Worst-run cities in America

Published 2:30 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Worst-run cities in America

Historically high inflation has put a strain on municipal budgets, with the rising costs of labor, goods and services, and materials. In general, local governments made it through the pandemic relatively well, with the help of billions of dollars in federal aid. The economic aftermath, however, continues.

And some cities continue to struggle more than others, particularly those that are poorly managed.

Stacker listed the 50 worst-run cities in the United States using June 2023 data from WalletHub’s Best- and Worst-Run Cities in America. Cities are ranked by their overall operating efficiency, which is determined by the quality of services and total budget per capita.

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Factors used to determine the overall quality of city services rank and score comprise weighted average scores in six key categories, including financial stability, education, health, safety, economy, and infrastructure and pollution. Scores for each of the six categories were evaluated based on 36 relevant metrics such as average life expectancy, violent crime rate, quality of roads, and Moody’s city credit rating.

Read on to see the worst-run cities in the United States.

Courthouse and Gateway Arch in St Louis.

photo.ua // Shutterstock

#50. St. Louis, Missouri

– WalletHub rank: #100 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 141
– Financial stability rank: 141
– Education rank: 13
– Health rank: 148
– Safety rank: 147,
– Economy rank: 85
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 25

City government in St. Louis is run by 14 aldermen, a president of the Board of Aldermen, and a mayor. Mayor Tishaura Jones is the second woman, and the first Black woman, to serve as the city’s top executive officer.

St. Louis ranks as one of the lowest cities in terms of health and safety, in part because of its relatively high crime rate. Jones has sought to spark community involvement and policy changes to address poverty, among other factors that contribute to crime.

Shreveport skyline over the river.

Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#49. Shreveport, Louisiana

– WalletHub rank: #101 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 146
– Financial stability rank: 143
– Education rank: 84
– Health rank: 133
– Safety rank: 127
– Economy rank: 140
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 101

The City Council in Shreveport, Louisiana, comprises seven council members and a mayor. Mayor Tom Arceneaux is the city’s first Republican mayor in almost 30 years, but campaigned with the support of the city’s three previous mayors, all Black Democrats, and focused on policy reform, economic development, and smart-city initiatives. He has said he wants to make the city cleaner and more orderly, to attract businesses.

Kansas City downtown with Union Station.

Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#48. Kansas City, Missouri

– WalletHub rank: #102 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 125
– Financial stability rank: 110
– Education rank: 58
– Health rank: 112
– Safety rank: 136
– Economy rank: 55
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 105

With a violent crime rate 146% higher than the national average, Kansas City, Missouri, has a murder rate five times the national average, with an overall violent crime rate more than twice the national average. Mayor Quinton Lucas has touted the most recent city budget as helping the city’s residents clean up, maintain, and improve their homes as well as upgrading city parks and recreation services.

The city will also host some games for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, and is looking to improve its public transit system to accommodate the expected influx of visitors.

Dayton skyline.

Alex Balanov // Shutterstock

#47. Dayton, Ohio

– WalletHub rank: #103 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 116
– Financial stability rank: 61
– Education rank: 112
– Health rank: 122
– Safety rank: 118
– Economy rank: 120
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 26

The nation’s first big city to adopt the city-manager form of government, in which a hired technocrat manages city operations and answers to an elected and unpaid council and mayor, Dayton, Ohio, scores low for its stagnant economy and intractable health problems.

Dayton’s unemployment rate far outpaces the national average, and future job growth is also pegged to lag the national average. Heavily invested in manufacturing, a sector on the decline for decades, the city has struggled to reinvent itself and grow jobs in new, non-manufacturing sectors.

Sunset over downtown San Jose.

Uladzik Kryhin // Shutterstock

#46. San Jose, California

– WalletHub rank: #104 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 17
– Financial stability rank: 57
– Education rank: 23
– Health rank: 1
– Safety rank: 40
– Economy rank: 61
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 121

In a 2020 survey, 42% of San Jose, California’s residents rated the quality of life in the city as only fair, while another 16% called it poor. By contrast, before 2015, 60% gave the city high marks. The city, run by 10 council members, a mayor, and a city manager, is one of the most expensive places to rent a home, according to Zillow.

