Ah, the American Dream! White picket fences, well-funded schools, low crime rates—these are the aspirations many people have when deciding where to settle down. But what about those cities where the dream seems a bit more like a nightmare? These are the cities that, for one reason or another, Americans love to hate.
Reddit users have chimed in to give their own perspectives on the worst cities to live in the United States. We’ve compiled the top 11, and the reasons might surprise you. From high crime rates to failing infrastructure, these are the cities where the American Dream seems to be on life support.
1. Stockton, California
Stockton is notorious for its crime rate, struggling local government, and weak public services. One Reddit user noted that the city recently captured another serial killer, adding it to an already concerning list of criminal activity. With a population of approximately 420,000, a shocking 60,000 people are homeless. The last three mayors have been arrested either during or after their term, and the police department has had its own series of scandals. The school district is reportedly close to insolvency, and yet, many of their employees don’t receive benefits. Despite these obstacles, kudos were given to Stockton’s Fire Department for their excellent service.
2. Bakersfield, California
Another California city makes the list, but for different reasons. Bakersfield doesn’t evoke images of dreamy West Coast living; instead, it’s summarized as “nothing but bad parts and strip malls” by one Reddit user. The city struggles with drug issues and lacks the appeal that many other California cities offer, making it a less-than-ideal location for younger generations looking for vibrant communities.
3. East St. Louis, Illinois
If you ever find yourself in East St. Louis, you might not want to stop for gas—or anything else. One Reddit user who stopped for fuel was doubtful they’d ever make it back onto Interstate 55. East St. Louis has a reputation for high crime rates and a lack of public amenities, making it a city many would prefer to bypass altogether.
4. Jackson, Mississippi
Although Jackson may not be a large city, its problems are big enough to make the list. Cited for a very high murder rate, low levels of education, and crumbling infrastructure, Jackson is described as a city “in bad shape” by Reddit contributors. Despite being the capital of Mississippi, it hasn’t managed to pull itself up by the bootstraps, leaving many residents in difficult living conditions.
5. Lowell, Massachusetts
Lowell was once a thriving industrial city, but those days are long past. The jobs have left, and what remains is a city grappling with depopulation and rising crime rates. As one Reddit user noted, Lowell exemplifies the downfall that comes when industrial cities lose their industries but don’t find a new identity.
6. Camden, New Jersey
One Reddit user shared a jarring experience in Camden: A police officer advised them to run red lights rather than stop, as groups of people were waiting at corners for stopped cars. Camden has a longstanding reputation for high crime rates and a lack of public safety, making it a place that many choose to avoid rather than visit.
7. Miami, Florida
The glamour of Miami’s nightlife often overshadows the city’s darker corners. According to Reddit users, places like Wynwood, the celebrated art district, are surrounded by some of the city’s worst neighborhoods. The advice? If you find yourself exiting Wynwood, make sure you’re headed in the right direction and don’t stop at red lights.
8. Phoenix, Arizona
You might think of Phoenix as a sun-soaked desert paradise, but Reddit users have highlighted some serious municipal issues. One such issue is the city’s garbage collection—or lack thereof. Residents of less affluent neighborhoods report that garbage piles up for months, becoming both an eyesore and a potential health hazard. As one user said, the situation is so bad that it’s “so … stupid that I can’t help but laugh.”
9. Jacksonville, Florida
The issue with Jacksonville, according to Reddit users, isn’t necessarily crime or poverty—it’s a lack of personality. Described as “the most boring city,” Jacksonville falls short in providing cultural or recreational activities that attract younger residents or tourists. If you’re looking for a city that pulses with life and vibrancy, you might find Jacksonville a bit lacking.
10. Binghamton, New York
Sometimes smaller cities make the list, not because they’re dangerous or poorly governed, but simply because they’re “depressing.” At least, that’s how Reddit users described Binghamton. Once a bustling community, it now looks more like a ghost town, struggling with depopulation and a lack of new economic opportunities.
11. Midland/Odessa, Texas
The twin cities of Midland and Odessa in West Texas have their own unique set of problems, exacerbated by the boom and bust cycles of the oil industry. Reddit users describe the population as “transitory,” doubling during oil booms and emptying during downturns. This leads to spikes in the cost of living and terrible traffic, especially during prosperous times. Even worse? “Traffic fatalities there are the worst in Texas,” one user reported.