There are plenty of factors to consider when you’re trying to find the worst city in America. The worst cities in the US are subject to unemployment, crime, and a grinding lack of prosperity. However, perhaps the best yardstick to gauging the worst city in america has to be the satisfaction of the city’s residents. At the end of the day, examining the satisfaction of the people who walk the streets and live their lives in the area are more illustrative than looking at arbitrary statistics.
Using the Gallup’s ‘Well-being’ data gives an insight into the metro resident’s experience. The index ranks well-being by averaging scores in six categories: Life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and access to basic necessities. According to the residents of these very cities, here are the 10 worst cities in America.
10. Spartanburg, S.C.
Spartanburg was not evaluated in the last sample in 2011, but it was in this survey, which focused on a self-evaluation by citizens of their quality of life and expectations of personal well-being in five years’ time. It’s first time survey saw it enter the index at 176 of 189 metro areas. Even though Spartanburg has many big name employers such as BMW and Denny’s within its limits, there was a perception that the downtown area was run down.
There is hope, though, as vigorous revitalization projects have been undertaken, and quality of life measures such as food festivals and regular local events aim to improve the well-being of residents.
9. Rockford, Ill.
Rockford fared best in terms of physical health — which measures sick days, obesity, rest, health problems, energy, flu, colds, and headaches — coming in at No.129 in this category, however, overall it dropped 26 spots to No.181 this year. Rockford is the second largest city in Illinois, and second only to Chicago in popularity. However, empty homes and factories, lack of jobs, and lack of education contributed to it being named in many studies as one of the worst cities in America.
8. Evansville, Ind.
The waterside location on the Ohio River earned Evansville the nickname ‘River City’, but in this survey it polled a poor 182 out of 189. The main reason seemed be the poor rating on the work environment index, addressing the work environment, treatment, satisfaction and interactions. This is despite some major industry coming into the area in the latter part of the 20th Century such as AK Steel and Toyota. The city prides itself on being the ‘commercial, medical, and cultural hub’ of south-western Indiana, so with continuation of programs already in place there is scope for improvement in work satisfaction.
7. Bakersfield, Calif.
Previously, Bakersfield was ranked 75 of 189, but on this survey dropped all the way to 175. The reason respondents cited for this fall was simple: happiness. When asked to assess their daily experience of laughing, smiling, happiness, stress, anger, and worry the satisfaction level had tanked. These emotional responses may have surfaced due to the economic concerns worldwide, home foreclosures, and the still expanding nature of the metro area. Also, there has been a serious ozone pollution problem in the area for more than ten years. Hard to smile when you’re coughing!
6. Fort Smith, Ark.
Fort Smith provides a mixed bag of results. In work environment, it made a jump of 88 places to 12th from the last survey, however, when it came to health, life evaluation, and well-being it ranked 187th. Fort Smith, second largest in Arkansas, has suffered from tornado and fire damage in recent times, but does boast a diverse industrial base. Seems like a good place to work and a bad place to live.
5. Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, N.C.
This metro area achieved mixed results in the views of its citizens. While it fell down on life evaluation terms, coming in a shocking last place, it ranked highest out of the bottom ten in work environment with a 75th placing.
This is due to the solid base of manufacturing and technology that has been nurtured in the metro area, with diverse businesses such as furniture manufacture, Google, and Apple co-existing. The promotion of the area as a datacenter capital has afforded it global leader status. If you live to work, you could try living here.
4. Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX.
This metro area scored lowest on work environment, the section measuring job satisfaction, interaction, treatment, and office environment. It fell 12 places since 2011 leaving it lowest among the bottom ten. As an area dependent on oil, the global economic downturn will have affected how people perceive their employment and their job security. No matter ow much you love to work, this verdict seems pretty clear.
3. Mobile, Ala.
Even though the city dropped six places in the ranking, it came in at 116th in terms of healthy behavior. Measuring lifestyle habits like smoking, frequency of participation in exercise, diet, and consumption of fruits and vegetables, this element of the study is vital for overall happiness.
This comparatively good result may be due to a holdover from Mobile’s colonial roots, and a diverse demographic. In recent times the city has made concerted efforts to attract trade and investment, whilst still maintaining the rich history and culture.
2. Huntington-Ashland, W.Va.-Ky.-Ohio
This metropolitan area came in last in terms of physical health, yet managed to rank highest among its cohorts for the work environment index. This is largely due to the area containing a thriving river port and a wide variety of businesses including Amazon and DirecTV. The metro area managed to weather the worst effects of the recession, and the population seems to be steadily growing. It may feature in the ten worst cities, but it seems to be on the up-tick.
1. Charleston, W. VA
Charleston is the capital of West Virginia. In the survey it dropped seven places, and came last with regards to the well-being index. It also failed badly in the work environment category, falling 44 places, and also losing 17 places in the emotional health category, leaving it in last place.
The city has made a concerted effort over the past few decades to improve quality of life with festivals and culture, and improving business prospects, but these have yet to take hold and impact significantly on the citizens of Charleston. If you’re planning on moving soon, you might want to steer clear of Charleston.