Aerial view of Wilmington.

Real Window Creative // Shutterstock

#45. Wilmington, Delaware

– WalletHub rank: #105 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 82
– Financial stability rank: 70
– Education rank: 38
– Health rank: 43
– Safety rank: 122
– Economy rank: 134
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 7

The mayor and the 12-member City Council of Wilmington, Delaware, focus on promoting the community’s “health, safety, and general well-being.” In its strategic plan, the council seeks to improve neighborhood living conditions, reduce pollution, and fight crime.

Birmingham cityscape.

BJ Ray // Shutterstock

#44. Birmingham, Alabama

– WalletHub rank: #106 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 132
– Financial stability rank: 107
– Education rank: 43
– Health rank: 114
– Safety rank: 148
– Economy rank: 88
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 85

Randall L. Woodfin, the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, is working to improve economic development, neighborhood revitalization, education and career opportunities, and public safety. His crime-fighting plan includes putting more police officers on the streets, and his customer service program aims to improve relations with the public to boost employee morale and focus on workforce development.

Town square with Gazebo in downtown Lubbock.


#43. Lubbock, Texas

– WalletHub rank: #107 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 119
– Financial stability rank: 69
– Education rank: 47
– Health rank: 106
– Safety rank: 132
– Economy rank: 91
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 146

One of the primary focuses of the Lubbock, Texas, city government is health and safety, in which the city ranks among the lowest compared with other U.S. cities. The police department is seeking to become more open to the public to provide a safer environment for its citizens. The Texas city also is concerned about environmental health, including food safety in the city’s restaurants.

Cincinnati skyline and bridge.

photo.ua // Shutterstock

#42. Cincinnati, Ohio

– WalletHub rank: #108 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 85
– Financial stability rank: 81
– Education rank: 94
– Health rank: 101
– Safety rank: 97
– Economy rank: 121
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 17

An eight-member council, plus a mayor, vice mayor, and city manager, run Cincinnati. Mayor Aftab Pureval recently announced a project to help improve the lives of the city’s Black residents as a counter to structural racism. The effort includes improving education, reducing medical debt, and experimenting with universal basic income.

Atlanta skyscrapers and cityscape.

Brett Barnhill // Shutterstock

#41. Atlanta, Georgia

– WalletHub rank: #109 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 78
– Financial stability rank: 83
– Education rank: 98
– Health rank: 78
– Safety rank: 129
– Economy rank: 3
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 36

Residents have been worried about the crime rate, which according to the Atlanta Police Department, was up in the three years between 2019 and 2021. The violent crime rate for 2022, however, dropped to the 2018 low rate, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. The first half of 2023 saw nearly 50 homicides that were a result of gun violence.

Aerial view of downtown Bakersfield.

Jacob Boomsma // Shutterstock

#40. Bakersfield, California

– WalletHub rank: #110 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 122
– Financial stability rank: 109
– Education rank: 80
– Health rank: 105
– Safety rank: 81
– Economy rank: 96
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 149

Bakersfield, California, is ranked as having some of the most polluted air among U.S. cities, with a ranking for infrastructure and pollution of 149. This city is filled with oil refineries and agricultural land that emit enormous amounts of particulate matter into the air, creating a haze. Citizens are pressuring local and regional government agencies to take action.

Charleston skyline on the Kanawha River.

Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#39. Charleston, West Virginia

– WalletHub rank: #111 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 126
– Financial stability rank: 133
– Education rank: 21
– Health rank: 139
– Safety rank: 102
– Economy rank: 100
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 53

The City Council in Charleston, West Virginia, is made up of 26 members and a mayor. Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin was elected in November 2018 and is the first female mayor of this West Virginia city. The Charleston Police Department is working to eliminate racial bias in its services.

Toledo skyline and waterfront.


