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20 Worst Places to Live in Pennsylvania (Updated 2023)

Shinglehouse, PA

Although Pennsylvania is not at the top of most people’s list when they’re deciding to move to a new place, there are plenty of charms that Pennsylvania can offer transplants. The state is relatively large, and it is a nice blend of urban and rural areas. With two major cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, you can be within driving distance from all city amenities, but if you’re looking for a small-town feel, the middle of the state is full of rural or suburban communities.

On top of all that, Pennsylvania tends to have a low cost of living, outdoor recreation, and a robust culture and history. As one of the 13 original colonies, Pennsylvania was a center for the establishment of the United States, and that long history has built into the diverse and fascinating state it is today.

Pennsylvania is full of places that offer a good balance of affordable housing, career options, and amenities, but not all place in PA is created equally, and with so many rural and urban areas, deciding where to settle down is a huge challenge. While you can choose from tons of good places, you will want to stay away from some of the worst places, which often have higher crime rates, worse schools, and overall lower living standards.

Whether you plan to just swing by on a quick visit or are thinking about a move to PA, it’s important to understand what areas you may want to avoid. Pennsylvania has a lot to offer, but like many states, there are areas that have social or economic challenges that make them less ideal to live. If you want to discover the worst places to live in PA and why they earned their place on the list, keep reading. Some of the towns and cities on this list may surprise you!

How We Created This List

Creating a list of the worst areas in Pennsylvania was a huge challenge because there are so many factors to consider, and to keep it as balanced as possible, we had to use a clear methodology so that our ranking followed a predetermined formula. Of course, while we wanted to use as much concrete data as possible, we assigned value to certain factors that some people would value differently. For instance, crime rates were valued highly, but some people may value something like amenities more than crime rates. Nevertheless, we used our best judgment in cases when data and formulas alone couldn’t make determinations.

Some of the main sources and methods we used include:

  • To ensure we had an ordered process, we made a list of factors that impacted how good a place was to live. Our main categories were crime and safety, education, culture, amenities, affordability, cost of living, housing, career opportunities, taxes, diversity, weather, public transportation, food availability, population, and healthcare. These factors gave a clear idea of the overall nature of different locations.
  • We began by compiling a list of notable areas in Pennsylvania so we could then begin to research data to show the quality of life and overall lifestyle of each area. We wanted to go into the process without prejudgment and rely on data over impressions.
  • Government websites and data were the most important information used because this information gave solid, reliable information that we could use to form our conclusions. Census data is the source for more demographic statistics on this list. However, other resources were consulted to update info based on changes since the census was taken.
  • Independent crime statistics, school rankings, and other socioeconomic research to gain perspective on different.
  • Throughout the process, we used diverse sources because we didn’t want to rely on just one single study or set of data points. Seeking diverse information allowed us to reduce bias and have a more holistic list.
  • While qualitative data was used, it was used to help us focus our research and we sought quantitative research as our primary data for list compilation. We did not want to discount the experience of people who live or have lived in these areas.

The above is not an exhaustive list of our techniques but highlights the key techniques we have used to determine the 20 worst areas in Pennsylvania.

20. Midland, PA

Midland, PA

According to the World Population Review. Midland is a city with a small population of just 2,350 residents. Based on current real estate listings, the median home listing is just $60,000, making this area’s housing quite affordable, but being such a small town, there may not be a whole lot of options available at any given time.

The unemployment rate is 8.4 percent, showing the hardships of this location despite small economic improvements. It’s tough to get a job in Midland because it doesn’t offer many new opportunities. Things have gotten worse in Midland in the last few years, leading to it earning a place on the list of the worst places in Pennsylvania to live.

19. Shinglehouse, PA

Shinglehouse, PA

Shinglehouse is tiny, and while it may be small, it’s got some big problems that scare people away from calling this place their new home. Just over 1000 residents are living in the area. It’s one of the worst places to live list because it doesn’t have a lot of amenities or employment opportunities to offer.

Being so small makes it hard to justify moving here. Although the median home value is a decent $80,700, homes are limited. One thing to be said about Shinglehouse is that the crime rate isn’t too bad and the cost of living is among the lowest in PA.

