The 20 small cities struggling the most in the U.S. based on economics, education, quality of life, and affordability: All of the cities are in California.

It is hard to quantify what makes a city great or bad.  Simply having a higher income is not enough to separate an area from another city if the cost of living is outrageous.  There have been attempts to use cost of living adjustments but the attempt to rank cities has been paltry.  Most of the rankings looked at larger areas but failed to look at smaller cities where a large portion of our population lives.  A recent report actually made the effort to rank small cities based on four key metrics.  The first item looks at economics.  The next metric looks at education and health.  The third metric looks at quality of life which includes things like commute time.  Finally, affordability is looked at since housing prices have outpaced income gains in many areas of the U.S.  It should comes as no surprise that 20 of the lowest performing cities that popped up on the list are in California.

The 20 cities that have it toughest are all in California     

It may (or not) come as a surprise to you that all of the 20 cities on the bottom of the list of 1,268 small cities are all in California.  California is largely looking more like a state where you have a small coastal elite and a large population that is struggling to get by.  The metrics picked up on the incredibly high housing costs even in areas that simply don’t warrant it.  You also find that many people are taking on brutal commutes just to live in the area.

The list was compiled by Wallet Hub and the way the metrics are gathered is interesting:

worst cities

Source:  Wallet Hub

Also, these are all cities between 25,000 and 100,000 people so we aren’t looking at tiny towns and mega cities which are usually covered in other rankings.  Nothing is easily quantifiable but they did a good job trying to assign a weighting to various key items of life.  For example, housing costs should be a big part because this is the biggest expense for Americans.  Employment and jobs absolutely matter.  Many of these area are flooded with low wage jobs or high unemployment.  Next, having good schools and healthcare is important for taking care of your residents.  And finally, quality of life which includes things like commuting are factored into the weighting.

Here is a picture of the 20 cities on the bottom of the list:

worst cities_0

Now why is California dominating the list?  California has an enormous amount of cities that have people living one inch above poverty.  Whatever income is earned is sucked into the ridiculous cost of housing.  These areas also have very poor performing schools which unfortunately make it hard for future generations to break out of the cycle.

California also dominates the list because of sheer size.  But what about Texas or say Florida?  They score higher because housing costs aren’t so outrageous.  Again, housing costs are the biggest budget line item for most Americans.  Even though the Fed tells us there is no inflation housing prices have gone up by 30 percent only since 2012.  Yet household incomes remain stagnant.

Crime is another variable that is included in the list.  Many of these cities have higher levels of crime.  It may come as a surprise but many of these cities have higher household density meaning multiple incomes under one roof simply to pay for housing.

Even looking at this on a map, you can see that housing costs play a big role.  Best cities are marked by blue and worst cities (ranking lower on the list) are shown in Orange:

worst map

Is this a surprise?  The worst city on the list is Bell which had a major corruption scandal:

“(USA Today) LOS ANGELES — LOS ANGELES (AP) — The former city manager authorities say masterminded a corruption scandal that bilked the working-class Los Angeles suburb of Bell out of millions of dollars pleaded no contest Thursday to 69 counts of municipal corruption.

Robert Rizzo, who was charged with stealing more than $5 million from the modest, blue-collar city where one in four people lives below the federal poverty line, is scheduled to be sentenced March 12. He is expected to be sent to prison for 10 to 12 years.

“Mr. Rizzo is trying to send a clear message that he accepts responsibility for wrongdoing,” his attorney, James Spertus, told The Associated Press. “He made mistakes and he’s trying to make amends for that.”

And you wonder why the city is doing so poorly.  The typical household brings in around $26,000 per year yet a typical home costs near $300,000.  In the end, if you don’t take care of the people that live in your area this is the kind of situation that unfolds.

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3 Comments on this post


  1. Jon said:

    I wonder which city the last season of True Detective was based on, or if it was just a composite of some of the sh!tholes that comprise LA county

    November 10th, 2015 at 11:05 am
  2. PEDRO TRUTH said:


    November 12th, 2015 at 11:38 am
  3. JERRY BROWN said:


    November 12th, 2015 at 4:31 pm


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