#38. Toledo, Ohio

– WalletHub rank: #112 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 142
– Financial stability rank: 127
– Education rank: 147
– Health rank: 144
– Safety rank: 100
– Economy rank: 127
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 122

In Toledo, Ohio, six members of the City Council are elected from districts, and six are elected at-large. The city’s public school system ranks 596 out of 607 in the state, according to state report cards, which helps explain Toledo’s low ranking in the education category.

Buildings along Fort Lauderdale canals.


#37. Fort Lauderdale, Florida

– WalletHub rank: #113 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 56
– Financial stability rank: 40
– Education rank: 50
– Health rank: 30
– Safety rank: 130
– Economy rank: 40
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 54

The city is run by a five-person commission, with four elected to represent a district of the city, plus a citywide elected mayor, and a city manager. A popular vacation destination, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has gotten low marks for safety. It has a high rate of pedestrian deaths and traffic fatalities. Other areas where it ranked poorly included murders and theft.

Red streetcar on Canal Street in New Orleans.


#36. New Orleans, Louisiana

– WalletHub rank: #114 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 136
– Financial stability rank: 125
– Education rank: 142
– Health rank: 110
– Safety rank: 137
– Economy rank: 133
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 24

New Orleans’ City Council has seven members and a mayor. The city’s labor market and wages lag behind the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The city’s inspector general is conducting wide-ranging investigations into possible corruption across the city’s government.

Seattle Space Needle and downtown.

kan_khampanya// Shutterstock

#35. Seattle, Washington

– WalletHub rank: #115 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 11
– Financial stability rank: 25
– Education rank: 11
– Health rank: 13
– Safety rank: 83
– Economy rank: 14
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 23

Seattle fared well on many measures, offering its residents a high level of city services, but at a cost: It has a large budget. It also has “a high level of outstanding long-term debt per capita, high crime rates and low percentages of sheltered homeless persons,” WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez told The Center Square.

Aerial view downtown Modesto.

Jacob Boomsma // Shutterstock

#34. Modesto, California

– WalletHub rank: #116 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 103
– Financial stability rank: 121
– Education rank: 107
– Health rank: 95
– Safety rank: 63
– Economy rank: 74
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 100

Modesto, California, ranks as one of the least safe cities in the country, and the city government is run by six City Council members and a mayor. The city’s car culture inspired the 1973 movie “American Graffiti,” which led to a ban on car cruising that lasted from 1990 to 2023.

Pittsburgh cityscape over the Allegheny River.

ESB Professional // Shutterstock

#33. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

– WalletHub rank: #117 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 54
– Financial stability rank: 124
– Education rank: 17
– Health rank: 86
– Safety rank: 43
– Economy rank: 116
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 9

Pittsburgh and the surrounding area have some of the oldest populations in the country. The city continues to face a challenge in attracting jobs and workers long after the steel industry collapsed, and lost about 8% of the city’s population. Today it has fewer people of working age and is struggling with slow job growth.

Aerial view of downtown Fresno.

Jacob Boomsma // Shutterstock

#32. Fresno, California

– WalletHub rank: #118 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 113
– Financial stability rank: 113
– Education rank: 70
– Health rank: 81
– Safety rank: 86
– Economy rank: 99
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 137

Along with the nine-member Fresno City Council, Mayor Jerry Dyer is focused on housing people who need homes, boosting volunteerism, and revitalizing the downtown area. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a city led by its former police chief, Fresno, California, has boosted funding for its fire and police departments in hopes of improving emergency response times.

Cityscape Buffalo.


#31. Buffalo, New York

– WalletHub rank: #119 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 109
– Financial stability rank: 102
– Education rank: 133
– Health rank: 90
– Safety rank: 69
– Economy rank: 142
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 19

Buffalo, New York, a Rust Belt industrial hub, is trying to remake itself as a city focused on technology, manufacturing, and clean energy. The counties of the Buffalo Niagara area have seen $22.6 billion of development in the past five years, including construction at a medical campus, manufacturing and clean energy projects, and new food processing facilities, according to the Commercial Real Estate Development Association. Its population in 2020 grew 7% over its 2010 level.

Sacramento Tower Bridge and Capitol Mall.