18. Westfield, PA

Westfield, PA

Westfield is a tiny city in Pennsylvania with a population of only 1,295 residents. It’s not a terrible place to live, but its pros don’t outweigh its drawbacks.

The main drawback is the economy. The median home value in the town is only $86,300, suggesting that there isn’t much demand for housing because nobody really wants to live there. The unemployment rate is also upsetting at 11.1 percent. On top of that, it’s such a small place that there isn’t much to do for the people who live there.

17. Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia is a large metropolitan area that has a lot to offer when it comes to employment, housing, and entertainment. The amenities are top-notch. AS the biggest city in PA, there’s no doubt that there are plenty of great area in Philly, but at large, Philly is lacking in several ways.

Patch reveals the reason why it’s not the best place in the state to live. Although it’s not the most dangerous city in the state, the crime rate is still alarmingly high. Property crime rates are a bit unsettling, but the fact that residents have a one in 110 risk of becoming the victim of a violent crime, it’s reasonable to look for safer places to settle.

Philly may be worth it for being a big metro area, but you want to be careful about where you choose to settle down if you choose this location to call your home.

16. Pottstown, PA

Pottstown, PA

Pottstown is a borough in Montgomery County that has made it to the list of the twenty worst places to live in Pennsylvania. It has a decent population for a borough with 23,377 people. It is a mostly White area with a significant Black population.

Although violent crime rates are not that high, there are other significant issues in Pottstown that might make you think twice. The town has had a disturbing increase in the number of property crimes committed in recent years. This includes theft and robberies.

The economy is not thriving. More than 15% of people are in poverty and the per capita income is only approximately $28,000.

15. Darby, PA

Darby, PA

Darby is a city in Delaware County, which is becoming worse for violence in recent years. It has a population of about 10,600, most of whom are Black with smaller populations of White and Hispanic people.

Although this city has its share of positives, there is no way to get around the fact that it’s a dangerous place to live. Law enforcement reports that residents of Darby experience 1.4 violent crimes per 100 persons. There are much safer places to live in Pennsylvania.

The economy isn’t the best, and the per capita income is only about $20,709. Additionally, the percentage of people in poverty is nearly 28%. Thus, when you consider the crime and the economy, there isn’t much to love about Darby.

14. Uniontown, PA

Uniontown, PA

Uniontown is a small town with a population of 9,750 residents. Unless you prefer rural living, this western Pennsylvania town doesn’t offer a lot to do. While this town used to have more industry, much of what it once had to offer has died down.

n addition to its slow lifestyle, it has a high crime rate. The odds of becoming the victim of a violent crime are 1.4 in 100. It’s tied with Darby in its ranking for violence. It’s not worth the risk with property crimes being high to go along with the shocking violent crime statistics.

13. Renovo, PA

Renovo, PA

Renovo is a small town that has a population of just 1,089 residents living within its boundaries. While being in a tight-knit community may seem appealing, it may not be as exciting as you may think to live here.

Being so small, it doesn’t have many businesses, and residents can expect to commute to nearby areas for work. Thus, one of the biggest things that makes it so undesirable is that there isn’t much to do and are few opportunities. There aren’t many amenities at all, and the economy doesn’t balance the lack of amenities out.

The unemployment rate is a shocking 13.8 percent. When you add the fact that the median home value is only 40,300, it’s not hard to figure out that there are a lot better places to live in the state.

12. Reading, PA

Reading, PA

Reading is a city with a population of 88,232 residents. Although there are all of the amenities of a metropolitan area, the city is in dire straights. It’s not recommended for raising a family despite many people loving how charming this location is. It even has a place on the Monopoly gameboard, but that isn’t enough to save this town from its problems.

The unemployment rate in reading is a whopping 12.9 percent. This means that nearly 13 out of every 100 persons are without jobs, and likely living below the poverty line. The median home value is a paltry $73,200, which tells us that there isn’t a high demand because people don’t want to live there. On top of all this, the annual household income is at just $32,176. There’s one more thing about Reading that you need to know. Although not the most dangerous place in the state, it’s in the top 20 worst because of its high crime reports.

