Discover the Top 7 Worst Places to Live in Lowa That You Should Avoid in 2024


Iowa is often called a “wholesome heartland state” because of its beautiful scenery and rich cultural history. But behind its cute exterior are parts of communities that are having trouble with different things. This article goes into detail about the seven worst places to live in Iowa, focusing on things like unemployment, crime rates, school options, and general quality of life.

Every place, from small places in the country to big cities, has its problems that people have to deal with every day. Through looking at these places, we hope to show that life in the Hawkeye State is not as simple as its reputation suggests.

Seven Worst Places to Live in Iowa

When compared to dangerous cities like Los Angeles and New York City, Iowa’s worst places might seem pretty nice. But they’re annoying enough that you should stay away from them if you want to move to the area. Make sure your family is ready for these possible problems by reading these lists.

1. Clarinda

This small town in Iowa has a jail, which makes many people avoid the area. Now that that’s out of the way, there isn’t much good to say about this town of about 5,400 people.

People say it’s a cheap place to live and the commute is great, but the crime rate is what everyone is talking about. As it turns out, 174 crimes happen in Clarinda every year on average. It’s crazy that it’s still safer than 44% of the country; it shows how bad things have become.

What about the schools, then? These have terrible scores of only 4 and 6 out of 10, which means they’re not good places to raise kids. Also, it’s not easy to walk around, which is odd for such a small city. In other words, Clarinda is the kind of town you pass through on your way to a better place.

2. Cedar Rapids

First, let’s look at some of the good things about this place. As a pretty large city, Cedar Rapids has a lot of neighborhoods to choose from and a lot of jobs for people who want to work outside the home. It’s a popular place for people moving to the area to go.

Cedar Rapids (or “CR” as its residents lovingly call it) used to be the most pure place on earth, but the last twenty years have changed everything. It’s now one of the worst places to live in Iowa and only 10% better than the rest of the country. The schools are also pretty bad.

Violence, drug use, and a general lack of respect among the people have all led to a decline. The 2008 flood also did a lot of damage to homes and companies across the country. A lot of these buildings were never used again, but they still stand empty and run down.

Because of these things, Cedar Rapids, a place that used to be beautiful, is number twenty on our list. It also has a higher cost of living than the rest of the state, though home prices are $10,000 less than they were in 2024.

3. Oelwein

This is a small town that most people have never heard of. This beautiful native town name might even be a little hard for some people to say. As someone who has lived in Iowa all their life and in Oelwein for a long time, I can say with certainty that this small town has a lot of crime and drugs.

Yes, it is safer than 32% of all areas in the United States. But that’s based on each person. Since this small area isn’t safer than some towns, it might not be a good place to live. Also, its schools aren’t very good. In this area, job growth is also going down.

The town has a great sense of community and is very affordable, with big, nice homes going for almost nothing. However, the drug epidemic in our country has made it unsafe and even dirty, even though the train industry used to be very successful. At least it’s easy to get to on foot, which is a good thing, right?

4. Fort Madison

It has a strange past for being one of the worst cities in Iowa. It is home to a high-security prison for men. But that’s not why Fort Madison was on our list. First, let’s say that the truth is that scores for amenities and commute times are high.

The typical home price is only one-third of the national average, and the cost of living is less than the national average. When compared to other Iowa towns like this one, this one gets low marks on every other point, too. This makes it one of the worst places to live in Iowa.

It’s home to just over 10,000 people and is only 8% safer than the rest of the country. It’s a shocking fact that most of those crimes are violent or damage property. 3.4% of people who live in this city will be victims of crime. This is a very high rate for such a small city. That, along with terrible schools (the best is ranked 4 out of 10), makes Fort Madison one of the worst places to live in Iowa. Interestingly, though, it’s thought to be very walkable. But that doesn’t mean moving here is worth your time and effort.

5. Council Bluffs

At first glance, moving to Council Bluffs looks like a great idea. With more than 62,000 people living there, it’s a pretty big place for the state. But problems like low walkability scores are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how dangerous this place is.

For a city this small, crime is a big problem here. It’s only 6% better than the rest of the country right now, and there are 224 violent crimes and 2,127 property crimes every year. Living here gives you a 3.7% chance of being a victim of crime, which is too high for such a small place.

How about the schools? To be honest, I think we should avoid talking about them. There are a few well-ranked kindergarten schools at the top of the list, but most of them are ranked between 1 and 5 on a scale of 10. All of that comes with a higher cost of living than the rest of the state. Hurry out of Council Bluffs! Do not walk!

6. Red Oak

A small town called Red Oak is 45 minutes southeast of Council Bluffs. It looks very cute and is a great place to live in Iowa. This small town of 5,434 people has been named number six on a list of the worst places to live in the whole world.

Strangely, the city isn’t even safer, even though it is safer than 31% of the rest of the country. It is, after all, pretty much a village. Why isn’t it better than a lot of other places in the country? Well, there seems to be a lot of trouble in the area because of the high poverty and bad school systems.

But the cost of living is good and much lower than the state average. The fact that you can walk a lot in the city is also pretty cool. Still, there hasn’t been any job growth in the area for a long time. The jobs paying the most are fine ($117,00), but the jobs paying the least are so low that it’s embarrassing to think about them ($11,00).

The weather in the city is also not very good; it snows there for six months of the year. Yes, that does happen a lot in Iowa, but it’s still a bit of a kick in the behind in such a sketchy place.

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7. Mason City

With a population of 27,309, some parts of this city are thought to be great places to live and raise a family. The school system here gets high marks for education compared to others in the same category (eight out of ten points). Why is it on this list, though?

First, there isn’t a lot of crime in such a small place. It’s safer than only 9% of the country, which is crazy since there aren’t even 30,000 people living there. Most of the crimes here are property crimes, but there are more serious crimes than I thought there would be.

The schools are even worse, and the jobs could be better. In this city, some jobs pay as little as $6,700 a year. It’s not a mistake. In addition, the average income is $32,000, while the national average is $37,000. However, the jobless rate is surprisingly lower here than it is across the country.


In the end, Iowa is often idealized for its beautiful scenery and rich cultural history, but some parts of the state are having a very hard time. This article talked about seven of the worst places to live in Iowa. It looked at things like crime rates, school quality, job chances, and how easy it is to live there overall. It showed that Iowa isn’t as simple as it seems.

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