#30. Sacramento, California

– WalletHub rank: #120 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 92
– Financial stability rank: 117
– Education rank: 76
– Health rank: 55
– Safety rank: 79
– Economy rank: 97
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 103

The state’s capital city, Sacramento, is among several California cities with poor ratings in the analysis. Homelessness is a particular problem, with its unhoused population growing to 9,300 in 2022. That’s an increase of 67% over 2019. The state sent $191 million to the region from 2019 to 2021, with much of it meant for building new homes.

Aerial view downtown Stockton.

Jacob Boomsma // Shutterstock

#29. Stockton, California

– WalletHub rank: #121 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 139
– Financial stability rank: 140
– Education rank: 120
– Health rank: 88
– Safety rank: 115
– Economy rank: 107
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 147

Stockton, California’s government comprises a full-time mayor and six part-time council members. Although the city ranks as one of the lowest for infrastructure and pollution, the Public Works Department manages a Capital Improvement Program that aims to renovate parks, make streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians, and renovate two buildings into a new City Hall.

Knoxville skyline with Worlds Fair Park.

CrackerClips Stock Media // Shutterstock

#28. Knoxville, Tennessee

– WalletHub rank: #122 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 79
– Financial stability rank: 42
– Education rank: 34
– Health rank: 99
– Safety rank: 134
– Economy rank: 50
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 44

Knoxville, Tennessee, is led by a mayor and a nine-member City Council. The mayor, Indya Kincannon, campaigned for her 2019 election by saying she would promote public safety. But the city’s homicide rate post-pandemic has been higher than the national average. The numbers fell 15% in 2022 compared to 2021, from 41 to 35, but before the pandemic, the city recorded totals in the high teens and low 20s.

Buildings in downtown Syracuse.


#27. Syracuse, New York

– WalletHub rank: #123 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 97
– Financial stability rank: 106
– Education rank: 113
– Health rank: 70
– Safety rank: 68
– Economy rank: 141
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 3

Among cities with 100,000 or more residents, Syracuse, New York, has the highest child poverty rate in the country, according to Census data released in 2022. The poverty rate among children under 18 is 46.9%, which has dropped from 2016, but not as much as in many other large cities. The numbers show the results of federal assistance to ease poverty during the pandemic, but also the economic upheaval it caused.

Aerial view downtown Charlotte.

Kevin Ruck // Shutterstock

#26. Charlotte, North Carolina

– WalletHub rank: #124 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 40
– Financial stability rank: 13
– Education rank: 91
– Health rank: 52
– Safety rank: 78
– Economy rank: 8
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 123

One main drawback to Charlotte, North Carolina, is the difficulty of getting around without a car in this sprawling city. A 2022 survey found that 76% of people drive alone, about 10% carpool, just over 3% use public transportation, and 2% bike or walk. The city is working to improve its bus system and to expand its light-rail system.

The goal of its 2040 Strategic Mobility Plan is to cut the number of people traveling alone by 50%, with others using transit choices, carpooling, biking, or walking.

Downtown Nashville in autumn.

Brian Wilson Photography // Shutterstock

#25. Nashville, Tennessee

– WalletHub rank: #125 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 121
– Financial stability rank: 103
– Education rank: 104
– Health rank: 123
– Safety rank: 128
– Economy rank: 32
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 90

Nashville has one of the highest long-term outstanding debt per capita in the United States, putting this city at a low ranking for financial stability. Mayor John Cooper set up an online system for city residents to track the progress of various neighborhood improvement projects.

Aerial view New Haven.

Jon Bilous // Shutterstock

#24. New Haven, Connecticut

– WalletHub rank: #126 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 131
– Financial stability rank: 144
– Education rank: 126
– Health rank: 58
– Safety rank: 103
– Economy rank: 136
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 13

New Haven, Connecticut’s Mayor Justin Elicker, is seeking a third term in office, running on his record of improving equity and housing in the city, as well as stabilizing its budget.

Street view Cheyenne.