11. Allentown, PA

Allentown, PA

Allentown is a larger city with a population of 120,915 residents. It is situated in Lehigh County and its size means that it has many things that small towns don’t, yet faces many struggles to keep whatever advantages it has.

What makes this town a poor choice to make your home is that it has a high unemployment rate. Ten percent of the population is out of work. The low median home value is also negative. On average a home in this city has a value of just $131,300, which indicates that there isn’t a high demand because people don’t want to move there unless they have to. The annual household income is just $41,167, which is the fifth-lowest in the state. There is also a low number of medical doctors available to provide health care, and crime rates are above average.

10. Yeadon, PA

Yeadon, PA

Yeadon joins our list of cities in Delaware County to be included in the most dangerous listing. It is a decent-sized borough with a population of around 12,000. Yeadon actually has much better financial statistics than most places on the list and only around 8.8% of people are in poverty. The median household income is higher at about $56,500 with a per capita income of about $30,000.

However, residents do not have much peace of mind when it comes to crime. It’s a bit unsettling that the residents can’t feel safe in their own homes. Violent crimes are on the rise and the latest statistical reports show that you have a one in 133 likelihood of falling victim to a violent crime.

9. Lehighton, PA

Lehighton, PA

Lehighton is a small city in Pennsylvania, that has some of the problems of a bigger city. It’s a town of 5,304 residents that has both crime and economic struggles that hold this city back from the success it craves.

Crime is the main area of concern is crime, and property crime rates are high. The odds of becoming the victim of a robbery are 1 in 67. These crime statistics can make people feel unsafe to go about their daily lives.

While this is disturbing enough, there are other reasons why this isn’t the best place to settle. The median home value is relatively low at just $114,200, though pretty high as far as this list is concerned. To make matters worse, the unemployment rate is an incredible 12.8 percent, which means that the poverty rates are high there too. Those who have secured employment earn an average household income of just $42,294.

8. Hazleton, PA

Hazleton, PA

Hazleton is the 8th worst place to live in Pennsylvania. This town has some huge issues to work out. These issues operate in a lot of social and economic areas rather than being drastically bad in just one area.

We should begin with a look at public schools. They’re overcrowded and underfunded. They’re ranked as the third-worst in the entire state of Pennsylvania.

It gets a lot worse than that though. The city with a population of 24,857 residents has a median home value of a shocking $97,900. The unemployment rate is 8.2 percent, which isn’t the worst but could improve. The average household income, combined for everyone working, is just $31,200 a year. That’s barely enough to survive on. The city used to be a coal-mining town, and it has been left in the dust as industries have evolved.

7. Mckeesport, PA

McKees Rocks, PA

Mckeesport is a moderate-sized city with a population of more than 17,000 residents based on most recent estimates. The unemployment rate is the seventh-worst in the state at an astounding 2.1 percent. The median home value is the sixth-worst at a paltry $48,000.

On top of that, the crime rate is the 22nd highest in the state. The odds of becoming the victim of a crime are 1 in 33.6, which is far too high for comfort. The city saw 318 violent crimes with a 1 in 60 risk of being violently attacked or raped.

As if the high violent crime rate wasn’t enough, this city isn’t easy to survive in. The median combined household income is one of the lowest we’ve seen at a measly $29,094 a year. There are some opportunities available, but career growth is limited.

6. Duquesne, PA

Duquesne, PA

Duquesne is a smaller town with 5,252 residents. It may be small, but it is desired for being close to city amenities. However, being close to city amenities doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a nice place to live.

As a suburb of Pittsburgh, and the crime rates of the larger city seem to be spilling into this small hamlet. Reports of multiple aggravated assaults, murders, rapes, and robberies are enough to make you reconsider any thoughts of moving there. On top of that, the 58 violent crimes pale in comparison to the 163 property crimes committed against the locals.

Educational outcomes could be better with only about 90.1% of the population having a high school degree. Additionally, the per capita income is a low $20,319 with a poverty percent of more than 28.

