle to fetch more than $71,100 for their houses. The bad news doesn’t stop there. With 1398 violent crimes per 100 thousand residents and 5292 property crimes per 100 thousand residents, it’s one of the most crime-ridden cities in the state.
Geneva might be low on numbers (only 5,978 people lived there by the last count) but it’s high on most other things, including poverty, unemployment, and general misery. Live here, and there’s a 1 in 39.6 chance you’re going to get robbed in the next year. The chance of you landing a job is a little higher, but not by much – the unemployment rate of 9.1 percent is one of the highest in the state. Even those with a job are struggling to make ends meet, thanks to a tiny median income of just $36,000.
How does the sound of living somewhere with an unemployment rate of 11.2% strike you? Not much? What about a place with a median home value of $78,400? Still no? In that case, how about somewhere with the third-lowest median income in the Buckeye State and where you have to travel miles to find anything to do? Is it still a hard pass? In that case, you might want to avoid Portsmouth.
Zippia ranks Hillsboro as the worst place in Ohio to get a job. It ranks particularly poorly across variables such as recent job growth and future job growth. Its unemployment rate of 6.70% and median income of $34,058 probably don’t help matters, either. In other areas, Hillsboro isn’t performing too badly. Its crime rate isn’t terrible and its schools aren’t doing too badly. But even so, there’s no getting away from the fact that many people are struggling to make ends meet here.
Nelsonville is one of the oldest and most historic cities in the country. Its large stock of pre-World War II architecture certainly makes it worth a day trip. But if you were considering making your trip more permanent, forget it. Unless you like sky-high unemployment, rocketing poverty rates, and woefully low median incomes, there’s really no advantage to sticking around.
Moraine is a hard city to tolerate, let alone love. As well as having one of the worst crime rates in the state (in 2019, it reported more murders than any other city in Ohio), its schools are some of the worst-funded, its median income is one of the lowest, and its unemployment rate is one of the highest. Considering that property values are usually a good indicator of general desirability, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to learn the median home value in Moraine is a tiny $97,700.
In ‘Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis’, author J.D Vance details his childhood in Middleton. It makes for grim reading. As does Bristol Palin’s account of a visit to the city in her autobiography, ‘Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far.’ Whether or not you consider Bristol Palin an authority on that kind of thing (or anything else, for that matter) is, in this case, a moot point. Because the stats don’t lie. And the stat’s in Middletown’s case are far from pretty. 8.4% of the population are unemployed. The crime rate is 45% higher than the Ohio average. The median income of $40,347 is far short of the national average. The median home value is a fraction of the US median at just $97,700. Whichever way you look at it, it’s not a pretty picture.
12. New Carlisle
New Carlisle might be small, but it’s got big problems. For a start, there’s the fact that most households are struggling to make ends meet on a median income of just $44,583. Then there’s the fact that 17.5% of the population are living below the poverty line. Factor in a crime rate that’s out of control, an unemployment rate that’s creeping close to 7%, and the fact that there’s very little to do, and it’s easy to understand why people aren’t flocking to live here.
11. West Union
If the idea of living in a small town appeals, you might like the idea of living in West Union. With a population of just 3,231, it certainly passes the size test. But think twice before you start eyeing up its property market. With a poverty rate of 31.4%, an unemployment rate of 10.8%, and a median income that’s just a little above the poverty line, it’s not exactly oozing charm.
What’s so bad about Cleveland? To say everything would be facetious… but not entirely inaccurate. Its unemployment rate of 13.25% is one of the worst in the state. Its median income of $30,907 is so far below the national average, it’s almost a joke. The median home price of $69,600 is an indication of how little people want to live here and its crime rate is growing by the day. Its numbers, on the other hand, are doing the opposite: while the rest of the country’s population has expanded by 7.1 percent, Cleveland’s has shrunk by 2.4 percent. It might boast the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but that’s about the only thing Cleveland can boast about these days.
According to Home Snacks, Cincinnati has a poverty rate of 26.3 percent. If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s median income is just $40,640. But crime is where Cincinnati really falls down: as well as having the fifth-highest murder rate in Ohio (shockingly, one person is murdered in the city each week), it’s got one of the worst property crime rates in Ohio, with 4302 crimes reported per 100 thousand residents. If you value your safety, steer clear.
Wellston might not be the worst place in Ohio to live, but it’s far from ideal. Its real problems aren’t its unemployment rate (although at 10.1%, that’s bad enough) nor its crime rate. Neither is it the underfunded state of its schools, its desperately low median home value of $88,800, or its equally low median income of $39,318. It’s more the fact that there’s almost nothing to do here. Although none of those other things are exactly helping either.
Small town Pomeroy is in need of a lot of love right now. With a population of just 2000, it lacks all the essential ingredients to attract any more numbers to its ranks. Jobs are woefully short on the ground (hence an unemployment rate of 14.3% and a poverty rate of 34.8%) and amenities are even scarcer. No wonder homeowners are struggling to reach home values of more than $62,400.
According to Road Snacks, Chillicothe ranks as one of the most dangerous places to live in Ohio. In fairness, its violent crime rate isn’t terrible (although with 465 incidents reported per 100 thousand residents, it’s not great either). The real problem is its property crime rate, which ranks as the second-worst in the state. With a crime rate of 7268 per 100 thousand, residents stand a 1 in 13 chance of having their personal belonging stolen. Fancy taking your chances with those kinds of stats? Us neither.
Dayton has 140,569 residents and almost as many problems. The median annual household income of $28,894 is one of the lowest in the entire US, as is its median home value of $66,800. Almost 11% of the population is unemployed, while a worryingly high number live below the poverty line. Crime is way above average, while standardized test scores in the city’s public schools are way below both the state and US average. All in all, it’s not the kind of place you want to spend an afternoon, let alone a lifetime.
Drexel is tiny. By the last count, only 1,991 people live here. Why aren’t more people choosing to live in this little corner of Ohio, you ask? Take your pick. First of all, there’s the astronomically high unemployment rate of 20.3%. Then there’s the fact 21.4% of the population live in poverty. The median income might seem tiny at $28,850, but that’s nothing compared to how little the median home value is… $35,300, in case you were wondering. The job market is lifeless, as is the town itself – no matter how friendly the people are, it doesn’t mitigate the complete dearth of amenities and recreational opportunities. If you value a well-paid job, decent prospects, and something to see and do on the weekend, hedge your bets and move somewhere else.
Only In Your State ranks Whitehall as the most dangerous place to live in Ohio. Little wonder. According to the latest data, it has a crime rate of about 102 total reported crimes per one thousand residents. It also manages to boast the third-highest murder rate in the state, with an average of one murder reported per month… a bad number for any city, but particularly shocking in one that only has 19121 residents.
Toledo has a big population of 278,512. Why, who knows? With a crime rate that’s almost triple the US average, a poverty rate of 26.3%, high unemployment and poorly performing schools, it’s certainly not the kind of place most of us would be desperate to move into… something that may well explain why its current population has already shrunk by 2.6% in the last five years alone. Even the chance of snapping up a single-family home for just $79,100 isn’t enough to convince people to move here.
Typically, low-income areas all have one thing in common: low property values. In this, Youngstown is no exception. As the only US city where over 50 percent of all households are earning less than $25,000 a year, it comes as no surprise to learn that its median home value of $43,300 is one of the lowest in the state. To put this in perspective, the average US median home value is $205,000. Only 12 percent of the city’s population have a bachelor’s degree, while its public schools are woefully underfunded. The poverty rate is an eyebrow-raising 38 percent. The crime rate, while not the worst in the state, is still startlingly high.