Kit Leong // Shutterstock

#23. Cheyenne, Wyoming

– WalletHub rank: #127 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 83
– Financial stability rank: 15
– Education rank: 129
– Health rank: 92
– Safety rank: 49
– Economy rank: 28
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 71

Cheyenne, Wyoming, is governed by a nine-member council, plus a mayor. It recently rejected a proposal that would have decriminalized marijuana use, and is considering annexing land west of the city to allow for residential expansion.

Aerial view downtown Los Angeles at sunset.

TierneyMJ // Shutterstock

#22. Los Angeles, California

– WalletHub rank: #128 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 59
– Financial stability rank: 96
– Education rank: 85
– Health rank: 21
– Safety rank: 53
– Economy rank: 119
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 87

Los Angeles is in the midst of a severe homelessness problem. According to McKinsey & Company, the city’s homeless population has outpaced New York City’s and is now the largest in the nation. It increased by about 56% from 2015 to 2022, compared with an 18% drop in New York City. About one in 150 Los Angeles residents, or 69,000 people, do not have a place to live.

Long Beach skyline with palm trees from marina port.

lunamarina // Shutterstock

#21. Long Beach, California

– WalletHub rank: #129 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 75
– Financial stability rank: 130
– Education rank: 32
– Health rank: 16
– Safety rank: 48
– Economy rank: 122
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 120

Higher-than-projected revenue is allowing Long Beach, California, to allocate more money to ease its homelessness crisis and to put $450,000 toward the town’s guaranteed-income pilot program, which is called the Long Beach Pledge.

A 2019 survey found that the cost of living was the top concern of residents, with 70% of them citing affordability as the city’s biggest problem and 80% calling homelessness an extremely serious or very serious problem.

Rochester falls and skyline.


#20. Rochester, New York

– WalletHub rank: #130 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 86
– Financial stability rank: 105
– Education rank: 114
– Health rank: 31
– Safety rank: 92
– Economy rank: 132
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 2

Rochester, New York, was among the top 10 larger cities with the highest child poverty rate, according to Census data released in 2022. The number of households unable to afford the basics in the Rochester and the Finger Lakes region rose during the pandemic, according to a report from United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes and United For ALICE.

In all, 172,161 households, or 37%, were struggling to afford basics in 2021, up from 29% in 2019.

Aerial view of Salt Lake City.


#19. Salt Lake City, Utah

– WalletHub rank: #131 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 33
– Financial stability rank: 32
– Education rank: 22
– Health rank: 29
– Safety rank: 125
– Economy rank: 22
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 11

Salt Lake City gets high marks for the state of its finances, in particular for low unemployment. But its ranking is hurt by the rate of property crimes, which is above the national average. And although the number of homicides was down in 2022, the number of rapes and robberies rose.

Aerial view of Inner Harbor area.

f11photo // Shutterstock

#18. Baltimore, Maryland

– WalletHub rank: #132 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 133
– Financial stability rank: 45
– Education rank: 148
– Health rank: 147
– Safety rank: 123
– Economy rank: 138
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 86

Baltimore is governed by a 15-member city council, with 14 members representing each of the municipal districts, and a council president elected citywide. The city has one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the analysis.

Buildings in downtown Riverside.


#17. Riverside, California

– WalletHub rank: #133 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 87
– Financial stability rank: 126
– Education rank: 57
– Health rank: 47
– Safety rank: 55
– Economy rank: 16
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 145

Riverside, California, is run by a mayor and seven council members. Mayor Lock Dawson wants to improve the local economy and restore the Santa Ana River to be more prominent in citizens’ lives. The city is also warning its residents to conserve water as the groundwater levels continue to drop in the Riverside and San Bernardino basins, the source of the city’s drinking water.

Street view of downtown Philadelphia.

f11photo // Shutterstock

#16. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

– WalletHub rank: #134 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 127
– Financial stability rank: 132
– Education rank: 137
– Health rank: 124
– Safety rank: 72
– Economy rank: 114
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 59

Mayor Jim Kenney has been in office since 2016 and has worked closely with the Philadelphia City Council to improve education and economic opportunities for city residents. The initiatives include expanding the opportunity for quality pre-K education and creating community schools, as well as tackling health issues through a tax on sweetened beverages.