5. Chester, PA

Chester, PA

Chester is a city in Delaware County in the Philadelphia area that is close enough to provide plenty of wonderful amenities for the population. Chester has a population estimated to be about 33,449.

Chester may have job opportunities, entertainment, shopping, a variety of dining venues, and recreational opportunities within it and nearby, but that doesn’t mean the people who live here are able to access those opportunities. Social and economic unrest makes it hard for those in Chester to overcome their hardships.

The big problem with Chester is that it has a high crime rate. According to FBI reports, residents have a one in 71 chance of becoming the victim of a violent crime. The safety rating doesn’t make the city a good choice for raising a family.

Additionally, only about 85% of people in the city have a high education or greater, and the economy could be a lot better. The median household income is under $37,000 and the per capita income is not even $20,000. Additionally, more than 28 percent of the population live in poverty. Thus, while there are a lot of reasons people may choose to live in Chester, Chester is still one of the worst places in PA.

4. Ambridge, PA

Ambridge, PA

With a population of about 6,824, Ambridge, PA is a borough with a declining population and a range of other discouraging issues that lead to it being ranked number 4 on this list.

It’s median household price is a respectable $80,300, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t economic struggles here. 12.2% of people live in poverty, which is lower than many of the places on this list but is still higher than desirable. Combined with the small-town nature of the area, it may be harder to find a desirable career.Ambridge, according to statistics from Only In Your State, is even worse when it comes to violent crime than most of the other cities we discussed on our list. Reports confirm that in the past year, the town of 6.679 residents experienced a surge in crime numbers with 89 reported violent crimes. There were 79 aggravated assaults, a rape, 2 murders, and 7 robberies. There were also 182 property crimes reported. Ambridge is a small town, but it has more than its share of violent and property crimes, which lead to a high rank.

3. Clairton, PA

Clairton, PA

Clairton is a small town with a population of just 6,023 residents. Any small-town advantages this town offers is undercut by the large number of problems the town faces and will continue to face based on predicted trajectories.

The reason that it’s number 3 on our worst places to live list is that the unemployment rate is a disturbing 14.6 percent. A large segment of the population is out of work. Those who are working don’t generally make much of an income either. The median combined household income is only $37,282 per year. It’s tough to support a family with this amount of money. To make matters worse, the median home value is only $43,200, which is the fourth-worst in the entire state.

Racial disparities no doubt contribute to the strife of this area. While white people in the majority, a significant Black population lives in Clairton, and Black people often have more economic and social factors that work against them, making it even harder for the town to recover from its myriad of challenges.

2. Johnstown, PA

Johnstown, PA

Johnstown is a city in Cambria County that has had an alarming increase in violent crimes in the past few years, making it increasingly difficult for the city’s 18,000 residents to stay safe and embrace economic opportunities.

Residents know that it’s not a good idea to go out alone after dark, and they do keep their doors locked at night. The city moved up on the list of most dangerous places from the 23rd spot to number 7. The city is moving in the wrong direction when it comes to public safety, so it is likely not to see big improvements in the coming years.

A sizable 33.7% of people in Johnstown live in poverty, and the per capita income is only around $20,000, showing that both crime and poverty contribute to the undesirable nature of Johnstown.

1. McKees Rocks, PA

Mckeesport, PA

McKees Rocks is also a smaller town with a low population of not quite 6,000 residents, according to census data. This small town certainly has some small-town charms, but it also contends with many social and economic struggles that make it such a bad place to live.

You’d think that a smaller town would be somewhat safer, but it’s even worse than Duquesne with nearly double the number of violent crimes. A total of 100 were reported. Among these crimes, five were murders, there were eight raps, 60 aggravated assaults, and 27 robberies. There were also 206 larceny thefts and other property crimes totaling 280. The odds are in too much in favor of getting robbed or violently attacked in McKees Rocks.

Mckees Rocks has more than crime to worry about, however. Sub 60K housing values mean that yes, this area is very affordable, but it’s so affordable because there aren’t many economic opportunities, and only about 45.2% of housing is owner-occupied. Additionally, nearly 1/3 of all residents live in poverty. All this information paints a grim picture of like in McKees Rocks.

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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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