Denver cityscape.

Studio 1One // Shutterstock

#15. Denver, Colorado

– WalletHub rank: #135 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 63
– Financial stability rank: 49
– Education rank: 99
– Health rank: 53
– Safety rank: 99
– Economy rank: 37
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 80

Denver has a mayor and a 13-member City Council, with 11 members representing geographic districts and two elected citywide. Denver is among the top 10 large U.S. cities with high crime rates, according to the Common Sense Institute, a free-market policy analysis group based in Colorado. The city ranked the third-highest in auto theft, the sixth-highest for property crimes, and the 10th-highest for rape.

Aerial view of downtown Memphis skyline.

f11photo // Shutterstock

#14. Memphis, Tennessee

– WalletHub rank: #136 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 143
– Financial stability rank: 58
– Education rank: 122
– Health rank: 143
– Safety rank: 149
– Economy rank: 108
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 131

Memphis, Tennessee, governed by a 13-member City Council, has one of the highest violent crime rates in America. The Memphis Police Department plans to increase the number of officers, expand community outreach, and improve emergency services, among other moves.

Yonkers waterfront and skyline.


#13. Yonkers, New York

– WalletHub rank: #137 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 53
– Financial stability rank: 137
– Education rank: 75
– Health rank: 5
– Safety rank: 4
– Economy rank: 139
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 45

In June 2022, the New York state comptroller’s office warned that the city’s 2022-2023 budget relied on $142.7 million in nonrecurring revenue. Yonkers, New York, could see a shortfall of $387,000 for parks revenue, and was planning to borrow up to $15 million to settle property tax challenges. Police, firefighting, and workers’ compensation costs could all come in over budget.

Cityscape Chicago.

vichie81 // Shutterstock

#12. Chicago, Illinois

– WalletHub rank: #138 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 134
– Financial stability rank: 149
– Education rank: 67
– Health rank: 71
– Safety rank: 80
– Economy rank: 129
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 37

Chicago ranks among cities with the highest long-term outstanding debt per capita in the country. Although it ranks high in infrastructure and pollution, and education, Chicago’s economy is doing worse than that of the United States as a whole. Unemployment rates are higher in this Illinois city than the national average, and the job market has been shrinking.

Kansas City City Limit sign.

Joseph Sohm // Shutterstock

#11. Kansas City, Kansas

– WalletHub rank: #139 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 140
– Financial stability rank: 145
– Education rank: 145
– Health rank: 118
– Safety rank: 116
– Economy rank: 77
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 81

Kansas City, Kansas, is governed by a 10-member Board of Commissioners plus a mayor. The city has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country, but the department uses a live community crime map to detect and show crime and police activity.

Detroit skyline on clear day.

Vladimir Mucibabic // Shutterstock

#10. Detroit, Michigan

– WalletHub rank: #140 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 149
– Financial stability rank: 148
– Education rank: 131
– Health rank: 146
– Safety rank: 141
– Economy rank: 145
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 127

The Detroit City Council comprises eight members and one president, who govern a city with a falling unemployment rate, but a crisis in infant mortality rates, especially among Black families. The city’s air quality is also under scrutiny, with the Sierra Club suing the Environmental Protection Agency to force city and state officials to do more to curb air pollution.

Tacoma cityscape.


#9. Tacoma, Washington

– WalletHub rank: #141 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 100
– Financial stability rank: 99
– Education rank: 89
– Health rank: 50
– Safety rank: 121
– Economy rank: 103
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 56

Tacoma, Washington, has eight elected city councilors and an elected mayor, as well as an appointed city manager. City residents and the council are sparring over a renters’ bill of rights in the face of rising rents and increasing eviction rates.

Downtown Hartford from above Charter Oak Landing.

Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#8. Hartford, Connecticut

– WalletHub rank: #142 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 145
– Financial stability rank: 147
– Education rank: 132
– Health rank: 49
– Safety rank: 106
– Economy rank: 149
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 5

Hartford, Connecticut, is governed by a nine-member council, which is working to make the city’s streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, improve housing affordability, and boost the city’s economy. But it faces some challenges, including highways through the city center, downtown office vacancies, and low tax revenue when compared with the demand for city services.

North Oakland on a sunny autumn evening.

Sundry Photography // Shutterstock

#7. Oakland, California

– WalletHub rank: #143 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 76
– Financial stability rank: 65
– Education rank: 60
– Health rank: 6
– Safety rank: 126
– Economy rank: 131
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 97

Oakland, California, has an eight-member City Council and an elected mayor, Sheng Thao, who has prioritized violence prevention, public services, and modernizing the city’s tax structure. But its downtown, which was struggling to survive before the pandemic, has been slow to recover in its wake.

Street view Gulfport.


#6. Gulfport, Mississippi

– WalletHub rank: #144 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 96
– Financial stability rank: 128
– Education rank: 10
– Health rank: 97
– Safety rank: 82
– Economy rank: 98
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 125

Gulfport, which is Mississippi’s second-largest city, is governed by a mayor and a seven-member City Council, who oversee a chief administrative officer. Mayor Billy Hewes has worked to improve the operations of city government and revitalize recreational opportunities.

Aerial view Flint.


#5. Flint, Michigan

– WalletHub rank: #145 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 144
– Financial stability rank: 17
– Education rank: 139
– Health rank: 137
– Safety rank: 124
– Economy rank: 144
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 57

In the wake of 2015 revelations that the city’s municipal water supply was contaminated by lead and other pollutants, global attention focused on structural and environmental racism in Flint, Michigan, which is governed by a nine-member council. The water problems have not fully been resolved, and the city’s residents are also experiencing a mental health crisis.

Cleveland bridge and skyline.


#4. Cleveland, Ohio

– WalletHub rank: #146 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 137
– Financial stability rank: 114
– Education rank: 136
– Health rank: 107
– Safety rank: 139
– Economy rank: 137
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 91

Cleveland is governed by a 17-member council and an elected mayor. The city’s per-capita income is two-thirds the national average, and its poverty rate is more than double the national average. Mayor Justin Bibb is feuding with the council over the problem of violent crime in the city, while also trying to improve public access to Lake Erie, on the city’s north boundary.

Elevated view of New York City skyline.

Thiago Leite // Shutterstock

#3. New York, New York

– WalletHub rank: #147 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 35
– Financial stability rank: 103
– Education rank: 27
– Health rank: 23
– Safety rank: 11
– Economy rank: 143
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 32

New York City’s finances have been under pressure, with Mayor Eric Adams proposing $36 million in cuts to the 2024 fiscal year budget that would have forced library branches to close and cut education programs at the city’s troubled jail at Rikers Island. In the end, the mayor and the 51-member City Council reached an agreement on a $107 billion spending plan that will spare the libraries but require other cuts.

Chattanooga river and cityscape.


#2. Chattanooga, Tennessee

– WalletHub rank: #148 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 129
– Financial stability rank: 76
– Education rank: 92
– Health rank: 72
– Safety rank: 146
– Economy rank: 38
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 60

Chattanooga, Tennessee, is governed by a mayor and nine council members. The city recently revised its climate action plan and began a new partnership to improve housing affordability. Its new city budget is intended to improve the efficiency and quality of city services, including trash pickup and road repair, but nearly 45% of the total spending is on the police and fire departments.

San Francisco skyline.

Pete Niesen // Shutterstock

#1. San Francisco, California

– WalletHub rank: #149 of 149
– Quality of city services rank: 12
– Financial stability rank: 49
– Education rank: 12
– Health rank: 2
– Safety rank: 65
– Economy rank: 92
– Infrastructure and pollution rank: 16

San Francisco is governed by a mayor and an 11-member Board of Supervisors. In 2022, WalletHub data ranked the city as the second-worst run in the country. The city provides good quality services, but has an enormous homelessness problem and a lot of debt per capita.

Story editing by Jeff Inglis. Copy editing by Lois Hince.